Hindsight is 20/20. Earlier this year I bought my first home and it proved to be a very frustrating experience. There were several factors contributing to my frustration: a lack of knowledge about the system, a realtor that wasn’t invested in my well-being, and a lack of communication and follow-through were the three largest factors. So, what do you need to do to avoid frustration if you are a first-time homebuyer? First off, don’t think the experience is going to be frustration-free. No matter what you do, it will be a roller-coaster of emotions all smashed into a wonderful, yet horrible, pot of gumbo. Here are few suggestions on starting the process. This is only a sliver of information and doesn’t touch at all on the financial end of things. Make sure you know what you are getting into on that end.
Before you even start looking at homes, find a book, class, or website, etc. that will explain the process in detail. Everybody learns differently, but if you do a simple web search and spend some time researching, you’ll pick up several things that will help you. Know what the difference is between regular sales, short sales, foreclosures, bank-owned, and all of the various different types of houses you’ll find on the market. Now, I’m sure you are going to ask, if I’m completely new at this and have no idea what this involves, how am I supposed to know what homes I’ll find on the market? Great question; you’re not. Until you actually get into the process and start looking at homes, you won’t know what you’ll find, but any good beginning real estate book will give you an idea of the different types of homes you will find. You can also do a basic real estate search in your area to see some of the homes, but keep in mind, not all of them will list what type of sale they are. You will need to hire a realtor before you’ll be able to get a lot of information.
Once you’ve done some preliminary research and feel you have a good idea of what you are about to embark on, you’ll need to hire a realtor. This is where you need to spend some time. Recommendations are an excellent place to start. Ask around. Realtors are a dime a dozen and if you drive through your neighborhood writing names down, chances are you will have a laundry list of names, none of which will be duplicates. Don’t go down that road. Find co-workers, family members, or friends that can recommend a few realtors. Get a list of about 5 or 6 and research them online. Come up with a list of several questions like how long they have been a realtor and how many clients they have. Make sure they are patient and will work with you no matter how long the process takes. The last thing you want is to be put off while the person you choose spends their time with other higher paying clients or worse yet, dumped into somebody else’s lap because they are tired of working with you. Interview all of the realtors and choose based on which one you think will do a good job, but keep in mind you won’t really know if they will be good or bad until you start working with them. For this reason, try to find one that doesn’t require a contract. If you have to sign a contract, arrange to do it on a month-by-month basis at least until you know how they work and if they are going to work out for you.
Lastly, for this article, is to make sure you communicate at every step! This is so important. Communicate with your realtor and make sure your realtor communicates with you; even if there is nothing to say. A simple email saying I haven’t heard anything can eliminate so much frustration. The second part of this is follow-through. Be proactive and check in often with all parties. Ask if everything has been completed and if they need anything from you. Never assume they will contact you if they need something. If you do your research and get a good team, they will all work together on your behalf, but be prepared to keep pushing the transaction along so it doesn’t get forgotten.
As a first time homebuyer, the process is exciting, scary and overwhelming all at the same time. It’s a long process and it’s a complicated process, but the results are worth it. The best advice I can give is to be a sponge and absorb information as much as you can. Use the web, books, friends, family, etc. to learn as you go, but make sure you have a good foundation at the start. With that, and a good realtor working for you and your interests, you will love the end result.