Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

When it comes to buying your first home, the process can be a bit intimidating. Aside from getting your credit inline and pinpointing an area to focus on as you search for homes, there are other ways you should prepare for your first home buying experience.

Tips for Buying Your First Home

Here are a few tips to help you get started down the path of home buying success:

  • Understand How Much Home You Can Afford: There is more that goes into owning a home than simply a monthly mortgage payment. You’ll want to make sure you can easily cover everything from taxes and insurance to repairs. Try using a mortgage calculator to determine exactly how much home you can afford while still leaving enough money for savings and the rest of your household budget.
  • Connect with a Real Estate Agent: While it might be tempting to try it on your own, enlisting the services of a real estate agent is invaluable, whether it’s your first or fifteenth home purchase. Your real estate agent will be able to provide you insider information about neighborhoods and market trends. In addition to guiding you through the home buying process, they will also serve as your advocate and handle the negotiations and legal requirements along the way.
  • Do Your Homework: Before putting in an offer on your first home, check out the neighborhood thoroughly. Your DeSoto County realtor will be able to provide you with comps of other houses in the area that have sold, along with community stats like crime rates and household demographics. You might want to do a bit of research yourself too. Drive by the house at night and on the weekends to see what the neighborhood is really like. If you’re not familiar with the area, spend a weekend in a local hotel so you can experience the area first-hand.
  • Cover Your Basis: When putting in your offer, consult with your real estate agent. She will guide you through the process and point out potential issues and red flags that might need to be addressed. Together, you can work to develop an offer on your first home that is worthwhile for the seller, but will also protect you as the buyer, with contingencies that will allow you the ability to back out of the deal should something unexpected be discovered along the way.

My Commitment to Your First Home Purchase

As your Realtor, I am committed to being available to you and providing you with exceptional service throughout your real estate transaction with an unmatched level of sincerity and integrity. It’s my goal to earn your trust and build a relationship with you so that together we can achieve your goals and get you to the next chapter in your life.

I would love the opportunity to talk with you and answer any questions you may have about the purchasing process.  You can contact me here or just give me a call at 901-496-4565.

Ready to search for your new home?

What Happens When You Go Into Escrow?

When it comes to buying a home, some of the terms and steps within the process can be a little confusing. Case and point — escrow.

Let’s jump in and break down exactly what “escrow” means and how it applies to you during the home buying process.

Going Into Escrow

The definition of an escrow is that it’s a financial arrangement whereby a third party holds funds in safekeeping pending the completion of a contract or other obligation.

Typically a homebuyer will enter into escrow after agreeing with the seller on a final price for the home they are purchasing. Both the seller and homebuyer will sign an agreement that declares the agreed upon price and then, that agreement will be given to the Escrow Officer or the escrow company.

The escrow company is responsible to for keeping the earnest money, or the “good faith deposit” of the homebuyer, and the money from the lender safe throughout the process until the transaction is completed during closing. As part of the closing process, the escrow officer will handle transfer of the property and the release the funds being held to complete the process.

What’s the Point of Escrow?

The short answer for why escrow takes place as part of the home buying/selling process is that it creates a way to keep the monies involved in the real estate transaction safe. As a neutral third-party to the transaction, the money will remain safe and secure until it is needed.

With the exception of the earnest money, the buyer won’t put down any additional money at the start of escrow. The money received is typically deposited by the escrow company into a trust until it is needed.

During escrow, things can pop up that might impact the transaction such as the buyer’s loan financing might fall through or the two parties might not be able to resolve a disagreement during the home inspection process.

Essentially, escrow let’s both the seller and the buyer know, without worry, that the money to complete the transaction is available and will be ready once the process is completed or the transaction is terminated (due to issues that cannot be resolved). It protects both parties while giving them both peace of mind.

Steps of Escrow Process

You should check with your realtor to be sure as the actual steps can vary by state, but the escrow process generally follows the steps below:

  1. Mutual Acceptance – the buyer and seller agree on the price and sign the initial contract
  2. Contracts Sent– both the buyer and seller send copies of the signed contracts over to the escrow officer who will compare them and ensure they match
  3. Escrow Opened – during this phase there are three things that will occur:
    • the escrow and title are opened
    • the escrow officer will request the seller’s mortgage payoff information and verify that there are no outstanding HOA dues
    • the escrow officer will reach out to the buyer’s lender and loop them into the process
  4. Identity Verification – the escrow officer will request affidavits to confirm the identities of the buyers and sellers
  5. 30-Day Wait – during this phase, the escrow company waits while the house goes through the inspection and appraisal process and the lender works through the underwriting process
  6. Closing Preparation – the escrow company will prepare the necessary closing documents and schedule the appointments for closing
  7. Closing – both the buyers and sellers will sign the required paperwork to make the deal official and then the escrow company will send the documents to be recorded with the county

Hidden Cost Surprises for First-time Homebuyers

first time homebuyerYou’ve found the perfect home in a great neighborhood that fits your budget!  Congratulations…you’re on your way towards becoming a first-time homebuyer!

Many first-time homebuyers are surprised to find out about the additional, and often unexpected costs, that go with purchasing a home.

But don’t despair or panic just yet because this is where your DeSoto County Realtor comes in!  Together we will discuss the entire process and create a plan so you will be ready and won’t be caught off guard.

First-time Homebuyer Costs

When it comes to purchasing a home, most first-time homebuyers are prepared for the down payment, home owner’s insurance, and various closing costs (like the appraisal and lender fees).  However, there are a handful of other costs they aren’t prepared for.

While it will be hard to prepare for every possibility, you can for most.  So, as you’re putting your home purchase budget together, allocate funds for these potential unexpected costs:

  • Appliances – The current homeowners may take some or all of the appliances with them or the appliances might be on their last leg and will need to be replaced immediately.  Make sure you allow wiggle room in your budget for appliance replacement —- specifically we’re talking about the refrigerator, dishwasher, oven, and washer and dryer.
  • Inspector Finds – You’ll have an inspector tour your potential home well before you sign the papers, so pay close attention to what he finds and the suggestions he makes.  If he finds larger issues, like bad electrical wiring or a weak foundation, think hard about how you will handle these issues down the road if you purchase the house in its current condition.  And double check with your Realtor and Insurance Agent to understand what items are and aren’t covered by the homeowner’s insurance you are purchasing.
  • Remodeling – Kitchen or bath remodeling might be something you have planned for your new home.  If so, create a strategy for how and when you’ll be able to knock out this task.  Include all construction costs/estimates along with a cushion to cover the inevitable surprise costs that come with all remodeling project.
  • Home Improvements – While bigger items, like carpets and blinds, are often covered in the purchase agreement, there are other home improvement items you’ll want to keep in mind as you’ll be handling them yourself.  Even the ‘perfect’ home will need a bit of touching up once you move in, if for no other reason than to truly make it your own.  Allocate money for repairs, painting, and landscaping.
  • Nesting and Lifestyle – Along with paint and a bit of landscaping, there are other costs first-time homeowners often fail to prepare for when creating their budget.  Not only does your budget need to include your mortgage, but it also needs to cover expenses such as cable, electric, water and sewage, and home owner’s association dues (if you’ll have any).  You might also discover that you’ll want a larger bedroom suit because of space or that you’ll need yard equipment now.  Make sure you allot money in your budget for these type of lifestyle and nesting expenses.

It’s true that you can’t be prepared for absolutely every possibility because in life, sometimes things just come up.  However, with the proper planning, you and your realtor will be able to identify most of the potentially hidden costs associated with your new home purchase, giving you the opportunity to plan for how you’ll handle any surprises with out breaking a sweat!


How to Search for a Home

When house-hunting fever strikes, it’s easy to let it take over and just download the latest real estate app and immediately hit the streets to tour homes on your own.  If you want to be successful though, there are a few tips and questions you should prepare for first.

To help you find the best possible home for you and your family, here are my best tips on how to search for a new home the right way.

Do Your Research First

Yes, your real estate agent is the expert, but as with anything in life, you want to come to the table prepared.  Do your homework and be proactive!

Check out the neighborhoods you like online and drive around the area on the weekends and in the evenings, so you can get a feel for your potential neighbors, the activity and vibe of the area, the schools, and the overall community.

Understand the Terminology and Process

Purchasing a home is unlike any other purchase you’ll ever make.  It’s both exciting and overwhelming, so you want to be as prepared as possible before you begin the process.

If this is your first home purchase, take time to understand the real estate process and basic terminology.

Home Search Tips

  • Avoid searching for homes that are over your budget.  Establish your parameters before you start your home search, stay within your budget, and allow some wiggle room for negotiating.
  • Always take your realtor with you when you tour a home.  Their extra set of expert eyes will spot things you might otherwise overlook.  Also, if they let you, snap a few photos and takes notes so you can remember the details about the house later.
  • Before you make an offer, walk through the home twice.  You might be surprised by what you notice the second time through.
  • Speaking of touring a home, open all doors, windows, and cabinets.  You want to know as much as you can about the house before you consider making an offer.
  • If it’s your second walkthrough, bring your tape measure and make sure the house will fit your furniture.  Also, take a moment to just sit quietly in the living and the master bedroom to find out how much outside noise you can hear.  If possible, tour the home first on a weekday and the second time on a weekend so you’ll get a full idea of what the neighborhood is like.

Work with a Realtor

In today’s digital age, with so much information available at your fingertips, many people wonder if they really need to work with a realtor or if they can buy and/or sell a home on their own.

While there are some people who are able to do this successfully, trying to buy or sell a home on your own is risky business and not something most of us should attempt.  The experience and expertise a realtor brings to the table can save you time and money.

A realtor will also make the overall search process easier by doing the legwork for you — they will pull together a list of houses that meet your wants and needs and call to schedule the showings on your behalf.

Ready to get started? Contact me now!

Buying a Home 101

Your first home purchase…it’s both exciting and a little overwhelming for some first-time homebuyers.  Not to worry though because our team of experienced realtors has your back!

To help you get the lay of the land, we’ve compiled a list of the basics to help you started down the road towards becoming a first-time homebuyer.

Tip #1: Get Pre-Approved

Before you take off looking for that ‘perfect home’, get pre-approved fist.  In today’s market, houses move quickly, so when the time comes that you do find that perfect home, you’ll want to be able to make an offer immediately.  Being pre-approved will give you the ability to make an offer with certainty and will help put you at the top of the pack should there be competing offers on the table.

You’ll also want to take time to clean up any credit issues or concerns that might negatively impact your ability to buy a home before you apply for a loan.  Dispute and remove any incorrect or non-relevant items from your credit report and get your credit cards and outstanding loans down as far as possible before applying for your first home loan.

Tip #2: Understand Your Finances and Requirements

Having a down-payment and knowing how much house you can truly afford are key before you delve into the home buying process.  While it’s true that there are many programs out there that are specifically designed for first-time homebuyers that do not require you to put down 20 percent, odds are, unless you qualify for a VA Loan, you’ll need something to put down.  Securely stash away as much as you can comfortably afford to put down 2-3 months prior to applying for your home loan.

Next, sit down and create a home buying budget to discover how much home you can comfortably afford.  Be sure your analysis includes things like utilities, insurance, principal payments, and all general living expenses.  If you can, check out a homebuyer or financial planning course either online or in your area. In these courses, you’ll be able to get a better understanding of just what you need to budget for specifically and how to best invest and plan for your financial future.

Tip #3: Have a Plan and a Professional Support System

Once you’re ready to start the process, find a realtor that not only has an outstanding reputation but that you connect with on a personal level as well.  This person will become someone you become very close to and will rely on heavily throughout this process.  You want to ensure you find someone you feel comfortable talking to and who you know will have your best interest at heart.

Outline a plan of what you’re looking for, the areas you are interested in living in, and what your goals are for the next 5-10 years.  Share all of this with your realtor so they can help guide you towards a home that meets your wants and needs.

Also, ask questions along the way.  Your realtor is there to support you, so take advantage of their knowledge and experience.  And listen to them if they raise a flag or spot a possible cause for concern about a house, say perhaps a potential foundation issue — take their warning to heart.  And if you’re unsure, feel free to get a second opinion or inspection.

Tip #4: Do Your Homework

Yes, your real estate agent is the expert, but as with anything in life, you want to come to the table prepared.  Do your homework and be proactive!

Check out the neighborhoods you like online and drive around the area on the weekends and in the evenings, so you can get a feel for your potential neighbors, the activity and vibe of the area, the schools, and the overall community.

Tip #5: Be Flexible and Keep an Open Mind

It’s important to have an open mind when you’re looking for your new home, especially for many first-time buyers who are on a budget. Be careful not to soak in too much HGTV and make sure you’re being realistic about what is available in the area that you want to live in, while also staying within your budget.

Many of the cosmetic items you see in a home can be updated or fixed over time, so don’t get hung up on the little things and expect that everything is going to be perfect inside the house.  Focus on the structural aspects of the house: roof, foundation, plumbing, windows/doors, etc.  Those are the costly items that you’ll want in tip-top shape before considering buying a home…the cosmetic items can be addressed over time.

Tip #6: Plan for the Future

Don’t try and purchase the home you think you’ll retire in, but rather, focus on buying the home you think you’ll need for the next 3-5 years.  Make sure it’s big enough for you and your family today and allows you a little room to grow.

Ready to get started? Contact me now!