People who have been homeowners for a long time tend to forget how exciting and nerve-wracking it feels to buy a home for the first time. Once you’ve been through the process, you know what to expect and aren’t surprised by the second (or fifth) go-around. But for new homeowners, the road is filled with novel experiences, and the learning curve might feel a bit steep for a first-time home buyer.
So, let’s take a look at nine things that may surprise you as a first time buyer, to help cut down on that learning curve!
1. Getting pre-approved is very, very important.
While there are no barriers to looking at houses online, it’s absolutely critical to get pre-approved for financing before going to look at homes in person. This will allow you to not only determine exactly what you can afford, it will ensure that you’re ready to make a strong offer in the event you find your dream home.
2. There are a huge amount of resources available for homebuyers.
The housing industry is a giant segment of the economy—an entire ecosystem that keeps millions of people employed. That’s why there are so many resources catering to potential home buyers: from listing websites, to learning tools, to guides, videos, and everything in between. If you have any question, no matter how specific, there’s a good chance you can easily find the answers you’re looking for.
3. A home can be much different in person than in photos.
Pictures don’t always tell the full story. This can be a tough lesson to learn, especially if you get your hopes up. The good news is that this works in both directions. Sometimes, photos make a home seem a lot nicer than it really is. But, just as often, pictures don’t capture the entire essence of a house, and might fall short when it comes to showcasing it’s more positive attributes. The bottom line is: you should see it in person to be sure.
4. If a house is a great deal, expect plenty of competition.
Unless you’re looking in an especially unique area, you’re likely to find plenty of competitors when a listing is a great deal, or when it has “everything” most people are looking for. There are exceptions, of course, and sometimes you might get lucky, but for the most part, if you recognize a great opportunity, there’s a good chance other people will too. It doesn’t even need to be a “deal”…it can just be when a house is priced appropriately within the market. Always expect that if you see the value and appeal of a home, so will another buyer. So, act quick, and write up a strong offer!
5. It’s perfectly normal to be nervous before (and after) an offer.
Don’t feel silly if you find yourself filled with anxiety after submitting an offer. And definitely don’t be hard on yourself if you’re anxious even after your offer has been accepted. It’s completely normal to worry about all the decisions, stresses, and eventualities as you’re going through the process.
6. There’s plenty to do to keep everyone busy before the closing.
If you think an accepted offer means you’re done, think again. In some ways, this is when the real work starts. A lot of the work will be done for you by industry professionals, but you will need to be ready and aware of anything they need you to do on your end. For example, lenders will want contract and financial documentation, and title companies will need you to review documents and sign off or acknowledge them.
7. Agents, mortgage brokers, and title/escrow officers will explain everything to you.
Don’t be afraid of the nuances and moving parts of buying a home, because from day one, you have plenty of resources at your fingertips. Your agent, your mortgage broker, your title/escrow officer, and everyone in between will be able to explain the process and answer questions as you move forward. These people usually have years of experience, and none of them will begrudge you for not knowing everything they know. And if you have questions, or something doesn’t make sense, don’t be shy…just ask! That’s what they’re there for!
8. Owning feels different than renting.
Renters don’t have the same skin in the game that owners do, and when you’ve bought something and put your money and credit on the line, it feels different. Once you close on your home and move in, you’ll start to understand the feeling of commitment and ownership that comes from your own space. You’ll not only want to make it yours, but you’ll also feel a sense of pride and care that is often elusive for renters.
9. An agent does a lot more than help you find a house.
Some people think real estate agents are like cashiers: people who help you with a transaction before you move on and forget all about them. But in practice, this is often not the case. Buying a home is such an emotional journey for even the most stoic among us that it’s almost impossible not to form a deeper connection with the person helping you find the perfect home, and guiding you through the process. Agents will serve as consultants, confidantes, interior designers, therapists, and everything in between. Agents become a part of one of life’s biggest milestones, and this makes it nearly impossible for them to take it lightly.
Hopefully this will make you a more confident first-time home buyer and help take some of the surprise out of the process for you! Share with us something that you wish you had known as a first-time home buyer.