Buying a home is a big deal.
I know, I’ve done it three times already! The gut-wrenching feeling you get before making one of the biggest purchases of your life is scary, especially if you are buying your first home.
I still recall those overwhelming feelings I had going into my first big purchase. With no experience to fall back on, the homebuying process seemed so complex and intimidating. But the good news is you can make it easier on yourself. A little preparation can go a long way. Here are my 5 best tips to help you approach this major decision with more confidence.
Tip #1: know your budget
It goes without saying that in any market, particularly a competitive one, you need to have your financials in check. Sellers won’t wait for a prospective buyer to figure out if they can afford the property or not.
Knowing your budget is vital before you make any leap. Not only do you want to prepare yourself with a pre-approval but you also need to figure out how much money is coming in and out of your bank account. I always create my own budget analysis using a spreadsheet on Excel. This basically lists out how much money is coming in, all my current expenses, along with, my estimated expenses associated with owning a new home (i.e.: mortgage payment, home insurance, property taxes, utilities, groceries, etc.)
It’s nice to believe you can swing the monthly mortgage, but it’s another thing to know that you can. Understand where your paycheque goes and how much might be leaking into unknown places.
Tip #2: define what you want and need in a home
House hunting can get pretty discouraging if you can’t zero in on what exactly you are looking for. Prepare yourself by making a list of your absolute necessities and a second list of your wants; together, these will become your guide on which houses you’ll look at in your price range.
If you find yourself not really knowing what you want in a home or you are letting your imagination run wild (which, I tend to do a lot), try a different approach. I find that while most of us don’t always know what we want, we are pretty certain about what we don’t want. Make a list of things you want to avoid and after some head scratching, it will become evident on how you can easily convert your negatives into a positive “wants” list.
Tip #3: find a savvy real estate agent
Once you are clear on your parameters, it’s time for the fun part—touring homes! Get in touch with a real estate agent who knows the area. One way to find an agent is to start looking at listings in your preferred location and see what name keeps popping up; they are likely the local experts. Another way is through word-of-mouth. What real estate agents have your family and friends used? Listening to their personal experiences and recommendations could be very helpful.
Tip #4: do your own homework as you go
When I started my first home search years back, not only did I rely on the pros, but I also made sure to take notes and conduct my own online searches as I went along.
Knowledge is power and technology has come a long way since my first purchase. Free mobile apps like Home to Be offered by The Co-operators can help you stay organized, while giving you insight into the housing market, all in one place.
With a quick address search, you can find information such as how much the home is worth vs the asking price, you can estimate monthly mortgage payments, understand neighbourhood trends and impacts, uncover hidden costs you wouldn’t have otherwise thought about and so much more. But I must say my favourite feature of this app is the ability to take your own notes for each property you search. It is a great way to list anything you notice, both positive and negative, while viewing a home. You can also attach your own photos for reference, so you can easily remember it.
I know touring a ton of houses in a short amount of time can make things feel like their blending together. With the right tools and guidance, comparing each home to the previous one can be easily done with an app like Home to Be. This will help you when it comes time to eliminate what homes are not right for you.
Tip #5: return for second visits to your top contenders and don’t be afraid to negotiate
The first time you visit a home, you may react with more emotion. So, it’s definitely important to return to your top contenders for that second visit. With less emotion, you can be more analytical and spot things you didn’t catch the first time.
It’s also great to bring along family and friends to gage their reactions, but remember, this could work for you or against you. Think carefully before you get other’s opinions.
Finally, when you found something you love, don’t be afraid to negotiate, especially if you have no competition. Worst case? They counteroffer. Best case? You get exactly what you wanted.
Buying your first home is not easy, simple or quick. It can be stressful at times, on top of being an educational and emotional decision, as well.
Planning in advance, doing your research, using technology and surrounding yourself with the right support team, will position yourself for success. Whether you are looking for a starter house or a forever home, the journey of home ownership is both exciting and rewarding.
Happy house hunting!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of The Co-operators. The opinions and text are all mine.
Thank you so much for writing this post! This was super important for me to read today! In the next few years I will be buying a house with my husband, so I honestly had no idea where to start…it’s just SO overwhelming! Right now, we’re just trying to save money for a move, and then saving for a downpayment. We have yet to even think about a budget, just trying to save… I hope that’s an important step 🙂 hahah Xo Xo
That’s so exciting Laura!! Saving is definitely just as important as planning and prepping. All the best to you!
Fantastic tips! We bought our home nearly 11 years ago, and one of the best things we did was to figure out what we could afford *before* going to a lender. It’s insane what banks are willing to lend, and it’s far too easy to become house poor if you trust their judgement.
Exactly! Figuring out a budget that works for you is so important. The last thing you want to do is strap yourself to huge mortgage.
These tips are a MUST. Wish I had these when I was looking. Having a good real estate agent is KEY. This post will help so many people narrow down the right fit.
Thanks so much Tonya!!
These tips are all so perfect!! Especially knowing what you want versus need. It can be so overwhelming so focusing on what’s really needed and some wants is important!
We aren’t in the market to buy right now, but my best friend is going through this and I can see how overwhelmed and stressed she is! I will share these tips with her!
I wish we lived in a market where we could have taken the time to revisit houses and negotiate offers! The housing market in Utah is insane – we put in offers on over 12 houses and only have ONE accepted (the house we bought.) Our house has literally been on the market for one day, we were one of 5 offers and we had to offer OVER asking price to go under contract. We were able to negotiate a little after because of the appraisal but it was so stressful to have to compete in such a crazy market to get into our first house!
I liked you tip to make a list of what you need and what you want in our home. My friend just had a baby, so she’s been looking to get her first home. These tips will help her choose a great one, so thank you for sharing them.
I totally agree with everything that you said here. Having bought my first home a few years back, I remember how close I was to being overwhelmed. It’s a good thing that I was able to get some much-needed help from the right people. Additionally, I’ve learned that a thorough inspection of the house can also put you in a better position to negotiate.
I’m looking at getting into my first home in the next couple of months. I like your suggestion to look into getting a good real estate agent to help me find my first home. I’ll definitely keep this in mind since I’d imagine working with a real estate agent could help ensure I find a house sooner rather than later.
One of my friends is getting married, so he and his fiance are thinking of buying their first home. It was helpful when you mentioned that they should make a list of what things they are certain they don’t want in a home, as it will help them find a home they do want. These tips will definitely help my friend and his fiance buy their first home, so thank you for sharing them.
Totally wish I’d have read this before I bought my house! We’re just waiting for all the paperwork to get sorted, but you’re right – it’s very daunting. This is such a great post for any first time buyer!
I like that you said that when looking for a house it can be helpful to prepare yourself by making a list of your absolute necessities and a second list of your wants. My fiance and I are trying to find a house that we can move into after we get married so that we can have a place of our own. I think that making a list would help a real estate agent narrow down what houses we should look at and also help them find the right houses for us in the first place which would help the process go quicker I think.
I like how the article explains that even if you have a real estate agent, you should make sure to do your own research on homes cause you may find other ideas and such that you like. My husband and I are looking for our first home and we are going to get a real estate agent but we want to make sure we find the perfect home. We will make sure to do our own research for houses as well.
I appreciate how the article explains that when you are househunting, you should make sure to go back and visit the home again so you can see it from a different perspective. We are starting to hunt for a new house as we are needing to move soon. We will keep this in mind as we look for a new home.
I like how you pointed out that setting your budget is the first thing to do when you are buying a house. My brother just got married and he is ready to buy their first home. I will suggest to them to make sure to visit a few homes before making the big decision.
We are looking for a new house. I’ll for sure have to find out my budget. That way, we can be sure that we’ll be able to afford the house.
I love that you advise making two lists: wants and needs. My daughter and her husband are thinking of buying their first home before their first child arrives. I think that they would benefit from making a list so they can classify what house fits their needs so they can turn that house into a wonderful family home.
You made a great point when you talked about the importance of knowing what your budget is to determine what you need and want. My boyfriend and I are looking to invest in our first house, and we are looking for advice. We will definitely follow your advice to ensure that we make the best decision.
I never knew that house hunting can be discouraging until you mentioned it. I haven’t tried looking for residential properties yet but I don’t want to be disappointed with the choices I’ll be seeing, especially around Griffin, GA where I want to settle for good. Maybe I’ll get to enjoy better results if I were to work with a local real estate company.
We could totally use these tips of yours. Thanks!