Many buyers view Springtime as the perfect season to start their home search. The holidays are over, it’s getting a bit warmer, and they are ready to find their dream home. We want any potential buyers to be armed with all of the knowledge possible to make their homebuying experience as painless, and dare I say fun, as possible. Today we’ll be going over some tips anyone home searching or under contract should know: what first-time buyers wish they knew before purchasing and advice directly from a buyer’s agent!
People often don’t know where to begin on their home buying journey. A safe first step is to make sure your finances are in order. Check your credit score, set your budget, and start meeting with lenders to get pre-approved if you plan on getting a mortgage loan. “Common first-time homebuyer mistakes include getting only one rate quote, not checking your credit history, not researching different types of loans, and not being honest with yourself about how much house you can afford.” (The Mortgage Reports) Write down a list of everything you want versus everything you need in your home. Then you need to compare that list with what you can afford and what your desired homes are currently selling for. When buying in a hot market, you need to carefully weigh your “must-haves.” Don’t jump the gun on committing to a lender too quickly without shopping around and getting a few rate quotes to ensure you’re getting the best fit possible for your financial situation. Be sure to ask your lender what their current turnaround time is, as this could affect your ability to accommodate the seller’s preference when writing an offer if they want a fast closing. This is the largest financial decision most people make in their lifetime, there’s no shame in taking your time when selecting who you’d like to help you through this process.
If you have your finances in order, have received a pre-approval from a lender, and have that list of home “must-haves,” it’s time to start looking for an agent. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with this person, so it is imperative that you find the right fit. It is common for buyers to interview more than one agent when coming to their decision. Your agent is a resource for any and all questions! Their job is to search for homes that suit your needs and be a wealth of information. Siobhan Philbin, our newest buyer’s agent, had this to say about the process:
“My best tip for first-time buyers is to remember that no question is too small, whether it's about how real estate works, the home buying process, the difference between an appraisal and assessed value, or if the refrigerator will be cleaned before closing. As agents, we've been through the process many times and understand that much of it is a mystery. Take the time to sit down with your agent before you start planning out where your furniture will go in your dream home to better understand and set expectations so that you are fully prepared for your first major purchase.”
If you go on a showing and the home is not right for you, don’t feel any sort of pressure to like what’s not right just because it’s in your price range. When in a competitive market, buyers can feel like they need to settle, that should never be the case! When searching for her first home, Hannah Ullman, our director of operations learned: “Don't be too trigger happy with writing offers. Make sure you find that sweet spot of really getting what you want, but not being too picky. We could have ended up with a home we weren't thrilled about because in this market with few or no inspections, there are not a lot of outs for a buyer. Don't feel like you have to take the first house you see. And, don't feel like you're wasting your realtor's time, that is their job to show you homes.” The right place for you is out there. Don’t feel like you should settle for a property that won’t suit your needs. Getting an offer accepted on the right home will feel that much sweeter when the time comes.
You get an offer accepted! Now what? Most people do not know what to expect once they are under contract. It’s a time of immense excitement and anxiety. There are some steps every buyer must follow once they are past the first hurdle. First and foremost, you need to appoint an attorney. It is necessary to have a real estate attorney in order to get your house from contract to close. It’s important to find an attorney whose specialty is in real estate. There are tip-top real estate attorneys all throughout the state that are here to help with any legal or zoning issues that may arise. Our team has worked with a plethora of fantastic legal teams and is always happy to give recommendations. Much like with lenders and agents, you should review a few attorneys and their rates before coming to a final decision. “Definitely shop around for attorneys, they are not all priced the same. I went with the first one I contacted, but I could have saved money by asking about costs upfront,” said Hannah. Attorneys will offer different services and rates. There is no harm in asking their rates before signing on with a firm and being shocked at closing by the cost.
When closing is finally around the corner, understand your contractual rights. Your agent will schedule a final walk-through within 24 hours of closing. This will give you one final chance to view the home and ensure it’s in the same condition as when you toured. The home should be clean and cleared out of all items not specifically stated in the contract. It is not your responsibility to remove junk or pay for its removal. It is not unreasonable to expect a clean home when that is what has been written into your contract.
One final tip to leave you with is learning about wire transfers before sending any money for closing. Wire fraud is all too common and it’s much easier than you think to get scammed. “When you receive wiring instructions from your attorney, make sure the instructions that are sent were encrypted and call your attorney to confirm the wiring instructions over the phone to ensure that they match. I didn't do this and only read about it after. Instead, I got really stressed for 24 hours while waiting for my money to transfer.” (Hannah) Moving into a new home is stressful enough! Avoid the additional anxiety when you can. Your attorneys are there to help and answer these wiring-related questions. With this much money being sent electronically, you are not being another by calling to confirm the process and payment successfully going through.
Let us know if this information helped with dipping your toes into the world of buying in Vermont. If you’re feeling ready to start your home buying journey, reach out to our terrific buyer's agents: Siobhan Philbin: firstname.lastname@example.org and Jamie Polli: email@example.com.