So, you are thinking about beginning the exciting process of becoming a homeowner.
I am sure at this point you have talked to family and friends and have heard the good, the bad and the ugly. You've heard the horror stories of cracked foundations, loans falling through and the evil home sellers that are out to get you. I am here to tell you it isn't all scary and you will find that home you have always dreamed about. Buying your first home will come with some challenges, but with the right Realtor®️ on your side those challenges will be nothing you can't handle.
Homeownership can be daunting at first! You have to come up with a down payment that will more than likely be the single largest sum of money you have had up to this point. Then you have closing costs, home insurance, mortgage insurance, home inspection fee, the list goes on and on. But where do you start? Too many people think, well I am going to start by finding a house I want to buy, then I'll figure out how to buy it! There are a few missing key factors here. How do you know you can afford that specific home? Better yet, how do you know you can even get a loan? Early on in my Real Estate career, people would get excited looking at "Zillow" or "Redfin" and hit the contact me button. I'd get paired with them for a showing, show the house and the buyers would absolutely fall in love with the place! They would tell me they want to submit an offer, low and behold they weren't pre approved. Now, while they are waiting to get pre approved, the house they love just sold out from underneath them. After that moment, I refused to show anyone a home until they were pre approved. Is this because I am lazy and don't want to show them a house? Absolutely not, I don't want another buyer to ever feel that sadness of losing out on "their" home due to not being ready to purchase!
Get Pre Approved First
If you follow a Realtor®️ on any social media platform, odds are you see at least once a week "Get Pre Approved First". This is so important for many reasons. Being pre approved doesn't only tell you what price range you should be searching within, it always helps you to understand how much your monthly payment will be. Your pre approval max budget might be higher than you feel comfortable paying each month, so it is best to know what you can afford and what you are comfortable affording. Reach out to a local lender in your area to start your pre approval process. It is especially important to have a local lender in a competitive market as they will need to be reached at times that you will not want to call a 1–800 number.
When you are going through the process of a mortgage loan application, you need to submit many documents such as tax records, pay stubs, bank statements and get your credit score checked. The lender will also analyze your debt to income ratio. After all this is done, they submit the information to their underwriters that sign off on the pre approval. This can take a few days to get pre approved as there are so many moving parts. Once you have already gone through the process and you have received your pre approval, as soon as that house pops-up for sale that you want to buy, you can have your Realtor® submit an offer immediately. Sellers do not accept offers without a pre approval anymore, if you don't have one the seller won't think you are a legitimate buyer.
Find The Right Realtor®️
After you are pre approved, you need to find a Realtor®️ that you want to work with and can trust. I don't recommend going straight to websites such as "Zillow" or "Redfin" and looking at homes. If you find one you want to tour, you are more than likely going to click "Schedule a Tour" and be paired with a random agent in the area. Before you start looking at houses you should connect with a great Buyer's Agent. Interview a couple of agents and see who the best fit will be! You need someone that is willing to take the time to slow things down and help educate you throughout the process. An agent that is hard working and knowledgeable, but also accessible is who you want as a buyer.
If you want to begin looking for the best Realtor®️ for you, start online. Look at Google Review's and look for words such as "patient", "knowledgeable", "attention to detail" and "available". Don't pay attention to things like "Sold my house for $40,000 over list" things like this are due to the market conditions, not because that agent was actually that much better than anyone else. When I started out it was shortly after a friend bought a house. He said that his agent was unreachable and on vacation for 85% of the time they were looking to buy. He could never get a hold of the agent to answer his questions. Find an agent with some experience, but who will also work their butt off for you.
When I have new clients that come to me, the first thing I want to do is take them out to coffee or lunch, especially first time homebuyers. I want to allow them a chance to come up with questions they want to ask ahead of time, to make sure they are confident and knowledgeable going into the beginning of the process. If you can find someone that is willing to take the time to help you feel comfortable before starting, then you are more than likely going to have a fun and smooth transaction.
If you are in the greater La Crosse, WI area, I would love to sit down with you and talk about buying your first home. If you are anywhere else across the country and reading this blog, I would still love to help. Give me a call and I would be happy to explain the process to you. I have a nationwide network of Realtors®️ that I can recommend you to. If you are in an area where I don't personally know someone, I will interview them for you and find you the right agent.
Best of luck in your home search! — Jake Ramey, Realtor®️ @properties