10 Tips - First Time Home Buyers

10 Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

Buying your first home is in itself the fulfillment of the American Dream. the largest investment of a lifetime, bound to last for many many years and it's your family that will be living under this roof. Over the past several years first-time home buyers may have shied away from entering the housing market due to stagnant wages and debt, but times have changed.

According to TD Bank’s First-Time Home Buyer Pulse, one in five consumers is actively looking to buy his or her first home, and 46% of millennials will be looking in the next one to two years.

If you’re a first-time buyer, the mere thought of securing a mortgage may be overwhelming. For most people, a home is the largest purchase they’ll make, and very few can take on this purchase without a loan. Here are some helpful tips and best practices for first-time buyers:

  1. The 4 W's: What? Where, When? Will? Start by defining your goals: What does your dream home look like? What type of house do you want? Where do you want to live? You know: location, location, location...Get an idea of what that property will REALLY cost? Use a calculator to help you determine How much are you Willing to pay? When will you be ready to purchase, close, move in? The timing is key, you have to establish a clear timeline by when your current lease expires, moving time, closing cycle, among others are the questions you need to have answered. Knowing What you Want and how much your Willing to sacrifice for it Will help you laser focus on landing a great deal.
  2. Get in the Game and Educate Yourself: know the area you are targeting, know the pricing, have an automatic alert system set up by your realtor so you know when the opportunities pop up, go online visit as many homes as you can, understand the mortgage and the overall home-financing process. Take advantage of educational courses offered by local financial institutions and government programs. In my eyes, all clients are awesome, but the best ones are the well informed ones!
  3. Make a list of items to check: Home-buying is an emotional process. Ideally, you should set aside all your emotions when evaluating a house. Practically, that is impossible. Instead, make a checklist of your must-haves, nice-to-haves and other essentials. Then print copies of this checklist. Every time you visit a house, take the checklist along with you; take photographs so you can cross each item off your list. If you fall in love with the house and your checklist shows that the house has none of your must-haves, it will at least make you pause and think. Keep a well organized file of the home you are visiting, both online and copies. It works both ways: sometime properties look great on the web listings but an actual showing will portray things you didn't know or on the flip side you see a house on the web that you don't like, but still visit it and it is much better than the listing...
  4. Look at ALL the expenses when you are budgeting for the house: When budgeting for the house, don't stop with principal, interest, taxes and insurance; add in utilities, cost of commuting and upgrades. Call the utility companies that service the house you are considering and ask for an estimate of what the cost will be, whether there are any budget plans available, etc. Will the gas budget for your car go up if you are moving further away from the places you frequently visit? Budget all of these expenses and see if you can still afford the house.
  5. Shop around for a mortgage, Get Qualified and Approved: the best mortgage experience for buyers occurs when they have open and ongoing communication with their lender. Finding a lender and discussing financial needs and budget should be the very first step a buyer takes in the home-buying process. The First-Time Home Buyer Pulse revealed that saving for a down payment is a barrier to homeownership for many first-time buyers. That’s why it’s important to find a lender that helps buyers understand what they can afford and share what financing options are available. Today, mortgages are not one size fits all—to find the option that best fits their needs, buyers should discuss their financial situation with a lender they trust.
  6. Save for the down payment: most mortgage lenders require a cash down payment of 5%, 10%, or 20% of the sale price. Buyers today may find it difficult to save for a large down payment, especially young adults saddled with substantial student loan debt. Traditionally, buyers who were unable to put 20% down had to pay an additional $100 to $200 per month to their mortgage lender for private mortgage insurance (PMI). The great news is, today many lenders are offering home affordability and down payment assistance programs. Home Financial Group with whom I partner, offer multiple option to best fit the goals of every family.
  7. The 3 T's: Think long-term, Think-equity and Think re-sale: Are you planning to have kids? Will you be taking care of elderly relatives? You might be planning to live in your first home for only a few years to later upgrade or downsize. Who is your target audience when it comes time to sell the house? My humble advice is "first time home buyers dreams" are a great portion of our society looking as you are to invest, a home with space for a family will always be easy to put on the market, either for sale or for rent. In terms of equity, procure a location with a great schools, this will protect your investment from going underwater when the markets get rough. Real Estate as we all know have their up and downs but having great schools in a family neighborhood will shield your home.
  8. 3 A's: Ask, ask and ask as any questions as you need to: roof repairs? mold? if appliances are used...are they running well? do you have guarantees? when were they installed, special AC and Water Heater? insurance cost? taxes? neighborhood schools, supermarkets, drug stores, security, HOA cost? homeowners association contract? all this even before you make a decision, ask for a copy of the HOA, you should reduce your level of uncertainty to a point where you can make a good offer if you are ready to move forward and your Realtor should be ready to help you retrieve all the information you require such as: comparables in the area, the history of the property, this is the era of Big Data, everything is there, you just need to ask;-)
  9. Factor in home improvement costs and monthly household expenses: with today’s low inventory of affordable homes for first-time buyers, many buyers will find themselves settling on a home that requires renovations or upgrades. These costs should be factored in at the start of the financing process so buyers are comfortable with their down payment and monthly payment and will have money available to make improvements. For buyers who have not lived on their own or for those who previously rented, the added costs of running a household can be a shock. Monthly costs for utilities, homeowner’s association fees, cable, and Internet, can add up quickly. Factoring these expenses in at the beginning of the mortgage financing process can help borrowers better assess their overall budget and a realistic monthly mortgage payment.
  10. Have Faith: "help yourself, that I shall help you" Your Dreams do not equal your numbers, it's what you are Willing to do to achieve your dreams that really counts. Making a good investment in your first home is the establishment of a solid foundation to achieving wealth in the long run, establish your objective and team up with a service oriented realtor who understands your needs and is willing to go the extra mile to make it happen.

*Some content taken from Realtor.com, Forbes.com, HGTV.com, Foxbusiness.com, Home Financial Group LLC-

3 Apps for First-Time Home Buyers

By Kelly J. Phelan, RET Content Editor

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Kelly PhelanPublished: 11/19/2015Posted by: RET Staff

Owning a home for the first time can be scary. With that new set of keys comes concerns about property upkeep that former renters have never had to worry about before.

If you sense anxiety from first-time buyers that you work with, direct them to the following apps. They ease the apprehension by helping new homeowners understand how their home works and offering actionable steps for keeping up with critical maintenance tasks.


Today's generation of first-time buyers is more eco-conscious than their predecessors. Homeselfe is an energy management app that helps homeowners understand their home's weak points for energy efficiency and how they can lower their energy bills.

Homeselfe does this by walking users through a digital representation of their home and asking questions about energy efficient features in each room. The questions cover topics like the type of insulation, location of ducts, whether certain appliances are Energy Star certified, if there are aerators on the faucets, etc.

Once your client has answered all the questions, Homeselfe generates a report that lists areas where energy efficiency could be improved, and how much the homeowners can save on utility bills if they upgraded to a more energy efficient option. The report also shows available rebates for upgrading. In my area, for example, Homeselfe tells me that my power company, PG&E, offers up to $700 in rebates for upgrading to an energy efficient water heater.

Tip: This app is handy for your seller clients, too. Use the app to help identify areas where energy efficiency could be improved before listing. Or, if the home scores well, mention those strengths in the listing description--the lower utility bills that come with energy efficiency is a definite draw!


Sometimes called the "CARFAX of real estate," HomeZada helps owners keep track of home maintenance schedules, important documents, an asset inventory for insurance purposes, home improvement projects, and more. Think of it as a digital home management platform that your clients can use to care for their biggest asset--their house.

Some agents use HomeZada as a closing gift for their young, tech-savvy clients. You can learn more about this in our product review.


This app helps homeowners keep their house organized, cleaned, and well maintained. BrightNest offers a personalized schedule with reminders for keeping a home in tip-top shape. In addition, the app has a vast library of articles on DIY projects, home design, maintenance and more so first-time owners can learn how their home works.

While these apps are ideal for first-time homeowners, they're an informative resource for experienced owners, too. So feel free to share this list with your whole sphere. It's a great addition to your blog, email newsletter, and social media streams.