A young couple (man and woman) are speaking to a woman REALTOR in the kitchen area of a home. There is a kitchen island and sliding glass doors providing bright lighting in the room.

Tips for Buying Your First Home

Buying a home is a big investment, especially when it’s your first one. Choosing a place where you may spend the next 10, 20, or 30 years — maybe even the rest of your life — is a big financial and emotional commitment and not to be taken lightly.

On a recent episode of The Business Edge podcast, we talked to AKPsi alumna, Broker, and Sales Manager at Provenance Realty Group, Cheryl Dunson, to get her tips for potential new home buyers. With over 20 years of real estate experience, Cheryl provided five important things first-time homebuyers should know going into the process. 

  1. Talk to a lender first

According to Cheryl, one of the most important things to do before you even start looking at houses is to talk to a lender. Before getting your heart set on a particular home or neighborhood, you need to know what you can afford.

Cheryl also mentioned that people are sometimes afraid to talk to a lender first because they think it will commit them to something they’re not ready for. Remember, you aren’t committing to a loan just by finding out how much you’re qualified for.

While interest rates have been rising recently, they’re still in the single digits, which Cheryl says makes it an excellent time to buy a home. But she says to only look at what comfortably fits in your price range and always have a cash buffer. You don’t want to buy a home at your max budget and leave yourself in a bind if you need a major repair down the road (which is bound to happen — one of the joys of home ownership). 

  1. Find a trusted REALTOR

A good REALTOR truly cares about helping their clients. They’re familiar with the neighborhoods you’re looking in and will help you decide if a home is right for you. To find an agent you can trust, ask your friends and family for referrals to someone who took good care of them. 

Cheryl says it’s also important to make sure the REALTOR you work with can commit the kind of time you need as a first-time homebuyer. The right person for you may not necessarily be the “top” agent in your area, but they’ll be the one who can give you the level of attention you’re looking for.

  1. Prioritize your needs and wants

Before you start looking at homes, it’s essential to sit down and really think about what you need for your current (and potential future) lifestyle. If you’ll be buying your home with a partner, you should discuss and decide on your must-haves together.

According to Cheryl, many couples show up to meet with her and she quickly realizes they haven’t talked about or agreed upon what they’re actually looking for in a home. 

Think about things like how many bedrooms you’ll need, if you’ll need a big yard for pets, a two-car garage, an office, etc. Are you interested in new construction? If you want a big house on a small budget, are you okay with doing renovations? Have a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves before you start looking at options.

  1. Don’t skip the inspection

The current housing market is competitive, with buyers making offers over the asking price and some even opting to skip the inspection. Cheryl says this is a big mistake, and you should always get a home inspection before agreeing to buy a home. 

Without an inspection, you could end up with a home with serious structural problems that could cost you thousands of dollars or, worse, be unsafe for you and your family to live in. 

Cheryl recommends getting an inspection even when buying new construction. While you would hope things will be in good shape with a brand new house, you never know if a builder cut corners or made mistakes during construction.

  1. Understand there are no “perfect” homes

Cheryl recommends setting realistic expectations when buying a home. Chances are pretty good that you won’t find a home in your price range that checks absolutely every box on your wishlist. 

If you go into the process expecting some gives and takes and are open to making adjustments to your criteria, you’re more likely to come out the other side with a home you can live in happily for years to come.

Get more tips on the Business Edge podcast 

Listen to Cheryl on the Business Edge podcast to hear all her home buying tips along with advice for those interested in a career in real estate.

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