Top 10 secrets of buying a first home

Buying a home can be complicated and nerve-wracking, especially when you're buying for the first time To help you navigate the home-buying process, here are 10 simple secrets to get you started and make the process easier:

1. Identifying what is absolutely necessary and what would be nice to have will give you a good starting point. Write down the non-negotiable characteristics of your new home needs - the more specific the better. If the offer doesn't have everything on the list, you better not go see it to avoid compromising. Save any small listing that has all your must-haves. During viewings, keep notes and photos of the property so you can review them later when deciding which home has what you need and is ultimately right for you.

2. Determine your buying power: Understanding what home you can afford can help you when it comes to buying a new home. With the help of online mortgage calculators, you can estimate roughly what mortgage payment you can afford. Then compare your list of needs with the price range you can afford and you'll have a good starting point of exactly what kind of home you're looking for and on what budget.

3. Optimize costs and save more. A good way to start is to cut unnecessary costs. Find simple ways to save extra money like skipping the extra coffee and saving that money in a special account so you can track your progress. If you find it difficult to save, automating the process can help. You can have your employer deposit a portion of your paycheck into a savings account or have your bank automatically deposit money into your savings account.

4. Interview several real estate agents. Find out how long the agent has worked in real estate in the area. Ask if the agent works alone or with a team and what their schedule is in the coming months when you potentially work together.

5. Work with a local agent.

6. Maintain your negotiating position. While the home search can be a very long process, keeping your composure is imperative as an over-enthusiastic potential buyer may pay more than the actual price of the property. On the other hand, harsh criticism of the home can be met offensively. Avoid statements such as:

"This is my dream house!"
"This couch is disgusting!"
"I can afford to spend this much."
"I can't wait to get rid of this."
"Why are you selling?"
"You'll never get this price."

7. Make an informed offer. Discuss the following aspects of your offer with your agent so that you have a full understanding of the financial implications before signing a contract:

Market Price: Your agent can help you determine an offer price based on budget, market dynamics and similar homes in the area.
Stop By: Leaving a portion of the purchase price with the realtor can show the seller that you're serious. Just be sure to discuss scenarios that could cause you to lose that deposit.
Contingencies: These are provisions that can allow you to get out of your contract without losing your deposit under certain circumstances, such as having a home inspection or appraisal, or securing a loan. Review with your agent how these provisions can protect your interests and what implications they may have on the sale.

8. Get a pre-market appraisal from an appraiser. An appraiser will estimate the home's value based on the home's condition, location, square footage and repairs. If the appraisal is lower than what is offered, you have options. Some of these may include:

Appealing the assessment: note that an appeal can extend the process by several weeks.
Get a second appraisal: This is an additional cost and can lengthen the process.
Negotiate with the seller: Sometimes the seller will lower the price or help in other ways.

9. Make a list of necessary repairs and improvements and follow it. Join your inspector during the inspection to ask questions and discover any hidden details about the home. If any problems arise, the inspector can recommend the necessary steps to fix them. The home inspection should check several features and infrastructure components, such as:

Roof and structural problems
Mechanical and electrical problems
Plumbing problems
General home condition, functionality (i.e. windows, doors, vents, lights, fans) and safety (i.e. mold, hazards, faulty detectors)

10. Wait until the sale is final. The sale is not final until you sign all the papers and get the keys. Anything you do before closing has the potential to affect the sale. Try to avoid the following phrases that can negatively affect your purchase:

- Can't wait, no place to keep all the new furniture we bought.
- I can't wait to clear the property.
- Can you get that couch out of the living room?

Buying a home for the first time is a long yet rewarding process. Preparing for this journey is one that not only requires a financial commitment, but also the time invested in identifying what home might be best for you and choosing the right real estate professional to guide you along the way. With these tips in mind, you'll be better prepared for what to expect.

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