Advice for First-Time Home Buyers

Roxanna Guinan
by Roxanna Guinan, Contributor

If you are a first-time home buyer, you could not have asked for a better time to buy a house.  Even though most homeowners have watched their property values decline substantially over the past several years, many economists and real estate professionals say they are beginning to see signs of stabilization in the housing market.

First-time home buyers should think of the house as their primary residence and their biggest investment ― and with any investment, you want to buy low and sell high. As a first-time home buyer in today’s market, you will have access to a huge supply of inventory. Due to the flood of inventory, and the fact that many sellers are facing loan default and/or foreclosure, first-time home buyers may find it easier to negotiate a deal in their favor.

READ: Should you use a real estate agent?

Most first-time home buyers begin their search by scouring the Internet for properties located in the desired neighborhood with the features they want.  The Internet can be a good place to start because it offers a variety of listings and doesn’t cost you any extra. There are websites (such as Realtor.com and RealEstate.com) that offer consolidated property listings with customizable search features. Most listings come with photographs of the home and information about the community, property taxes, and HOA fees. Some realtors and real estate agents also manage their own websites and give details about properties that are “active” or “on the market.”

First-time home buyers interested in purchasing distressed or foreclosed property can find information online as well. Websites like foreclosure.com provide nationwide listings for pre-foreclosures, foreclosures, short sales, auctions, sheriffs’ sales, and tax lien sales. Due to the high volume of foreclosures, many first-time home buyers have been able to find foreclosed homes at value prices.

After conducting a cursory search on the Internet, a first-time home buyer can look for a reputable real estate agent to assist in finding the perfect house. Relatives, friends, the local Chamber of Commerce, and even your bank may be able to refer you to someone. Above all, first-time home buyers need to work with an agent they can trust, someone who knows the landscape and can act on their behalf.

When interviewing a potential real estate agent, a first-time home buyer should ask many questions. You want to ensure that the agent is familiar with the neighborhood that interests you, knowledgeable about sale prices, and experienced in helping buyers locate suitable properties. Additionally, first-time home buyers may ask their agent to assist them with the mortgage loan process by providing referrals for lending institutions, real estate attorneys, professional home inspectors, home improvement specialists, and more.