House hunting for the first time can be equal parts exciting and daunting. While it’s tempting to jump into the process, many first-time homebuyers quickly find themselves floundering in a pool of unanticipated challenges and setbacks. To help you avoid this scenario, we’ve put together a list of five essential things to make every first time-homebuyers’ experience as smooth and magical as it should be.
#1 – Space v. Location
The reality when looking for a house is that you will have to make some concessions and establish some priorities. Chances are, you are not going to find a house with the perfect interior space and the perfect location. You’re better off deciding from the start which of the two is more important to you—a smaller, less ideal house in your favorite part of town, or a larger house that checks everything off your list but has a less desirable location.
Knowing your priorities from the get-go will help you focus your search and make you less likely to waste time chasing an ideal.
#2 – Think ahead
A house is a big investment—and not just financially. When you commit to buying a home, you commit to live in that home for a number of years, if not a lifetime. That’s why it’s important to think about the house and the neighborhood not just in terms of today, but in terms of the future.
Do you plan to have kids? You might want to purchase a home with an extra bedroom or two, and you should consider the quality of the local school district. Even if you don’t plan to have kids, school district quality can affect the resale value of your home.
It can also pay off to investigate community development plans. Is a new strip mall or neighborhood park in the works? These may or may not be changes you’d welcome close to your home.
#3 – Get serious about home inspection
Everyone knows the home inspection is a crucial step in the home buying process, but many people—especially first time buyers—don’t take it seriously enough. If your inspection turns up any needs for repairs, it’s worth investigating them more deeply. Sometimes what seem like surface repairs can actually be symptoms of a more serious recurring problem. Unless you discover an underlying flaw before the deal closes, you’ll lose the opportunity to use it to your advantage during negotiations.
#4 – Be strategic about your price point
Securing financing for your first home can feel like permission to go out and find the biggest and best home your money can buy. But before you ride that wave of excitement out, weigh the pros and cons involved in setting your price point.
Lowering your price range below what you’re financed for leaves more money that you can spend on customizing your new home through decorating and upgrades. On the other hand, paying a higher price upfront could save you money if the house already comes fitted with all the bells and whistles you would pay extra for later.
#5 – Save enough money to include a strong down payment on your offer
Yes, it is possible to buy a house with very little money down, and if you feel ready to buy your first home, you shouldn’t let an inability to make a large down payment stop you. But if you have the savings—or the patience to wait until you do—including a large down payment in your offer will seem stronger to the seller and make it possible to secure a shorter-term loan, saving you money in the long run.