Buying a home for the first time can be a little intimidating. It's a huge investment that you'll likely be paying off for 15 to 30 years. The home you choose will house you, your family, and all of your memories for years to come.
It will affect the friends you make, your work proximity, the school your kids go to, and the opportunities available to them.
Needless to say, this decision shouldn't be made lightly. As a first time home buyer in the midwest, you must take your time to avoid making mistakes that could end up costing you in the future. Whether you're trying to ensure the best life for you and your family or are trying to make financially responsible decisions, there are certain things you need to consider.
Keep reading for an in-depth look at our top seven things to look for as a first time home buyer.
1. The Ideal Real Estate Agent
First and foremost, we highly recommend using a real estate agent for anyone looking to buy or sell a home. Regardless of how many times you've been through the process, having an agent there to guide you and offer sage advice is invaluable. This is especially important as a first time home buyer in the midwest.
However, as with any specialist, there are certain things you'll want to look for and questions to ask potential realtors.
While every real estate agent has to start somewhere, there's nothing wrong with opting for someone with a little more experience under their belt. An experienced real estate agent who's been through the buying and selling process several times knows how to avoid potential problems and, more importantly, how to deal with any that come up.
They'll also have extensive knowledge pertaining to the local area. When you give them your list of wants and needs for your new home, they'll know exactly where to start looking. This includes everything from price range, type of house, size of the house, location, and more.
An Eye for Detail
Experienced real estate agents have a trained eye for homes. This applies to both the legalities of the process as well as home tours. While they aren't the qualified home inspectors that will be going through to evaluate the quality of the home, they will have noteworthy opinions about each house they walk you through.
A real estate agent will be able to point out the pros and cons of each home you see, as well as any current or potential issues.
Finally experienced agents are also well-versed in the art of negotiations. As a first time home buyer in the midwest, you'll have little to no experience in terms of negotiating real estate prices. An agent can help you negotiate based on several factors, including:
- The results of the home inspection
- The house appraisal
- The current real estate market
- How long the house has been on the market
- And more
However, they can also help you learn all of your options for negotiating. For example, the price of the home isn't the only variable. You can also negotiate repairs, renovations, appliances, decor, furniture, etc.
2. A Wise Approach to Budgeting
As a first time home buyer in the midwest, it's vital that you take a wise approach with your finances. A lovely home is a wonderful thing, but not if it causes you to spiral into bankruptcy.
Know Your Finances and Get Pre-Approved
First, before you start shopping for homes, get pre-approved for a home loan. However, keep in mind that you don't have to use that bank or lender should you decide to place an offer on a home. You simply need to know how much you can afford to spend on a home.
This is vital to avoid heartache and potential setbacks in the future. It's not uncommon for people to place an offer on their dream home only to learn they're not qualified for it, which can be devastating. Make sure your financial house is in order and nothing is holding you back from getting the right house.
Buy Below Your Means
Next, we advise all home buyers to shop slightly below their means. Just because you're approved for $350,000, it doesn't mean that's where you should start shopping. Nearly 80 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and it's because few of us have learned how to live below our means.
Buying a less expensive house will save you on yearly taxes, house insurance, monthly mortgage payments, and more.
Prepare for the Extra Costs
Finally, as a first time home buyer in the midwest, you may not be aware of all the costs associated with buying and owning a home. Make sure you take everything into account, such as:
- Realtor fees (usually 3-6 percent)
- Closing costs (usually 2-5 percent)
- Home inspection fees
- Moving costs
- Furnishing costs
- Property Tax
- Utilities - water, electric, gas, waste removal
- Extras - cable, phone, internet
- HOA fees (if applicable)
- Home maintenance, repairs, and renovations
- Homeowner's insurance
3. The Right Mortgage Option
Once you've found a home within your means to place an offer on, you need to decide upon the right mortgage option. This may or may not be determined by how much you have for a down payment. Keep in mind, a lower downpayment often means higher monthly mortgage rates and/or interest rates.
VA loans are available to veterans and can sometimes be offered with zero money down. FHA loans can be obtained with a down payment of 3.5 percent or higher and conventional loans as low as three percent.
However, mortgages also come with the options of fixed or adjustable-rate loans. Fixed-rate loans lock you into a singular interest rate for 15, 20, or 30 years. Alternatively, adjustable-rate loans guarantee a low rate for the first few years but then become variable.
4. The Best Neighborhood
As a first time home buyer in the midwest, you really need to think about the neighborhood that best suits your lifestyle. If you have kids, this will likely mean finding a home in a neighborhood that's family-friendly. It should be safe, have nearby parks, be in proximity to quality schools.
However, if you're more career orientated, you may want a neighborhood deeper in the city, closer to work. You like busy city life and feel more at home in the heart of things.
Regardless, when buying a home, you need to ensure you're looking into neighborhoods that are growing or steadily holding value and quality. Buying a home in a declining neighborhood could leave you with negative equity in the future, making your home less valuable than when you bought it.
5. The Right House for Your Present and Future Needs
Now that you've figured out the type of neighborhood you want, it's time to think about the house itself. Make sure you take your time here and shop around to several different types of houses. Which home is going to serve you best in right now and in the foreseeable future.
If you're thinking about raising a family in this home, you'll need one that provides room for growth. You wouldn't want to outgrow a home you've only lived in for a few years.
Additionally, consider your hobbies. Do you need a room devoted to art, music, or a library? Do you need a garage or shop for your recreational vehicles (ATVs, jet skis, boat, RV)?
Next, think about the condition of the home, the home inspection results, and the maintenance required for the house itself and the property. Do you have the time and inclination to keep up with the maintenance demands of the home?
Finally, a deciding factor may be the neighborhood Home Owner's Association (HOA). What are the rules you'll have to abide by? What are the HOA fees?
6. Creative Ways to Save Money
As a first time home buyer in the midwest, you need to learn about what kind of programs and options are available that can help you save money. This is also a great question to ask your realtor.
For example, it's better to buy in a buyer's market when there are tons of houses for sale and multiple options. There are also certain times of the year when it's better to buy a house.
Additionally, there are several first time home buyer courses out there through the state that reduce your required down payment through certain loans. There are also first-time homebuyer grants you can find locally.
Finally, as we discussed earlier, there are several ways to save in terms of real estate negotiations. You can opt for the seller to pay all closing costs, make certain renovations or repairs, or certain appliances. You can also ask for other items to be left such as window treatments, pieces of furniture, etc.
7. A Quality Homeowner's Insurance Policy
Finally, as a first time home buyer in the midwest, you may not know the importance of a good homeowner's insurance policy. While accidents are rare, they do happen. When they do, it's best to be prepared and completely covered for the worst.
When shopping for the right insurance policy there are several factors you need to consider:
- Should the damage to your home be catastrophic, will insurance pay you enough to rebuild?
- Does it cover rent costs if the home isn't liveable during reconstruction or renovations?
- If you work from home, is your business property covered?
- Are there discounts for smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, security systems, etc.?
- Are your property and all of your assets covered?
Finding the right homeowner's policy may be the one that fits best into your budget. However, we highly recommend erring on the side of caution rather than inadequacy.
Are You a First Time Home Buyer in the Midwest?
We know being a first time home buyer in the midwest can best stressful. However, finding the right realtor can make all the difference in the world. If you're in the market for a new home, we can help you find a qualified realtor in your area.
Good luck with your search, and be sure to check out some of our other articles for more advice and information.