Tips For Buying Your First Home

Real Estate In The Parks – By Scott & Sam Hillman

Purchasing your first home is an exciting life step. If you are considering or in the process of purchasing your first home, below are a few tips to prepare for the experience.

Get finances in order & get pre-qualified. A credit score is the most important factor when qualifying for a loan. If your credit needs repair, then allow yourself enough time to get it in order before house shopping. Next, know how much you can afford to buy a home. A general rule of thumb is to be sure your monthly mortgage payment is no more than one third of your monthly gross income. Once you’re pre-qualified for the loan, then the seller will know you’re a serious buyer.

Interview realtors. You will be spending a lot of time with this person, so it’s important to make sure they’re the right fit for you. Know if they are truly looking out for your best interest; are listening to what’s important to you; and will work for you to find you the home that meets most of your specifications. It’s important to have someone who can explain the process well; who communicates; and who works within your buying price point. They should also be able to recommend a lender to work with to become a pre-approved buyer.

Make a list of needs vs. wants. To ensure that you’re buying the right home for you and your family – present and future – it’s important to know what you absolutely must have in a home. When house shopping, be sure to set aside all emotions and check off the items from your list during every visit.

Understand all of the costs. Oftentimes, first-time homebuyers will price themselves to buy a home without knowing the additional expenditures. A budget should include more than what you’re willing to pay for a home. Other items to take into consideration include potential remodeling, utilities costs, and homeowner’s association dues. Typically, these are additional expenses found after a home purchase. Knowing and understanding the additional expenses up-front will better help determine if a home is right for you.

Picture yourself in the home. As developers are building more new homes, the models are very well staged. It’s important to look beyond the façade and determine if you can see yourself and your items in its place, or how you would make it your own. If you’re looking at established homes, any good realtor will tell the seller to depersonalize the home. Make sure you know where the cable outlets and plugs are located and that their locations will work with how you’d live in that home.

Keep in mind long-term and re-sale. While this is your first home, at some point you’ll be looking to sell. A pre-checklist of items should start with the functionality of the home; length of time you’ll own; if there will be children; if you could become a caretaker to an elderly parent; future plans for the home; quality of area schools; and if the location will be easy to sell when the time comes. In addition to your home prerequisite checklist, these are all questions to take into account before the purchase.

Request a home inspection. By all means, this should be the final step. While a home might look perfect on the exterior, it’s deep inside that could lead to potential long-term issues if it isn’t inspected. This will be your most important investment before the signing. If issues are unsurfaced, then you can determine what to request of the seller before the closing. Any additional repair costs can potentially be incorporated into the sale price. Your realtor can refer a qualified home inspector and provide the appropriate guidance.

Know what you’re signing. The closing will include a number of documents. Make sure to understand everything you’re signing. The closing agent should explain all of the details, and it’ll be helpful to have your realtor present for support.

Scott Hillman is president of Fannie Hillman + Associates, a 35-year-old Winter Park-based real estate company specializing in residential real estate sales. Sam Hillman is a realtor and Market Analyst at Fannie Hillman + Associates. Together, they produce Hillman Homes, a customized quarterly publication showcasing local luxury listings, editorial features, and The Hillman Report, a semiannual look at residential real estate in Orange and Seminole counties. Read the latest issue on the company’s website ( or by calling (407) 644-1234 for a copy.

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