Buying your first home. It’s one of the pillars of the American Dream. A major box you check when you “arrive” as a successful adult. And probably the biggest financial decision any of us will ever make.
Buying your first home is also terrifying. There are so many options to consider and so many variables to assess, it is incredibly intimidating. Which is why we’re putting together a little guide to help you get where you need to be.
I sat down with Curt Seifart, a real estate agent with Helen Adams Realty, with 14 years of experience working in the Charlotte Market. As a Charlotte native Mr. Seifart has unique insight into real estate in our city.
Here he walks us through the initial steps a first time home buyer should consider.
(1) Ask yourself, “Am I ready to settle down in Charlotte?”
According to Curt, you should plan to be in Charlotte for at least five years to make buying a home here worth your while. If your career requires a lot of moving around, or if you want to teach abroad for a few years then it might not be the right time for you to buy a house.
On the other hand, if you know you want to live here for at least the next five years there is no time like the present to get started with the home buying process.
(2) Get pre-approved for a loan.
This is crucial. Before you start seeing houses, or even talking with a realtor, you need to know how much money you will be able to get approved for.
Numerous factors play into the amount of money you are pre-approved for including your credit history, your current employment situation and your average annual income. Be prepared to gather all of that information before you see a lender.
Besides the obvious big boys, Wells Fargo and Bank of America, there are plenty of smaller mortgage companies in Charlotte who will be glad to help you, Cunningham and Company Mortgage and Myers Park Mortgage are two great places to start.
You want to be as accurate with your financial information as possible when getting pre-approved, because as you get farther along in the buying process your lender will meticulously research your financial situation, and the less discrepancies there are between what you provide to be pre-approved and what they find during the actual approval process, the more likely you are to have access to the loan amount you were pre-approved for.
(3) Decide what is important to you.
This is a tough one. You’ll want to make a list. You’ll need to prioritize. Sit down and visualize the type of life you see yourself living for at least the next five years.
Do you want to be close to Uptown? Do you want to have access to the light rail? How big do you want your house to be? Are you looking for a new construction? Are school districts a consideration? The clearer you are with your “wish list” the easier it will be for your buyer’s agent to help you find the perfect house. Your “wishlist” will also be important when considering the resale value of your home.
“If you want to live close to shopping centers with convenient access to transportation in a walkable area, you can be pretty sure that in five years there will be more people who want those exact same features.” says Mr. Seifart.
(4) Find a buyer’s agent that fits your needs.
Take your time here. Curt recommends meeting with a few agents from different real estate companies to find someone you connect with. Here are a few questions you should keep in mind when finding your ideal agent:
- How long have you been a real-state agent?
- How many homes did you sell last year?
- On average how long did it take you to close on those homes?
Most real estate firms have a list of questions to ask when selecting an agent. Go here to see Helen Adams Realty’s comprehensive list of questions to ask potential agents.
And here are a few questions your prospective agents should be asking you:
- What sort of timeline are you working on? When would you like to be moved into your new house?
- What are your needs and priorities? (See step 3.)
- What price range have you been pre-approved for?
Your prospective agents probably won’t ask you these questions verbatim, but it’s crucial that they ask the types of questions that will reveal exactly what type of property you have in mind.
“The real intent is to learn as much as possible about new clients in order to help them.” says Mr. Seifart.
Buying your first home can be daunting. The process itself is a commitment. But there are professionals here in Charlotte to help you every step of the way.
And as you honestly list out what’s important to you, and deep dive into your personal finances you will undoubtedly learn more about who you are and who you see yourself being in the next five years. One of the benefits of making a huge life changing purchase is that you have to do a little soul searching, if you want to do it right. Buy the house, get the self-actualization for free.
We will continue this series with the next four steps to buying a home later this summer, stay tuned.
If you have any questions or would like to share your home buying experience, feel free to email Jonathan at: [email protected]