So you’ve decided to trade your no-strings-attached rental for a put-down-some-roots real estate investment. At first, the prospect of buying your first home is exhilarating. But where should you buy? How much should you spend? How do you find a real estate agent? It’s okay, take a breath.
First, the good news: your timing is spot on. “Right now is a great time to buy with a slight softening of the market, as well as historically low interest rates,” says Nancy Johnson of Nancy Johnson Group. Before you start house hunting, though, you need to set your budget. “It’s critical to get your finances in order and understand what you can afford,” says Richard Graziano, executive vice president of Allie Beth Allman & Associates.
Next up? Pick you neighborhood. Think about commutes, school districts, and budding areas. Allie Beth Allman Realtor Susan Baldwin recommends Uptown. “There are so many options for first-time homebuyers, depending on whether you want to live in a house, condo, or townhome and how much you want to spend,” she says. As for up-and-coming areas, Baldwin likes Bishop Arts and Kessler Park for young couples.
But no matter which ‘hood you choose, hire a Realtor to help you make informed decisions. Below, they give more advice.
Schools are important
“A vibrant neighborhood with other young people or families and ideally good schools—especially a good elementary school—is a plus for investment for the future,” says Baldwin.
Bigger isn’t always better
“It’s a good strategy to find the best location you can,” says Baldwin, “then maybe get a smaller home in that neighborhood.”
The perfect house doesn’t exist
“No home, no matter how much you spend, is going to be perfect,” Johnson says. Manage your budget and expectations.“This is where the guidance of an experienced Realtor who is willing to help—and not push you to buy too quickly—will be invaluable.”
Location, location, location
“Where will you go out to eat? How far are you from work? Do you want something walkable?” asks Graziano. “Once you identify the location that feels right to you, it allows you to really zero in on homes that are available.”
Keep an open mind.
“Often- times, what you initially imagine that you want may be totally different than what actually speaks to you as you begin looking,” says Graziano.
Make sure your Realtor is someone you can speak to honestly
“Hire someone who you can have a frank talk with about important matters such as budget,” says Johnson.
Don’t buy a house that will make you house poor
“Sometimes lenders and realtors encourage you to spend beyond what is comfortable for you,” Johnson says.” Don’t push beyond your debt comfort and then be stressed about your monthly debt.”
Ask colleagues, friends, and neighbors for Realtor recommendations
Then make sure he or she has experience and knowledge of the areas you are looking in. “Too many people hire their brother’s friend, who does not have knowledge of the area, especially in neighborhoods that have much diversity—age of homes, size of yard, et cetera,” says Johnson.