Congratulations, you have decided to buy your first home! While it’s easy to view homes for sale online, there are some important steps to set you up for success as a first-time home buyer. Here’s our checklist to help you get started.
1. Know What You Want in a Home
Before you start showing up at open houses, it’s important to sit down to hone in on your wants and needs. Without doing so, it’s like going to the grocery store without a list. And in this strong seller’s market, no one wants to waste time wandering around while great homes are being snatched up. While you may not know exactly what you want, even having some of the key elements nailed down can really help you in your search.
- Where do you want to live?
Do you want to live within walking distance of restaurants and shops, out in the country on acreage, beachside, or near a ferry to Seattle? From forested retreats to waterfront estates, convenient condos to sprawling equestrian properties, there are many options across Kitsap County. But what suits you and your needs?
- How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you want?
If you have children or are thinking of having them, consider how this will impact your home environment and use of space now and in the future. Also, decide if you want or need a spare room for guests, a home office, or a playroom.
- Is a backyard a need-to-have or a nice-to-have?
Many people want space for their kids and/or dogs to play, room for a garden, and to entertain guests. Others simply want a little space between themselves and their neighbors. How do you imagine spending time in your dream home? And, how much home maintenance would you prefer?
- What type of community do you want to live in?
If you see a property that looks appealing, be sure to check out the neighborhood. Research the schools near that home and see what amenities are nearby. Don’t be afraid to walk around in the neighborhood and say hello to people. Ask them how long they’ve lived there and what they like or don’t like about it to really get a feel for the area. Home can mean different things to different people. Some are happy to live in a “bedroom community” where they reside while their primary focus is on where they work and their easy commute. Others want to know their neighbors and feel part of a tight-knit network. Even simply knowing that the schools are solid and seeing smiling faces nearby can help inform you as a buyer.
2. Know Your Budget
Buying a house is a big commitment, and it’s essential to know how much you can afford to spend before you start seriously searching. All mortgage lenders will check your credit history, income, and assets. Lending companies want to make sure you’re capable of paying off the loan plus interest. So it’s best to get your finances in order beforehand. As a matter of fact, it’s best to get pre-approved for a loan. First, this will show you’re a serious buyer to sellers. Secondly, it’s important to remember the added costs of buying a house such as settlement and closing costs. Some first-time home buyers may not know that they are often responsible for paying for appraisals and closing costs. You can learn more about this in our Home Buying Guide.
3. Find a Reliable, Local Agent
Finding a great, local agent can help you in a variety of ways. You want someone who is knowledgeable, a good listener, and will serve as your advocate. A top-notch local agent will know the local real estate market and have strong ties to excellent local vendors who will also assist you. This is especially important if you are new to the area. Local agents have been networking in the area for years. Additionally, local agents have insider knowledge to help you find the house of your dreams at the best price possible.
4. Be Emotionally Prepared
Finally, buying a house can be emotionally exhausting. Places can show up on the market and get sold in record time. Negotiations can fall through for various reasons. In our current seller’s market, we’re seeing many multiple offer situations. That’s why it’s so important to start off on the right foot and have an excellent agent helping you through the home buying process, especially as a first-time home buyer.
For more information about our area, check out our Newcomer’s Guide to Kitsap County. In it, you’ll find videos, articles, and helpful links to learn about our communities, schools, daycares, recreation options, housing prices by city, and much more.