Buying a home for the first time is a big deal—but it’s something to be excited about, not scared of. A quick Google search for “first time home buyer” turns up plenty of articles, many along the lines of “First Time Home Buyer Mistakes to Avoid.”  But with a little preparation, you won’t have to worry about mistakes. Instead, you’ll be able to take on this big life milestone with confidence.

Surround yourself with a team you trust

You’ll probably only buy a home a few times in your life at the most. Luckily, there are people who go through the home buying process day in and day out—as professionals. One of the most important things you can do as a newbie to home buying is to find a team of professionals that you trust and want to work with. There are even professionals who are experts at working with the first time home buyer. 

Your real estate agent and your mortgage lender are two of the most important partners you’ll work with during your home buying journey. Both can serve as trusted guides along the way, so choose them with care. Shop around for both, asking lots of questions. Make sure they are easy to get in touch with and willing to match their communication style to yours.

Work with a lender early

Once you’ve decided you’re interested in buying your first home, start getting in touch with lenders as soon as possible. You may wish you could put off the financial part of buying (it’s not the fun stuff, we know!) But talking mortgages early in your process will both help you understand what you can afford and give you time to fix up your finances if needed. For example, if you have any debt, paying it down could help you qualify for a better rate or a higher purchase amount. The sooner you know where you stand, the more you can do to address your situation and set yourself up for home buying success.

Keep your finances stable

Buying a home is one of the biggest financial moves a first time home buyer can make. It’s a good idea to go easy on the rest of your finances while you’re buying—and not just for your own sanity. Making any big financial moves, like buying a new car or even taking a new job, while you’re in the  middle of buying a home could affect your ability to qualify for a mortgage. If your credit score, debt level, or income change, you will need to work closely with your lender. You’ll even need to monitor any large amounts of cash (think $10,000 or more) going into or out of your bank account—you’ll need to carefully document where the money came from or went if it’s within a few months of buying.  

Shop with the future in mind

When you go out to look at homes, it may be hard to look past the 1980’s vintage flowered wallpaper in a home that has everything else going for it. But remember that things like paint, wallpaper, and landscaping are all fairly easy to change over time. On the other hand, there are features that can’t change, like neighborhood, yard size, or number of bedrooms (okay, you might be able to change that last one with a major remodel, but it will take a lot more work and money than a fresh coat of paint.) Make sure that those big, unchangeable items are things you’ll be able to live with for at least a few years, and recognize that the smaller ticket things can be altered in the future to fit your taste.

Stick to your budget

You spent time up front talking to a lender, understanding your finances, and picking a target price range for your new home. But once you’re out shopping, it’s easy to throw all of that hard work away and get tempted by something that’s more expensive than your plan. As a first time home buyer, one of the smartest things you can do is to stick to your budget. If you buy a home that you are truly comfortable with financially, you can put any extra money toward making those fixes that will make it truly feel like yours.

Finally, make sure you enjoy your very first home buying journey! If you’re financially prepared and surrounded by a helpful team of experts, you’ve done everything you can as a first time home buyer to set yourself up for success.

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