As the president of Coldwell Banker Hunter Realty with 350 agents under her wing, Felicia Hengle knows how intimidating buying a home can be for first-timers who have never had to worry about down payments, closing costs, home inspections and more. “They have to think of all the things they’ve probably never had to consider before,” she says. Here are three things newbies need to know before making their first steps toward home ownership.
Get off the internet: Be careful house hunting on sites such as Zillow or Trulia, she says. “You find that house that you love only to find out that the site hasn’t been updated,” says Hengle. “It’s already pending or worse — it’s already sold.” Instead, use online listings as a guide to find the kind of community you’re looking for and rely on real estate agents to oversee your actual search.
Explore financing programs: Don’t have 20 percent for a down payment? All is not lost. Government-backed financing programs can offer low interest rates and a minimum down payment of 3.5 percent. And unlike in traditional mortgages, donations and gift money can be used without affecting your loan type. “A lot of times first-time homebuyers have great jobs,” says Hengle. “They can afford everything, but they just don’t have that upfront money.”
Get a checkup: Have the home inspected before signing off on the property. “A good inspector is going to look at the roof, the mechanical systems, and the structural foundation to make sure the house is actually a good solid investment,” says Hengle. “Even if it’s a brand-new house, a home inspection is something you should do.”