A Step-by-Step First Time Buyer's Guide

Buying a home is one of the most exciting milestones of your life. To prepare yourself for this moment, you need to know what to expect during the process. This step-by-step first time buyer’s guide created by your agent will help reduce the stress of buying a home and help you enjoy the journey as much as possible.


Step 1: Research

Do you already know where you want to buy? If you want a condo, townhome, or single-family home? Which features do you like and dislike? What’s available on the market now? If you answered no to any of these questions, now is the time to start researching. In addition to looking for homes that interest you, also take note of any changes in asking prices. This could give you valuable insight into housing trends in specific neighborhoods and help you when the time comes to make an offer.


Step 2: Decide on Your Budget

Notice I said to decide on your budget—not determine how much the mortgage company will give you. In many cases, a mortgage company will pre-approve you for more than you’re comfortable spending, which is why you need to determine the monthly payment you feel comfortable with before talking to a lender. This likely includes doing a full household budget and taking into consideration what changes other than a mortgage payment will occur once you move into your new home. If you’ve lived in an apartment or with roommates, you may overlook new expenses like garbage, water, or HOA fees that could easily blow your budget.


Step 3: Get Prequalified

Just because you think you can afford a certain payment every month doesn’t mean the mortgage company will agree. Just as they may approve you for too large of an amount, they may also approve you for a lesser amount or deny you a mortgage altogether. Lack of time at a job, insufficient credit, past bankruptcies, or other financial issues can cause major problems when trying to secure a mortgage. Before you get your heart set on a home, talk to a mortgage professional to find out what amount you can qualify for. This will also be an advantage when you make an offer on a home, as some sellers won’t entertain offers from those who aren’t already prequalified for a loan.


Step 4: Choose a Real Estate Agent

Can you shop for, look at, and ultimately make an offer on a home without a real estate agent? Technically yes, but why would you when it costs you nothing for an agent like me to take much of the stress off your shoulders? Not only will I help identify properties you might be interested in, arrange showings, and ultimately handle the offer process, but I also have a knowledge of the market that you don’t possess. I may be able to steer you away from certain homes or neighborhoods, suggest hidden gems, or give you pointers that will help you find your dream home for the right price.

My goal is to provide you with the most personalized service that is designed to help you buy your dream home.


Step 5: Find the Right Home

This should be the most enjoyable step of the entire process (other than moving in!). I will arrange showings of homes you’re interested in that are within your price range. Take notes about what you like and don’t like, and make sure to pay attention to details. Turn light switches on and off, open and close doors, and run the faucets in various rooms. Don’t limit your inspection to the home itself. Make sure to take time to explore the neighborhood and keep an eye on traffic at certain times of the day, the parking situation, and how close it is to necessities like schools and grocery stores.


Step 6: Make an Offer

Once you have selected the perfect home, work with your agent to craft a fair offer based on the value of comparable homes on the market. Depending on what the home is listed at and whether the current environment is a buyer’s or seller’s market, your offer may be below, at, or even above the asking price. I will be able to help you negotiate if you receive a counteroffer and reach an agreement. At this point, the house will go into escrow.


Step 7: Have the Home Inspected

In most cases, your offer will be contingent on having the home inspected to ensure there is no major structural damage or large repairs needed. I can help you arrange this, and you can schedule it within days of making an offer. If there are no major issues, the process goes to step eight. If there is, you can renegotiate your offer based on what needs to be fixed, or you can withdraw it.


Step 8: Select Your Loan

Now is the time to go back to the mortgage lender who pre-approved or pre-qualified you and choose your mortgage. You will be presented with various options based on your unique financial situation, including fixed-rate, variable-rate, 15-year, 30-year, or special programs such as VA loans or FHA loans. Work with your mortgage lender to select the option you feel the most comfortable with.


Step 9: Get a Home Appraisal

Your lender will have your new home appraised so they have their independent value of it. The appraisal is to ensure that all parties involved are paying a fair price for the house.


Step 10: Finish Paperwork

No one looks forward to all the paperwork involved in buying a home, but it’s a necessary part of the process. Fortunately, everything will be arranged by your lender and title company and, when you’re finished, you’ll know you are the legal owner of your new home.


After signing the final paperwork to complete the purchase, you are now the owner of a new house. It may take a few days for your loan to be funded once the paperwork has been returned to the lender, but once that check is delivered to the seller, you’ll be all set to move into the home of your dreams.

Paul K.
Jordan C.
Rick S.
Frederick K.
Jenni N.
Sam L.
When we began our home search in South Carolina, I wasn’t sure what to expect from any of the Realtors® in my area. My wife and I asked Kirsten if she could help us find someone in our area that could work with us. In such a fast-paced market, we needed someone who was available and local. Kirsten took the time to find the right Agent for us. She didn’t just pull a name out of the hat. She spoke to sever...

— Paul K.

Kirsten was absolutely amazing while we looked for our home from out of state. She was always just a phone call or text away and was super helpful throughout the whole process. We were lucky enough to be able to fly down and see some houses in person and she was kind enough to drive us around town while we looked at around 12 houses in one day, so we didn't have to rent a vehicle. She was very knowledgea...

— Jordan C.

Kirsten went above and beyond in listing and selling our home. She had a high-end open house, and advertising that was absolutely incredible, and followed up on anything that my wife and I or potential buyers had questions about. Our home had my offers immediately and she handled all of them with professionalism and worked tirelessly to find the best buyer for us. She also helped find us a new home and m...

— Rick S.

I am so happy my broker recommended Kirsten Kelley as my agent when I decided to buy a condo in Dunedin. We had a long conversation by phone while I was planning my move, and we talked at length about what I hoped to find and what was available. As a result, one hour after I flew into Tampa, she was ready and waiting to show me ten possible places and I was able to put down an offer two days later. Kirst...

— Frederick K.

Kirsten Kelley is absolutely wonderful and professional to work with. My team with AnnieMac Home mortgage worked with Kirsten quite a few times and it was like having a friend on the “inside” that is working with you. She really cares about her clients as well as the community and neighborhood she lives in. The communication was very open via texts/calls and emails. We both were working for the clients o...

— Jenni N.

Kirsten was able to help me find a home in this crazy market, in Pinellas county, all while being a first-time home buyer. She was able to help me from start to finish. Kirsten is very professional and educated about real estate. She is always responsive and wants what is best for you and your family. If you have the chance to use her, I hope you will.

— Sam L.

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Get assistance in determining the current property value, crafting a competitive offer, writing and negotiating a contract, and much more. Contact me today.

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