First-Time Home Buyers and Setting Expectations

How many of us love to watch home improvement and home buying shows? *scans room* All of us? Yes. When my husband and I were living in our 800 square foot apartment, engaged to be married, about to set off into our new careers, those were my favorite shows! It let me dream and envision the life that was possible in front of us. It’s fun. It’s warm and fuzzy. It’s the best. Fast-forward a few years when we were actually buying our first home with a 2-month old baby in tow, trying to make ends meet with a strict budget, it felt a lot less dreamy. I knew nothing about the mortgage application process, nothing about how to put an offer on a home, and certainly nothing about the home inspection process. It all felt overwhelming.

With the right agent, your tears should run dry.

I’m a planner and even in my best-laid plans I felt lost. This is the perfect moment to find the perfect real estate agent. Someone who is willing to teach, be patient, listen to and to serve you. Working with a top-notch professional can make a huge difference.

As a REALTOR®, my first step is to set up a meeting with my buyers after they go through the mortgage pre-approval process with my preferred lender or theirs. In our meeting, once I gather information from my buyers, my next job is to set expectations of the process. I walk them through each step of the full timeline of the buying process shown here:

graphic courtesy of my amazing broker, HUFF Realty

After that, the real work begins. The buyer must turn their HGTV brain off and their reality brain on. Sometimes the reality brain takes a good deal more imagination to consider all possibilities.

The mortgage lender pre-approval process should take care of the first-time homebuyer setting a reasonable budget. Next, I work with my clients to set a wide search on the MLS (multiple listing service) to capture their parameters:

  1. Price range
  2. Location
  3. Required bedrooms and bathrooms
  4. Any other must-haves

I try to keep the search wide, so they can get a reasonable understanding of what is out there in their local market. I look at the property matches with them online and talk about them. This is a time for me to listen carefully to their thought process and perspective they are bringing to the table.

I truly believe the best thing to do with a first-time homebuyer is to get them into a home to view as soon as possible, whether they think they are ready or not. It starts putting their dreams into a more concrete reality. They may have a list of preferences but once they step into a home, it can easily start to change. A good agent will be logging all of this information as they go. This first house showing is as much for me as it is for them. While walking through the home with them I can further start to hone in on what they are looking for. I can also help them imagine practical things they can do to change the house and make it more their own, such as:

  • Paint- we all know from this blog that re-painting a room goes a LONG way.
  • Lighting- swapping the old, dingy light fixture for a new, modern one is an instant update to a room and can help make their home feel more like theirs.
  • Furniture layout- just because the owner’s have it arranged a certain way, they need to imagine their own furniture in different layouts. It can totally change a room.
  • Kitchen details- cabinet hardware, backsplash, appliances can all be really achievable changes to make as a first-time buyer.
  • Bathroom details- mirrors, cabinet hardware, lighting, vanities are all attainable fixes.
  • Flooring- it is a pricier item to change in the home but it can make a big impact on updating the house.

Of course, buyers have to prioritize in their budget what they can and cannot afford, but it is oh, so helpful to make that first showing productive rather than sobering and scary. From there it is all about focus and constantly naming and listing their wants/needs into helping them make a clear-headed decision to place an offer on the right house.

Buying a home for the first time is a big achievement and needs to be an enjoyable and empowering experience for buyers that are deeply rooted in the realities of homeownership. It is important to work with someone who can harness all of that for their buyers and get them to the closing table and beyond.

If you’re local to Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati, please reach out to me on my blog or go to my “Contact” page located at the top of this page if you are in need of a REALTOR®. I’m here for you. If you are not local but would like a stellar referral for an agent in your area, please drop me a message and I will work with you to find the right agent. My broker, HUFF Realty, is an affiliate of Berkshire Hathaway and Leading RE (the leading real estate companies of the world). I can connect you to someone great. I’m local, but I’m also global. Imagine the possibilities.

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