Any advice for a first time home buyer?


DH and I have been approved for a mortgage. :thumbsup: We spent today and last Saturday looking at houses. We seem to have a really good real estate agent. She has a lot of experience and isn’t afraid to tell us any problems that may exist with houses we may be interested in. She seems to be interested in helping us find the best house to fit our budget and needs. I’m sure many of you out there have purchased houses in the past, and I’m hoping to learn from your experiences. :shrug: Any advice out there for someone with no experience in this area?

Thanks and God bless!


The book 100 Questions Every First Time Homebuyer Should Ask by Iris Glink is a good start. I highly recommend you get it and read cover to cover.

Here are some of my tips:

Don’t look at things above your price range, things in your price range will look shabby in comparison.

Drive the neighborhood at different times of day/night/weekend/weekday. Pay attention to traffic, how many people are out walking, noise, parking.

Resale does matter-- so if you don’t have kids, the school district still matters. Weird layouts matter. Only 1 bathroom matters. Less than 3 bedrooms matters.

Look past odd paint colors and things you can change, but don’t ignore things you can’t.

Take a tape measure. It does matter whether your couch will fit on that wall.

Pull the crime report for your neighborhood from the local police-- many have graphs of # of crimes in X radius, # of sex offenders in X radius, etc.

I made a word document/form that I filled out on every house. I took the fliers they had for the house, but then I made my own form and took notes as I went through the house writing down specific things I liked, didn’t like, details. That way I could go back through them and prioritize them. I looked at a LOT of houses.

Make a list of must-have items and a list of deal-breaker items and stick to it.

And, lastly, it’s not your house until the day the deal closes. Don’t get attached or emotional until the day you get the keys.


first of all, the prior comment has a lot of very good advice!

some things that i have had to deal with
how old is the heating system?
cooling system if applicable?

when was the last time a chimney inspection was performed?

do you have a “public sewer” (that is, the city waste treatment) or a “private sewer” (septic tank) and what is the last time any of this was worked on?

How old is the roof? when was it last worked on? how long is the guarantee/warranty and is the roofer still in business

how old are the windows?
if they were replaced with fancy shmancy insulated etc windows… look at the latches. are they plastic? if so ask for the bill of sale for the window work and check the warranty
(ours broke the year we bought the house, no one repairs the things)

whatever you think you can afford on a mortgage… you will be MUCH happier if you can spend less. dont even THINK of looking above your price range by more than a couple bucks…

and lastly?
i hope you get your house for less than you could “afford” per month… take the difference and immediately invest it in an interest bearing account of some kind for home repairs and emergencies

hot water heaters know when its a holiday…


Don’t forget to get a reputable firm to do a home inspection before you finalize the sale.
They will point out repairs that must be done beforehand,which will help the real estate agent and you. Our inspector found loose electrical wires in the attic (which I couldn’t even get up into, much less know what to look for) which the owner had to have repaired before we completed the sale. He also found other things wrong in the crawl space, which the owner had fixed.
And he left us a summary of his findings, which I’m still working on – not essentials, but things that would be good to get fixed over the next few years.


The smartest thing my husband and I did was buy a house that he could afford on his salary at the time of purchase. We didn’t take into account my salary, the raise he would get in a few months, or the rents that he would get from the two friends who rented his extra bedrooms (during the year leading up to our wedding).

Investigate each home’s storage space. My husband and I are not packrats, but we discovered much too late that our home has no linen closets. A small annoyance that we worked around, but still an annoying discovery.

Look at houses well below your price range. Don’t spend X amount just because the bank says that’s how much you can afford.

Be aware that your real estate agent is not necessarily your “agent” acting in your best interests. They have ethical codes…but they also get a cut of the final price you pay, so they don’t have a huge incentive to help you negotiate the price down.

That said, DO work with a real estate agent! They know a good property when they see it, and they have access to new properties on the market that a person acting alone might not even get a chance to see before a good agent snaps it up for his client.

Think about what you really need now, and in the next five years. Even a large family can be comfortable with just three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Don’t think of this as your “dream home,” but as your “home for now.”

Trust your instincts. My husband and I almost splurged on a very expensive home a few years ago (we had even written the earnest money check!) On paper, it was a VERY great deal, but I suddenly felt wary of the purchase and insisted we back out. Within a few weeks, the market took a nosedive, the price dropped substantially, and we were very happy we didn’t move forward with the purchase.

If shopping in relatively new construction, don’t be awed by the “Garden Bath” where the bathtub is separate from the shower. Real estate agents LOVE to point this out, but they’re the most worthless feature, in my opinion. Basically, that tub will never get used because tubs without a shower get dusty and are hard to clean…and usually the “Garden Bath” is accompanied by a small shower stall. Imagine shaving your legs or getting intimate with your husband in a phone booth–not fun. :stuck_out_tongue:


Thanks everyone for your quick responses! I appreciate all the advice I can get from those who have BTDT!

1ke: I ordered that book as soon as I read your post! We’ve not been looking above our price limit much. I agree that even the houses that are just $20,000 more look much nicer, at least some of them. We’re hoping to get the house for much less than the loan we’re approved for. Also I like your idea of making a list of the things we do and don’t like about each house, that way we can remember because I can imagine they may start to blur as we look at more.

Fabricdragon: Thanks for the tip about the windows! I never would have thought of that. What are the benefits/disadvantages of having a public vs. private sewer?

Viki63: Yes, we are definitely planning on getting a professional inspection done on any house we put an offer on. Our real estate agent has already mentioned one inspector who has a good local reputation and writes a thorough summary of his findings.

Augusta: I think new construction and garden baths are a bit out of our price range, lol. We are thinking of the next few years so probably want 3 bedrooms so we can have room for kids if they ever come (no luck yet).

God bless you all!


We just closed on our first house earlier this week.

First, decide on your "must-haves" versus "would like to have." Don't bother looking at homes that don't have your "must-haves."

Don't rely solely on online photos/descriptions when looking at house possibilities -- look at everything in person, because photos and descriptions sometimes can give a different impression as to what the house is really like.

I don't know what area you're looking in, but pay attention to Homeowner's Association fees. Make sure you find out from your realtor what their fees will be at closing and afterwards. We ended up having to pay our HOA nearly $400 in fees at closing, which we weren't expecting, and they actually made some trouble that delayed our closing over a week. (Long story.) If you are really interested in a specific house, try and talk to the neighbors to get an idea of what the HOA is like, if they are difficult to get in touch with, etc.

Oh, be prepared to buy appliances, especially if you are looking at foreclosed homes. Our new house only has a dishwasher; we have to buy everything else. They also took all the handles off of the cupboards in the kitchen and took the track lighting from the kitchen ceiling.

I would stay away from short sales if I were you -- they can take a long, long, LONG time to get resolved. My MIL knows a guy who has been trying to buy a home via short sale for over six months now and still doesn't know when the closing date will be. We only looked at foreclosed homes or ones that the owners were selling.


If you are in a city you will have city services including water and sewer. You will get city water and sewer and will pay a bill-- either as part of your homeowner’s association fee or as a separate water bill. You would not have the option of having your own water/sewer system.

In some areas where builders go out and buy Farmer Brown’s pasture and put in a subdivision, they create what’s called a MUD district (municipal utilties district). They are too far out to be on city services but know people won’t want to buy if they have to have wells and septic, so they create these districts where they drill a community well and have community sewer services that hook up to some city’s sewer. Then the residents pay a bill annual taxes to the MUD and also pay for water/sewer monthly. After X years, they MUD taxes go away and the city takes over the district. You would be required to be in the MUD and use their services, you would not have your own well/septic system.

If you are out in the country, the house will be on well water and have a septic tank. This is your only choice for water/sewer. So, if the house already has a well and septic then you are fine— unless your well goes dry or your septic system has problems. Basically, there are only a few differences that are important when you are on a septic system. First, you don’t have a garbage disposal and you don’t put food into your septic system. And, to keep the bacteria working in your septic you will add some Rid-X to your system once a month, you just flush it down the toilet. Every so often you’ll have to have your septic tank emptied, and you call a service to do that. So, you don’t have a monthly water/sewer bill but then you will have a larger bill if you have to have work done on either.

Unless you are in a rural area, you will likely be on city water/sewer and you will just pay a bill-- it’s important to check to see how much the house is currently paying in electricity, water, sewer, etc. Get the bills for the last year. If you see large electric bills the house may not be energy efficient.

If you are in the north, it also matters what kind of fuel the furnace uses for heat. There are major differences in the cost of propane, fuel oil, natural gas, electricity, etc, as a means of heat.


These are very good suggestions, as are many in this thread. I’m in my 2nd house (thanks be to God), and I’d say make sure that you tally up EVERYTHING that will cost you, AND, that you can then afford it all while leaving room for those unexpected future costs. Good luck to you.


Oh, forgot to mention. If you will be having children going to school, would you prefer that they are in walking distance rather than bus-ing? I have friends who consider this a strong priority. Hope this helps. God bless.


Yes definitely stay away from low land. No matter how cheap it is.:wink:


Here is some advice for after you purchase your new home [hopefully with a minimum 20% down and a 30 year fixed mortgage] …

You will receive an offer in the mail that seems too good to be true… for a small fee [they range from $250 to $500] this company will set you up on a bi-weekly payment [they take your mortgage payment and divide it in half] … they will tell you how much interest you will save [and this is true - it does save interest over the life of the loan] … and how much sooner the mortgage wil be paid off [again this is true the mortgage will be paid of sooner then the original thirty years] …

.:tsktsk:*** DO NOT TAKE THIS OFFER*** :tsktsk:

[LEFT]The principal behind this is very sound so I will tell you how to accomplish the same thing for FREE … Yes for FREE :yup:

Take your monthly payment and divide it by twelve … and add that amount to your payment each month … in fact to jump start the effort add the “Fee” the company wanted to charge for setting up this opportunity to you to your very next payment …

So here is the example … If your mortgage [principal and interest] equals $1,200 per month make your payment $1,300 … $1,200 plus $100 (the $1,200 divided by 12] … by doing this you make thirteen payments per year instead of 12 … ditto the bi-weekly plan … there are 52 weeks in a year [twenty-six biweekly periods equals thirteen - 4 week months] …

There is absolutely no reason to pay someone to do this … if you do then you will be locked in to making the additional payment and any associated fees [late fees] if you fail to do so … you cannot go back to the lower payment without penalty …

If you do this on your own, you save the ‘fee’, gain the benefits in interest savings, increased principal and time … but have the flexibility to adjust the benefits due to unexpected other expenses … the dishwasher goes out, the heating bill is higher then expected, a medical bill needs paid etc …

Good Luck and God’s BESSINGS UPON YOUR NEW HOME :thumbsup:

Trust me … in the first 9 months you will probably receive a minimum of three such offers … but now you know an even better way to get the same benefits :dancing:



and no matter what-DON"T PAINC.

When I bought my first home (and only, two years ago) I was so overwhelmed. No one told me that the Hitchiker Guide to the Galaxy said it best.


Be careful of loans that say Only $950 a month house payment… principle and interest.

You also have to pay taxes and home insurance.

Many insurance companies add this in to your house payment and so you will pay more. Make sure your loan says PITI, not PI.

Or you will have to come up with thousands of dollars in insurance and taxes on your own which you may not have factored into the affordability.

Check for water damage in the house. Look at ceilings closely… any room under a bathroom. Ignore things like people’s furniture. Don’t worry… it will leave with the people. Amazes me how many people don’t buy a perfectly good house because they can’t see beyond the ghastly decorating taste of the prior owners.

Sometimes they will lower a price rather than replace carpets themselves as they move. You can negotiate that if they have gray carpeting everywhere and you want something else. They’ll be happy to leave it as-is and let you pick your own color if it means they don’t have to go through the hassle themselves. Same for painting. If you can delay moving in and get the house carpeted and painted your way for a lower house price do so. I think you can get a loan for the price of repairs too.

I’d say don’t worry too much about sex offenders in the neighborhood only because they have a tendency to move, and they are the ones police KNOW about and YOU know about. The ones that worry me are the ones who haven’t been caught yet. You could end up next door to one, or one could move in after you move in. (Happened to me. It’s no issue. I never let my kids out unsupervised anyway.) Just assume no one is trustworthy and make your decisions accordingly.


Hire a real estate attorney before you sign the sales contract, or make sure there is an attorney review clause in the contract. Typically the attorney would get paid at the settlement, so it is more about getting them into the loop early, when an attorney can still make a difference on a contract, rather than after it has been accepted. Attorney’s fees for typical residential closing will in all likelihood be well under 1% of the transaction. Many problems can be avoided before the contract is signed, and it is much easier to address many different issues before they become problems rather than after. Just like agents, attorneys can vary greatly, so ask for referrals.

Agree that the agent may not be working for you, strictly speaking, unless you have a buyer’s agent whose duty is specifically to you; of course the agent wants to close the deal, but they live by referrals too.

A list price is an offer - - what the seller hopes to get. Depending on your market, and the sellers’ situation, there may be a lot of elasticity in that list price. Some people like to submit low-ball offers, on the chance that it will be accepted, and on the theory that the list price is essentially a “high-ball” offer, so to speak. A seller may like you, and be willing to take less for the “right” buyers (i.e., long held family home being sold, two offers - - one potential buyer wants to convert it into apartments, another is a young family starting out - - seller may prefer the young family even for less money). My point is the worst that can happen with a low offer is a no, again depending on the demand in the market and for that particular property.


It sounds like you have a good realtor but beware of a tactic I see all the time on “Property Virgins”. Nearly every time a young first time buyer makes an offer on a house it seems that another “buyer” as just sent an offer and you should make your own offer as high as possible to get the house. The realestate agent Sandra Rinomato doesn’t seem to notice how often this coincidence occures with her clients - even on houses that have sat for months. Instead of upping your offer simply withdraw your bid and thank them for their time. More likely than not in a day or two your phone will be ringing off the hook the owner’s realtor trying to get you to make another offer. When you ask what happened to the other buyer they’ll tell you that they didn’t have their financing in order. When this happens make a new LOWER offer, you are dealing with people that have lied to you and tried to profit from your inexperiance.

This same tactic was tried on my wife and I in a small town. The seller’s realtor actually tracked us down and made a pitch for the house and was nearly in tears before we “low balled” them. Apparently she knew that in a town that small her tactic was going to get back to the seller because she didn’t present the original bid before trying the “other bidder” story. When we withdrew our bid she was caught by surprise because the other “local” realtor had encouraged us to submit a new higher offer. We really wanted the house but I thought something seemed fishy when the house that had been on the market for three months suddenly had two bids in 24 hours. The seller accepted the offer and instead of making an extra $8,000 they lost $5000 from our original offer.

You have to be willing to miss out on a home when you do this because there may actually be another bidder - especially if the home has only been on the market for a short time. I never get into a bidding “war” if I don’t know who I’m bidding against or if the person is even real.


Thanks everyone for all your advice! Gosh, I didn’t realize just how much detail went into buying a house. I wasn’t overwhelmed before but now I’m starting to feel the heat.:doh2: What did we get ourselves into!?! LOL. :shrug: I’m gonna have to go back, reread the thread, and take some notes I think. :rolleyes: It’s now looking sooo much more complex than DH and I were anticipating! Good thing to be expecting it though, rather than end up with some surprises.

Thank you guys and God bless!


Buy a full case of Pepto-Bismol and plan on staying in the place long enought to forget how painful it was to go through everything! :smiley:


Don’t forget to get into the first time buyer’s Federal Stimulus deal. IIRC, this is $8,500 of taxpayer moeny that you get to grab.

You’re welcome, I guess (grumble, grumble…).

As for flooding risk, don’t JUST rely on your own assessment of what is “low ground.” When you offer, make sure there is a contingency that allows you to back out if your bank determines it is in the floodplain as mapped by FEMA. If that is the case, your mortgage will have a LARGE extra requirement to buy flood insurance. Not worth the overall hassle, back out.


I haven’t read all the posts, so forgive me if I’m repeating myself. Speaking as a soils and foundations engineer, it’s a good idea to have someone come out and take soil samples and inspect the foundation for possible problems. The soil samples can indicate whether or not your house is on good, stable material. Also make sure the house hasn’t had past foundation problems - which the owner should disclose.

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