26 First Time Home Buyer Tips from the Nation’s Top Realtors & Brokers


BY Ally Abernathy

first time home buyer tips

Being a first-time home buyer can be intimidating.

It’s the biggest purchase you’ll ever make!

What if you make a mistake?

No need to worry.. We’ve complied a complete list of the best tips for first-time home buyers from 26 of the top Real Estate Agents and Brokers across the nation.

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1. Be Prepared to Act Quickly

Cheryl Eidinger-Taylor, President, ERA Key Realty Services

“Today’s market is a seller’s market. Inventory is low and we are seeing bidding wars, where the seller ends up selling for a higher price than the initial listing price.

Agents and homebuyers should be available as quickly as possible, so they can act quickly.  Buyers should be prepared to lose a few before they purchase the home they truly want.”

2. Be Systematic in Your Approach

Rhett M. StruveTwin Cities Sold

“Too often, first-time homebuyers will be succumbed by emotion and become attached to a less than desirable property. Spending the time to research the local market trends and getting their finances are suitable for a home purchase will result in a significantly more agreeable situation.

Unless there are extenuating circumstances, purchasing a property should never be a rushed process. First time homebuyers are typically in the initial stages of their careers, so diligently researching and utilizing the advice from real estate professionals can either set the foundation for prosperity, or create a detrimental fiscal situation for years to follow.”

3. Buyer’s Representation is Free

Deborah Dennis, Realtor, Deborahjdennis.com

“Make sure you have someone looking out for your interests. After almost two decades in the business I am still surprised to hear from first-time home buyers that they don’t reach out to an agent when starting their search because they don’t have the extra money.

The seller has negotiated the commission they pay long before you see the house advertised and if the buyer doesn’t have an agent the listing agent keeps the full amount.  This leaves you with a very happy listing agent, but also with a buyer that has nobody protecting their interest.”

4. Communicate Clearly with Your Agent

Jonathan Alpart, Realtor, Fathom Realty

“Tell your Realtor exactly what you are looking for so they can best help you find your dream home. The more specific you can be, the more your Realtor can be helpful.

Remember, when they’re working for you in the market talking to other Realtors, they need to filter their search and refine their requests to narrow what is available. Simply telling your Realtor, “I want a three bedroom house with a yard” isn’t going to get you anywhere.”

5. Get Pre-Approved Before You Start House Hunting

Marc Carver, Principal, Carver Property Group

“Before engaging in any serious home search, first-time buyers need to have the necessary liquidity for the down payment, have investigated and addressed any potential credit issues, and spoken to a mortgage company (preferably several) and obtained a pre-approval letter.

This process will also help determine the maximum price they can afford, which obviously will help them to focus their search accordingly, and to be prepared to make an offer when they find their dream home.”

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6. Do Your Homework

Chantay Bridgeslosangelesrealestatenow.com

“Despite the busyness of life, do a little research on your own.  If you have a question about whether a room is permitted or not, find out before you sign on the dotted line.

Be proactive. Ask questions, check the internet and if meet some of your potential new neighbors.  If you are viewing the property during the day, you may want to drive by in the evening.  Never, ever, forego having the home inspected, inspections reveal with your natural eyes cannot see.”

7. Sit Down with your Agent and Let Them Walk you Through the Process

Katie Messenger, Realtor, Bella Dimora

“As a first-time home buyer, you’ll have a lot of questions, and our jobs are to help you navigate through this and prepare you, as best as possible, for what exactly you’ll be experiencing — we will set realistic time frame goals and expectations on what your money can buy.

If your agent is “too busy” or doesn’t have the desire to educate you on what buying a home looks like, you may want to consider interviewing someone else who truly cares about you having the best experience possible.”

8. You Don’t Need 20% Saved for a Down Payment

Deborah Dennis, Realtor,  Deborahjdennis.com

“There are many first-time home buyer programs out there, and with government loan programs a first time buyer can often get into their new home with 5% or less down.

Speak to a mortgage advisor or take a First Time Homebuyer class to educate yourself, you may be able to get on the property market and start gaining equity sooner than you think.”

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9. Have Cash in Reserves

Anthony West, Realtor,  John Moffitt & Associates

As a Millennial Realtor, most of the First Time Home Buyers I work with are around my age (mid to late 20’s to early 30’s). One solid tip I give them well before we start looking at homes (months ahead) is to save as much as possible and have cash in reserves that extend well past closing costs. That way, a buyer’s wallet isn’t stretched so thin and they can still feel financially comfortable even once making one of the biggest investments of their lives.””

10. Get a Second Opinion

Sarah Richardson, Real Estate Broker, Tru Realty

“Even after you think you’ve found the home of your dreams, get someone else’s opinion. Bring a friend or family member you trust along, they may notice something you didn’t. And if they love it too you can rest easy knowing that you’re making the right decision.”

11. Take the Time to Research The Market Before You Contact an Agent 

Emile L’Eplattenier, Fit Small Business

“While many first-time buyers think poking around on Zillow for a few days gives them a solid understanding of the market, in reality they’re barely scratching the surface. Even small, slow-moving markets can be far more nuanced and complex than they appear.
While your agent has a fiduciary responsibility to represent your interests, they also have a financial incentive in closing you quickly. That means you need to educate yourself in order to know what you should be paying for your home.
You need to know not only how much comparable home are listed for, but also how much they’ve sold for in the past and what factors influence those prices. Not easy without the right tools.
Luckily, data analysis has been democratized in the past few years and tools like Google Ventures backed HouseCanary can give you a wealth of data on a particular home that would have only been available through an appraiser or experienced agent just a few years ago.”

12. Shop around for home insurance

Jamie Crouch, Realtor, Home Again Properties

“Don’t just use the company that has your auto insurance. Prices can vary dramatically between companies for the same coverage so check with 3-5 different companies to get the best deal.

This can make a big difference in your mortgage payment and closing costs since you set up an escrow account at closing.”

13. Your first home likely won’t be your last home

Justin Taber, Realtor, Taber Realty Group

“It’s hard to predict where our families, jobs, or lives will take us 10 years down the road. I try and impress upon my first-time home buyers to look for a house that suits what they need now and for the next few years. When buyers accept this advice, they end up finding a home that works for them now, with the ability to buy up as their needs progress.”

14. Keep an open mind while searching for homes

Daniel Gyomory, Realtor, www.danielgyomory.com

“It’s important to have an open mind when you’re looking for your new home, especially for many first-time buyers who are on a budget. Be careful not to soak in too much HGTV and make sure you’re being realistic for what is available in the area that you want to live in, while also staying within your budget.
Remember that many cosmetic items in a home can be replaced pretty easily without spending too much. And it can be fun to have a few small projects to make your first home your own!”

15. Make sure you know the process

Cheryl Eidinger-Taylor, President, ERA Key Realty Services

“Review the home-buying process, timing of a purchase, funds that will be needed and the current market circumstances (i.e., is it a seller’s market or a buyer’s market? Are short sales or foreclosures available, etc.).

By knowing the process before looking at homes, the buyer will be prepared to make a quick decision, which is especially important today, as inventory is limited.”

16. Know Your Budget and Factor in All Housing Expenses

Sam HarrisMassada Home Sales

“In this market, you have to be ready to move decisively to secure a home. If you are viewing homes within a certain price range (based on a pre-approval for example), there are still differentials that may make the mortgage payments different.

You have to calculate payments including property taxes, mortgage insurance, and other expenses like water, electricity etc. Get a number that you will be comfortable with so when the time comes to placing an offer, you are ready to go.”

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17. Narrow down, narrow down, narrow down

Kim Howard, Co-Founder, Howard Homes Chicago

“The right real estate agent will help you greatly through this process, which is crucial to make sure the first-time homebuying experience is smooth, fun and to find you the perfect first home.
For example, many first-time homebuyers come to us with a list of 50 properties they like, yet those properties have so many differences and nuances.
It’s already exhausting enough as a first-time homebuyer to understand the process and prepare yourselves financially for potentially the largest investment of your life. Thinking through what you want as specific as possible will help with time, efficiency and also making it enjoyable.
Nobody, I don’t care how excited you are wants to look at 50 homes – it’s exhausting and draining, especially if we are on a short time-table! You probably won’t get everything on your wish list for your first home – but picking your top 3 must-haves and top 3 dealbreakers is a great place to start!”

18. Buy the home you think you will need 3 to 5 years from now

Albert Marinas, Real Estate Broker, XXIPAD.com, inc 

“Say a single young adult wants to buy a home and finds a nice one-bedroom; that’s great and enough space. However, chances are the buyer will find someone, fall in love, even welcome a child; then the young home buyer will need to go through the sale of the current home and find another home. Is wiser to buy a home you’ll need in the near future; don’t worry it will get filled (stuff, pets, hobbies, love).”

19. Choose an agent that you connect with on a personal level

Yoni Pogofsky, Broker, Pogofsky Group

“The most important thing that you are going to need in a real estate agent is trust, communication, and responsiveness.  Ask for referrals and recommendations from close friends, then start meeting with agents.  All real estate agents have access to the same homes on the MLS.
It is paramount that you find an agent you feel comfortable confiding in and trusting with the most expensive purchase of your life this far.  If you don’t connect personally, you wont connect professionally and that leads to mis-communications and disappointment.”

20. Don’t Skip the Home Inspection

Russell Smith, Realtor, Kentucky Select Properties

“The home inspection is an opportunity for you to learn about your home. It is not a chance to renegotiate the contract or walk away if the seller doesn’t fix every little thing. It educates you about your home, so you can prepare for more likely scenarios in years 1-5.
If the home inspection does uncover significant, serious problems, of course we will apprise the seller of the situation and determine the best path forward for the buyer.”

21. Make a list

Bob Gordon, Realtor, boulderrealestatenews.com

This is doubly important if you are purchasing with a partner.  Each of you needs to make a list of what is truly important in your new home.  Then set  the lists side by side and rate your features onto a single list.
Now, when you get into a home, you’ll be able to step back from the emotions and remember your important features.  Don’t let the perfect home get away.

22. Be methodical as you rate your selections

Riccardo Ravasini, Managing Director, Rava Realty

Bring a digital camera so you can capture the features and nuances of each home that you view. Begin each series of photos with a close-up of the house number to identify where each group of home photos start and end.
Pay attention to the home’s surroundings. What is nearby? Do you like the location? Immediately after leaving, rate each home on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. View top choices a second time before you start bidding.

23. It’s ok to not know everything when you are buying your first home

Elizabeth Convery, Founder, Very Real Estate

“Many people want to do all the research and watch all the TV shows before taking the step into home ownership.  But it’s perfectly ok to have the desire and the finances to buy a home, but not know anything else.
Buyer’s agents exist for a reason!  Hire a qualified real estate agent who can guide you through the process and answer the many questions that will come up.  To find a great agent, start by asking your friends and family who have recently purchased a home about their real estate agent.
Interview agents who have been referred to you by trusted people that you know. Look for agents who not only know the market well, but ones who understand your needs well and you communicate well with.”

24. Find a lender you can trust and who is responsive

Doug Willis, Broker, up2daterealestate.com

Supply as much information as you can and get prequalified, so that when you find a house, you are ready to move on it. This market is not waiting for people who are not prepared.
Determine if your mortgage lender would allow you to remove any contingencies when you place an offer. Chances are there will be multiple offers and you will need to make your offer as strong as possible.

25. Some Agents May Give You a Commission Rebate

Gary Lucido, President, Lucid Realty, Inc.

“It’s a little known secret that some realtors will share their commission with you. On a $400,000 purchase this can be worth $2000 at closing. Why wouldn’t you pursue that?

And it doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice any service as this is often offered by full service realtors. There are national players that will do this but often local agents will do this as well.”

26. Know Your Credit Score

John Elliot, Realtor, Keller Williams

A first time home buyer needs to know their credit score before doing anything. You can get a free copy of your credit report and credit scores from sites like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame. While the scores you see online are consumer scores, not FICO scores, which lenders use. You will still have a good idea of where your score is.

Borrowers don’t need a 640 FICO score to qualify for a home loan anymore. FHA loans allow for borrowers to have a 580 credit score to qualify with 3.5 percent of the purchase price as a down payment. However, lenders set their own credit score requirements and may require a minimum score higher than 580.

If you’re a Veteran then you may qualify for a VA loan with no down payment. USDA loans are available to low-income first-time home buyers in rural areas of the country.

Ally Abernathy
Ally Abernathy is a contributor and editor for The Lenders Network. Ally has 10 years of experience in the mortgage and real estate industries. She has written many articles covers home loans and giving real estate advice. She graduated from Southern Methodist University with a Bachelors degree in Finance. Ally lives in Dallas, Texas with her daughter, Ella.