From being flexible and relying on trusted experts to embracing complicated or intimidating matters, buying your first home early in life is both enlightening and rewarding.
I’ve always had the goal of buying real estate early in life in order to start building generational wealth. And when I found myself working for @properties Christie’s International Real Estate in my first job out of college – with direct access to a knowledgeable team of real estate agents and mortgage lenders – it accelerated my timeline. After months of research, showings, and paperwork, I finally closed on my first home last week.
So, here are 5 lessons I learned from my experience as a Gen-Z first-time homebuyer:
Be Ready to Adjust Your Search
Before I started my home search, I was determined to stay close to the apartment I was renting in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood. However, after just one round of showings, I realized that the range of options in my budget was very limited – and not to my liking. My @properties Christie’s International Real Estate agent helped me determine my ‘must-haves’ – such as outdoor space, proximity to downtown, a garage and a home that required no immediate repairs. Eventually, I settled on a home in East Humboldt Park, which was further west than I had initially planned; but the house offered everything that was important to me.
Explore Your Loan Options
When I first began the mortgage application process with my lender, Proper Rate, I was overwhelmed by how many different loan programs were available. My loan officer helped me understand the advantages and disadvantages of each loan program, told me about certain programs designed for first-time buyers, and guided me through the process of deciding which one was right for me. For first-time homebuyers, your best bet is to work with a trusted loan officer who can advise you on which program is best suited to your financial situation.
Home Inspections Aren’t That Scary
One part of the homebuying process I had always heard about – and dreaded – was the inspection. Friends and relatives told me stories about major issues that inspections had revealed or expensive problems that homeowners faced after foregoing an inspection. In reality, the home inspection was insightful, and I learned so much about my future home. I was able to confidently make a decision on the home purchase, and all the details from the inspection report will help me create a homeowner project list that I can complete over time.
There’s More to Negotiate than The Price
When most people think about negotiations between a homebuyer and seller, price is the first thing that comes to mind. However, there are several other negotiation points to consider if you want to increase the chances of your offer being accepted. These include being flexible with your closing date, making a larger down payment, covering a seller’s closing costs and even waiving certain contingencies. In my case, although we offered 3% less than the list price, we were flexible on our closing date, which helped get our offer accepted.
Pad Your Budget for Closing Costs
Even though homebuyers must be given an estimate of closings costs prior to closing, it’s still difficult to know exactly how much you will owe since credits, prorations and taxes can fluctuate even up until the day of closing. For this reason, it’s best practice to budget extra for your closing costs. Being financially over-prepared is always better than being caught off guard.
As a first-time homebuyer, even though I had a good sense of the steps in the buying process, I wasn’t prepared for absolutely everything – and you won’t be either. However, I can promise that the sense of fulfillment that comes with finally owning your first home makes all of the lessons learned completely worthwhile.
Bella Paredes has been a member of @properties Christie’s International Real Estate’s corporate marketing team since June 2022. She is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago.