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Top Ten Questions that First Time Home Buyers Should Be Asking

Navigating the home buying process can be daunting, especially for those venturing into it for the first time. This article aims to address the most pressing first time home buyer questions, providing clear and concise guidance to help ease the journey towards homeownership. From understanding the right time to start looking for a home, to selecting the right mortgage loan officer, and comprehending the closing costs, we've got you covered. Our expert advice is tailored to ensure first-time buyers are well-informed, confident, and ready to make one of the biggest decisions of their lives.


1. When should I start the homebuying process?


We recommend beginning the process three months before you would like to own a home.  The main reason is that it often takes time to find the house that you want to purchase.   Especially if you are currently renting, you do not want to have to make a hasty decision in order to get out of your rental by the end of the lease.    You should also check with your landlord or property manager in order to determine if you are able to terminate your lease early should you find the right house quickly, and if you can extend your lease should the home search process take longer.


2. What is the first step?

The first step should be to contact an experienced mortgage loan officer to be sure that you will qualify for a loan.  In order to do so, you will provide some information to them such as any debts that you have, your current monthly income, and how long you have been in your current profession.   Generally, but not always, you will need to have two years of experience in that profession in order to qualify.   The loan officer will do a soft credit check or what is also called a “soft pull.” This type of credit check does not impact your credit score.  You can contact multiple mortgage lenders to see who has the best terms and have multiple soft credit checks without affecting your credit score.   For our clients, we always give them the contact information for three loan officers who have done an excellent job for our past clients should they need that.

Once the above process is complete, the lender will give you a prequalification letter or  preapproval letter.  We always recommend getting a preapproval letter because it demonstrates to a seller (when you make an offer) that your lender has actually verified the information that you have provided and the letter demonstrates that you have been conditionally approved for the mortgage.   


3. How long does it take to close once I go under contract?

In the Charlotte area, the typical time from when you go under contract, to when you will close on your new home, is 30-45 days.  Sometimes, a seller will ask to rent the house back from you once you close, so that they can have more time to transition to their next home.   This is completely negotiable between the parties, and we help our clients with this process if applicable.


4. What is our best advice for first-time home buyers?

 It is extremely important to hire an experienced agent.  Sometimes buyers want to hire their friend who is an agent, and in some cases, that person may be the best choice.  But sometimes, it is not. You should hire someone who works in the profession full-time.   If you had to have brain surgery, would you want a part-time surgeon to perform your operation?  Probably not.   Or would you hire your friend solely because you do not want to hurt their feelings?  Probably not.  You are likely going to want a surgeon who is experienced and skilled in order to obtain the best result.  And that is what you should do when hiring a real estate agent.   We recommend finding someone who is, not only in the business full-time, but also handles at least 20 transactions per year.  Look at their  reviews on Google to see what past clients have said about them.   If you do not know someone who meets this criteria, ask friends and coworkers, or search for one on Google.   


5. What does a real estate agent do and how are they paid?

A competent real estate agent will be a critically important asset when buying a home. They will place your interests above their own, so that you are assured that they are helping you to make the best home buying decision for you.  They will walk you through and advise you on each part of the process. They will even advise on the reasons that you might not want to purchase a particular home.  They will represent you throughout the transaction and should stay in touch with you beyond.

In the Charlotte area, if a home is listed on the Multiple Listing Service as most homes are, then the seller has agreed to pay your agent’s fee.  If a home is “for sale by owner,” often that seller will do the same.  If not, then you can increase the agreed upon purchase price to include your agent’s fee into your mortgage.


6. Do I have to have a certain credit score?

The short answer is no, but you should discuss this with your loan officer.   The terms of a loan can vary, especially the interest rate, based on your specific credit score.


7. How much money do I need for a down payment?

Many people believe that they must have 20% of their purchase to put down as a downpayment, but this is not true.   While buyers who can make that kind of downpayment avoid paying for private mortgage insurance, you can still buy a home with as little as a 3.5% down payment. 


8. How should I find a good mortgage loan officer?

We find that the best way is usually to ask your agent unless you have used an excellent loan officer in the past.  A competent real estate agent will have the names of at least three loan officers who have done an excellent job for their past clients.


9. What other closing costs will I have to pay?

Your closing costs are usually going to run 1-3% of the home’s purchase price and those must be paid by you, at closing, in addition to your down payment. Some lenders may pay those costs for you by increasing the interest rate to absorb them.  Examples of typical closing costs include, the closing attorney’s fee, title insurance, homeowners insurance for the first year, and the property taxes from the date you buy the house until the end of the year. If you are escrowing your insurance and taxes, so that your lender pays those for you, they will collect 4 months of those expenses to create an escrow account on your behalf.


10. When can we move into the house?

Unless you have agreed for the seller to remain in the house after your closing, you can move into your new home, once your deed has been recorded at the county’s register of deeds office.  This happens either the day that you sign your paperwork at the closing attorney’s office or the following business day depending on the time of day that you had your closing.   If you are hiring a moving company to assist you with your move, be sure to have your agent ask the closing attorney when the deed is likely to be recorded before committing with a mover on when they should deliver your goods to your new home.   



Are you thinking of buying a home in the near future, or do you have other questions about the home buying process?  Feel free to contact us at:


704-403-4412


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