Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

Home Sweet Home Blog Graphic

Buying your first home is exciting! You have probably spent a lot of time saving and working on cleaning up credit. Perhaps you have been looking at available properties in the areas you are most interested in. You might even be looking forward to this huge transition in your life.

Even with the most positive of attitudes being a first-time homebuyer can get overwhelming, and it can become overwhelming very quickly. The house hunting part is the easy part, it is everything that comes after. The paperwork, the dozens of people you will communicate with at any given time, inspections, extended deadlines – the list of components to buying a home can go on and on.

This list of tips is designed to help you ease through the process of buying your first home. While it won’t solve every roadblock you may run into, it will give you an idea of what to expect next and what to work on preparing with your team.

Tips for First-Time Homebuyers:

  • In advance of applying for financing, review your credit report and clean up any blemishes. Work on putting money away and building your savings.
  • Apply for a pre-qualification or a pre-approval with a trusted home loan lender. There are a variety of choices that you can go through to obtain financing, take your time looking at all of your options and choose the right one for you.
  • Understand your budget. Your pre-qualification or pre-approval will give  you the maximum you could be financed for. But that doesn’t mean that it should be your spending budget. Remember to factor in things like property taxes, homeowners insurance, fees associated with homeowners associations, condos or co-ops. Then there is also monthly utilities and maintenance to consider. While none of these are factored into your possible financing amount, they are all part of the cost of owning a home. Working with these numbers can help you determine what you can actually afford regardless of what you are financed for. This will also help you to narrow down your home search.
  • Select a real estate professional to work with during your home search. I know this tip seems somewhat self-serving, but hear me out. A licensed real estate salesperson holds the knowledge and resources to help you navigate a market of endless possibilities. This can help cut the time of your home search and allow you to make better, educated offers on the property of your choosing.
  • Create a list of needs and wants. This will help identify properties that in theory will work for you. Now of course, we know not every property you look at will be the one, even if it has all of your wants and needs. You also may need to make concessions. If you are dead set on a location and that particular location sells at a premium, you may need to make concessions to get into that neighborhood. This could mean losing a bedroom or bathroom off your your list. However, if the property speaks to you, you may not actually care about that one element coming off your list.
  • Always have an inspection done! You should never purchase a property without having a home inspection done not only to make sure the home is a sound investment but also for safety reasons. Any major problems that arise can be identified ahead of purchase and possibly negotiated for in the sales price. In New York State if certain issues total above a certain amount the buyer can actually terminate the purchase contract. Either way, an inspection puts everyone on the same page about the condition of the home. Your real estate professional should have some suggestions of who to hire or seek out your own inspector by interviewing some options.
  • It is highly recommended that you use a real estate attorney to ensure all i’s are dotted and t’s crossed. Also, there is a lot of paperwork, it is possibly the most overwhelming of everything you will deal with during the buying process. Your attorney will keep track of deadlines, expiration of clauses, and they will be able to be in contact with the seller’s attorney to make sure the process is moving along from their end. While each buying situation is different, some can be really tricky. When you are a novice at something you are bound to make a mistake, but having someone on your side to make sure that the process is legal is reassuring. It also takes a lot off of your plate so you can continue with your daily life as opposed to living and breathing buying a home.

Those are just a few things you can do to make sure you are successful in the purchase of your first home Of course there are many other components to buying a home and things that you could never prepare for. The best thing you can do for yourself is surround yourself with a group of trusted professionals who will help you with the right steps to success but also educate you as you go.

Erin Miller is a Licensed Real Estate Salesperson with HUNT Real Estate ERA in Saratoga Springs, NY. Previously she has worked in social media and marketing, with a strong background in customer service. Erin is looking forward to blending real estate and her other skills to provide a great experience for future clients. Visit her website at www.homeswitherinmiller.com.

My Real Estate Experience – How I Became A First -Time Homebuyer Twice and Why I Chose To Use A Salesperson The Second Time Around

Home Graphic

Prior to being an agent, I was a buyer. I purchased my first house at a county tax auction. When it came time to move we found ourselves in a unique position. While we were homeowners, we had never actually bought a house in the traditional real estate market. We were still first time homebuyers in a way – we were still clueless.

We moved from Utica, NY to the Capital District with our 3 year-old son and 3 dogs. We were between homes so my parents helped us out. I stayed with the 3 dogs at my mom and step-dad’s house with them and their 3 dogs. My husband and son stayed with my dad, about 15 minutes away. I know, weird, but it worked.

We found out I was pregnant with our second child shortly before our move. Nothing triggers super-mom feels like that news while being faced with a new job, move, and living with your parents again. My possessions were strewn about 3 separate locations. My husband and son were living apart from me. I had regular ice-cream date nights with my mom and stepdad. I knew we had to find a realtor and quickly.

No doubt Dee thought I was nuts when we met. The first thing I did was a put an offer in for a house that wasn’t showing yet. I should have listened when she warned me against doing this, but my maternal instincts required I nest. After trying to talk some sense into me she said “well ok, let’s get started.”

Our offer was accepted and we toured the home. It was reasonable for the asking price. We set up inspections and since I had my birthday off from work, I thought it was a great day to schedule everything. Don’t do this, EVER! If thing go wrong, you feel like crap on a day you should feel awesome. Also, never offer on a property site unseen. The inspection turned up an issue costing 1/4 of the purchase price to fix. My great deal shot me in the back! On my birthday!

My emotions were high, pregnancy hormones raging, and I had a strong urge to eat my feelings. I learned my lesson. Don’t make ridiculous decisions, like placing offers on a home you haven’t seen and expect no hitch. I pulled it together and sent new properties to Dee. This may seem strange, but this was going to be MY house. If I was finding homes online that I wanted to see, it seemed like common sense to tell Dee. I always found our relationship to be more of a partnership than her working for me. I enjoyed that because I wanted to be an active participant.

We took a Saturday to check out properties on the list. There are three that I recall vividly: One gave Dee the look of fear only a seasoned grandparent can possess; one where a crawl space door literally fell off the wall when I opened it, and one little blue cape. It was perfect! I had always wanted a cape AND it was blue!

We were sold, but it was a short sale. For this house, it was a risk I was willing to take. The sellers accepted our offer and I knew that we would wait on the bank. We went forward with inspections, hoping for the best. Weeks came and went. My due date was approaching…fast!

I needed to nest and get prepared for my new son. The weeks following were never ending. Constantly extending deadlines, wondering what happens next, hoping for good news any day. I was tired, stressed, and really wanted my abdomen back to myself. Dee was there for every freak out I had. She was supportive and really helped turn the craziness into a positive experience.

In mid September my mother and husband decided to move him and my son from my dad’s into my mom and stepdad’s, where we all waited for house news. By October, I had enough. I started looking at available properties online before learning the bank rejected our offer. We quickly regrouped and went to tour another house.

It was wonderful. A small brick ranch like my grandmother’s, in our desired school district, with 2 acres of land. I was elated to find this gem; out of date, having not had a face lift since its build, but great bones. No sooner had we seen it, Baby C showed up. My husband and I decided the little brick ranch was perfect. I called Dee and she came to the hospital for me to sign the offer paperwork the day of Baby C’s arrival. We even took time to document the moment. It was new one for me and I am sure a first for Dee.

Erin and Dee

Erin & Dee with Baby C

As they say – third times a charm! Our offer was accepted and things got moving. Now I focused on getting in the house. My newborn needed a nursery and I wanted my old bed back. My parents were also ready to have a Miller-free household. There was paperwork and approvals as far down as the rabbit hole goes, day in and day out. I worked full-time from home for my maternity leave, needing the income for financing. Let me tell you, doing this while taking care of a newborn is not for the faint at heart. But all of the struggle paid off.

Andy, Dee and Erin at Closing

Andy, Dee and Erin at Closing

We closed in the early part of December and moved out of my parents within 2 days. We were home. After 6 months of living with relatives, new jobs, all of the home buying disappointment and the birth of a newborn, The Millers were home. Just in time for the holidays!

Holidays with The Millers

Holidays with The Millers – Photo courtesy Melissa Duell Photography

Dee was my voice of reason and the person who brought me down a few notches when I was in a panic. Without her, we never would have survived this process. Her guidance taught me some valuable lessons that I hope I bring to the table as a real estate salesperson.

The knowledge I gained through using an agent was priceless. It made the process so much easier to have an advocate. That kind of support can really help you get it right. I will forever be grateful to Dee for being a person I could trust. Just like your real estate salesperson should be for you. It is for those reasons I will always suggest to use a real estate professional for your next home purchase.

Oh! Lastly, should any of your family or friends ever take you and your family in during a reno or a build or when you are in between homes – you owe them massive props. It isn’t easy to double or triple the amount of your human household, let alone double the dogs in your home. Make sure you let them know how much you appreciate it and pitch in what you can while you are there. It will make the rough times a little bit better. Major thanks to my mom and dads for letting us room with you all. ❤

Erin Miller is a Licensed Real Estate Salesperson with HUNT Real Estate ERA in Saratoga Springs, NY. Previously she has worked in social media and marketing, with a strong background in customer service. Erin is looking forward to blending real estate and her other skills to provide a great experience for future clients. Visit her website at www.homeswitherinmiller.com.

Prepare Your Home For Winter – 10 Things You Should Do

Home In Winter

10 Home Preparation Tips For Winter Weather

Being a homeowner is a great thing – having property you are proud of, a place to entertain or to raise a family. Owning a home gives you a place to plant roots and start a new chapter. However, with the fun and comfort that having a place to call home provides, it is also met with the burden of home ownership. Regular maintenance is a big part of owning a home and there is never a season where there isn’t a project.

With late fall settling in, we can almost feel the cold winter weather knocking on the door. Good news! It isn’t too late to get in some important tasks accomplished to protect your home during the winter months.

Here is a list of 10 things you can do to prepare your home for winter and increase heating efficiency:

  1. Take an inventory of snow removal equipment. Replace any broken shovels and make repairs to snowblowers. Make these items easily accessible in your garage or shed.
  2. Inspect your roof for any leaks of damage from previous seasons. Repair as needed or replace if necessary. Winter weather can cause major damage to a roof, so it is important to keep them in good condition.
  3. Check gutter systems for any damage and repair as needed. The weight from accumulation and subsequent ice can pull gutter systems away from your home. Also remove any debris that may be in gutters and downspouts.
  4. Trim trees and branches to protect your home and electrical wires. Snow can become heavy and break large branches or pull over trees, causing damage to your property or causing power outages. This is common in late fall/early winter when trees may still have leaves.
  5. Have your chimney cleaned and inspected – have any repairs made. This should be done yearly before using your fireplace.
  6. Have your heating system serviced by a professional. This not only ensures efficiency but safety. This is also a good time to fill up on heating fuel (if needed) and to change furnace filters.
  7. Replace screen doors and windows with storms. This will help add a barrier between the elements and your living areas.
  8. Examine windows and doors. Caulk around glass areas, replace weather stripping, and plastic if necessary.
  9. Insulate piping to prevent freezing should a power outage occur.
  10. Install additional or new insulation in attics, basements and crawlspace areas. This will help keep in heat and keep energy costs reasonable.

These simple tasks can help save money and keep your home safe. Winter weather can be harsh, especially in Northeast where just last year Buffalo, NY and Boston, MA saw amazing amounts of snowfall. While no one can predict what mother nature will do, we can do our best to prepare for it.

Erin Miller is a Licensed Real Estate Salesperson with HUNT Real Estate ERA in Saratoga Springs, NY. Previously she has worked in social media and marketing, with a strong background in customer service. Erin is looking forward to blending real estate and her other skills to provide a great experience for future clients. Visit her website at www.homeswitherinmiller.com.