Four things first-time buyers should do before shopping

Four things first-time buyers should do before shopping
Date Published: January 31, 2014

Dear Sue,
We’d like to buy a home in Auburn, however, we’re not ready to buy yet - our plan is to buy in quarter 4 of this year. We really want to give our son a backyard and a swing-set for Christmas!
We’re first-time buyers and would love to know what we should do now to be better prepared for the purchase. We plan to have vehicle and credit card debt eliminated by October. My husband and I both have student loans. Putting a lot of money down may be a challenge - what programs should we learn about for first-time buyers?
Thank you in advance for your time, assistance and consideration!
~ Homebuyer Hannah

Dear Hannah,
Congratulations on your decision to buy a new home. Now is definitely a great time to get started. Interest rates, while expected to go up have actually come down and there's new properties coming on the market everyday.
The first thing you need to do is to find a good Realtor to help guide you through the homebuying process. The best Realtors are referred by a friend or family member. Another way is to shop open houses. That's where one will find agents in action. If you find one you like and you think you can work with him/her you have completed step one.
Your Realtor will help you with your second step which is to find a good lender. One experienced with helping first-time buyers. It’s important that you understand the various loan programs as well as the loan process.
Your lender’s job is to help you choose the right loan program. A program that is tailored to meet your financial needs.
There are a variety of special loan programs for first-time homebuyers including down payment assistance. One’s qualifications will depend upon a number of things, but mostly on income and your credit score.
Your lender will also assist you with determining how much you are comfortable paying for a new home.
The third thing that you’ll need to do is to get a written pre-approval letter from your lender. That letter will be gold. It's like having cash in your hand.
Your Realtor will submit it with any offer you write because it's financial proof to the sellers that you can perform.
The fourth thing you need to do is create a wish list. Dream on it. Where do you want to live? What does your neighborhood look like? What style of home have you dreamed of owning? How many bedrooms do you want? What school district do you want to be in?
There are so many things to consider. Don’t hold back. Your Realtor will counsel you and help to define your needs.
Finally, it’s time for the fun part, home shopping. Buy the home where you see yourself setting up that backyard swing set!
It will be more than good Home $$$s and Sense!
Sue Thompson can be reached at