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My Advice for First Time Homebuyers (from someone who has been in your shoes)

By: Chris T, First Time Homebuyer & Churchill Mortgage Client

My wife and I were both 23 when we bought our first home. I’m going to level with you. Outside of asking my wife’s father if I could marry his daughter, buying that little house in Tennessee is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. We had no idea what we were doing and it is only by the grace of God that buying our first home ended up being a great experience for us. We were utterly and completely dependent on folks older and wiser than us to guide us down the right path. They knew the twists and turns, and they skillfully helped us navigate what could have been a very difficult journey. I’m going to get out the crayons for you (yes, we’re going old school!) and simplify some lessons we learned along the way. My hope is that these eight tips will help make buying your first home a great experience as well. LETS GET STARTED!


Tip 1: Think About It This may seem silly at first, but I’m telling you, if you sit down for one hour to think about buying your first home, and you write down any questions or concerns that come to mind, you are going to be way ahead of the game. If you’re single, find a quiet coffee shop with no distractions. If you’re married, be sure to do this WITH your spouse. Don’t know how to figure out an interest rate? Write it down. Are you confused about how much house you can realistically afford? Write it down. Are there a few neighborhoods you’d really like to live in? Write them down! Seriously, write everything down that comes to mind and keep the list with you as you begin to talk with mortgage lenders, real estate agents, and anyone else who is going to be helping you. PRO TIP: If you’re not really a pen and paper kind of person, take notes on your phone or use an app for notetaking to capture your thoughts and questions.


Tip 2: Find A Great Mortgage Person I’m going to level with you: there are some stuffy people in the mortgage business. Pant suits, power ties and leather briefcases galore. And sometimes the folks who work in that business can talk about mortgages in a way that’s hard for us non-mortgage-business folks to understand. You need to find someone in the mortgage business who wants to help you. Someone who will take the time to answer your questions in a way that you can easily understand. Someone who isn’t going to get frustrated when you ask for the third time what the word “amortized” means. (Hint: I still don’t know.) Ask five different homeowner friends who they used for their mortgage. If they had a great experience, get the contact information for that person and give them a call. Tell them you’re interested in buying your first home and offer to buy them coffee for 30 minutes to talk about it. If they don’t have time to meet with you, move along. If they’re willing to grab coffee with you, then do it! Meet them in person and see how they respond to your questions (Here is 7 Questions to Ask Your Home Loan Specialist Before You Commit). A recommendation from someone you trust is the single most effective way to find a good mortgage person. PRO TIP: I’ve used Churchill Mortgage for our last three homes. I genuinely like them and I highly recommend them to all my friends. I would encourage you to give them a try.


Tip 3: Get Pre-Approved

or Better Yet… Become a Churchill Certified Homebuyer Come on, who doesn’t know about getting pre-approved? You’d be surprised! Getting pre-approved up-front has a lot of benefits. A pre-approval helps you know the maximum amount you can spend on a home and how that number will impact your monthly budget. Once you find a Home Loan Specialist, spend some time with them reviewing your income and credit history. They’ll be able to use that information to figure out the maximum amount of money you’ll be able to borrow to buy your first home. But keep in mind, a standard pre-approval might not always be effective in a competitive housing market. PRO TIP: This is a BIG insider’s tip! Become a Churchill Certified Homebuyer. This helps to position you almost as if you’re a cash buyer, moving you to the front of the line when the competition is high. This will come in handy when you decide to make an offer on a house. It will show the seller that you’ve done your homework, you’re are a great potential buyer, and they’ll take you more seriously as a result. Not only does this help you shop for your new home with more confidence, but offers seem to be getting accepted more quickly. There’s no better way to guarantee that you’re taking the right steps to help you get to the closing table faster.


Tip 4: Decide How Much You Want To Spend Wait, we just covered that, right? Actually, we didn’t. Getting pre-qualified lets you know how much you can spend. But that doesn’t mean you should go and spend all that money. After you’ve been pre-qualified, you (and your spouse, if you’re married) need to have another thinking session. Ask yourself the question “Do we want to spend this much money?” In 90 percent of the situations the answer should be “No!” Listen, this is your first house, and you want buying it to be a great experience. If you borrow the maximum amount then that means your monthly budget is going to be stretched thin, and that means you might be a little crankier than normal, right? Owning your own home can be fun, but you want to make sure you’re leaving room in your monthly budget for other things too. So, talk it out. Review your budget. Decide on a number that makes you feel comfortable and make a commitment to stick to that number. PRO TIP: Write out an agreement, and you and your spouse both sign it. If you’re single, ask a friend or family member to sign it with you to hold you accountable.


Tip 5: Find A Great Real Estate Agent Remember how we talked about some people in the mortgage business can be a little too stuffy? Well, the opposite can be said for a lot of real estate agents. You want a real estate agent you can relate to personally, but also one who also takes his or her business very seriously. This is the person who will represent you in this major business transaction. You need to feel confident they have their act together. Again, I’d ask a few homeowner friends about the real estate agents they would recommend. Get their honest feedback, and call up the agents who are highly recommended. Ask them to meet with you to talk about buying your first home. If a real estate agent won’t take 30 minutes to meet with you, then you don’t want them representing you. Those who will meet with you, ask them how long they’ve been in the business and how many homebuyers they’ve successfully helped in the last 12 to 24 months. You want an agent with a lot of experience helping people buy homes. You can learn more about working with great real estate agents on our website. PRO TIP: Do not hire your second cousin’s ex-wife who just got her real estate license. I’m sure that she is super nice, but she’s still cutting her teeth on the business of helping people buy homes. Remember: we want the best possible experience for you, and using a more seasoned real estate professional will help make that happen.


Tip 6: Do Not Look At Homes Alone If you’re married, look at homes together. I know that some people travel for business more than others and that a house might pop up on the market that you just can’t wait on. I get it. But if possible, look at homes together. Walk through them together. Open closet doors together. Hold hands and talk about changes you’d want to make together. Being together will make buying your first home a better experience, period. If you’re single, take a trusted friend. Looking at homes for the first time can be exciting and emotional and you may overlook some things that someone else might notice. It’s always good to get a different perspective. And try to make sure it’s the same friend each time. This will also allow them to help you compare different homes that you may like equally. PRO TIP: Once you’ve pulled the trigger and purchased your first home, take your friend out to a nice dinner to say thanks.


Tip 7: Be Patient When you look at the very first home, you may hear a voice inside your head say “This is the one! Nailed it! First time out. High five!” Odds are that little voice is not telling the truth. Be patient. Look at several homes. If making an offer just doesn’t feel right, sleep on it and consider it again in the fresh light of morning. PRO TIP: This is a big decision, and you don’t want to make the wrong call out of emotion or impatience. There will always be another home down the line that you’ll like just as much, if not better. You will find the right home. Patience pays.


Tip 8: Make An Offer That’s Good For You This one is so important. Talk with your spouse or your friend. Talk with your real estate agent. Talk with your parents or your friends or your dog. Seek wise counsel from a whole bunch of people you trust. But ultimately you need to make sure that you are making the best decision for you. Don’t make an offer on a place you don’t love because your dad thinks it will make a good investment. And don’t make an offer on a place that’s higher than your committed-to limit just because your mom thinks you deserve that sweet master bath. PRO TIP: Stick to your plan and make an offer on a place that’s right for you. Ultimately, you are the one who’s going to be living there and paying the mortgage. By following these easy steps you’ll be on your way to a successful homebuying experience and get you into a house that is a better investment financially and emotionally.



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My Advice for First Time Homebuyer