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The Ultimate Guide to Buying Your First Home: Advice from Chester County’s Top Realtors

Posted by Kelly Callaghan on March 23, 2023

So, you’ve saved up a good nest egg and have decided to put that towards a down payment on your first home. Where do you go from here? As Chester County’s top Realtors, The Steve Laret Team is here to help. The home buying process can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first time. Luckily, we’ve laid it all out for you here – in plain english! 

Key Takeaways

  • Make sure your Realtor has a proven track record of success.
  • The red flags: Don’t let a ‘quantity’ Realtor cost you thousands.
  • Hire someone who is dedicated to studying the trends of your local market.
  • Organize your finances and get pre-approved.

The Steve Laret Team: Your Expert Guides to a Smooth and Successful Home Buying Experience

The first step in buying a home is to contact a Realtor. We’ve been recognized as some of Chester County’s top Realtors, so, luckily, you’re in the right place! Your Realtor should be able to give you a great recommendation for a qualified lender. With a proven track record of success and invaluable insights, the right Realtor can make the home buying process easier, and smoother. When you’re choosing a realtor, it’s important to look for qualities such as expertise in the area, clear communication, and protection of your best interests. 

You might find it surprising, but the typical real estate agent in the United States usually sells only around 5 to 7 homes per year. If a professional golfer practiced just 5-7 times a year, he’d be the worst in the league. It’s essential to consider the number of homes they have sold. A seasoned Realtor should have a proven track record as this is a sign that they know the market and understand the complexities involved in selling and buying a home. 

Ideally, you’re looking for a professional who is not only an expert in the area you’d like to focus your search but also in the surrounding counties. They should be extremely well-versed in the market trends, be consistent, clear, and honest in their communications with you, and protect your best interests. Your Realtor should be taking the time to equip you with the many different strategies that you can deploy when it comes time to write an offer — as well as what you can expect once you’re under contract. 

Quality vs. Quantity

As Chester County’s top Realtors, The Steve Laret team takes pride in our successful track record. Buying your first home can be an exciting yet daunting process, so having an experienced Realtor as your guide is insanely important. The more frequently a realtor transacts, the more valuable insights and advice they can provide. However, it’s important to note that there is more to consider in an agent than just their experience. Quality should always come before quantity.

A quantity Realtor is primarily concerned with their own financial gain and will prioritize making quick sales over providing quality service. You want an agent who takes representing buyers and sellers very seriously. This should be more than a job to them — it should be their calling. At The Steve Laret Team, we’re devoted to helping our clients make sound financial decisions. When you’re just starting the process of buying your first home, you need conscientious expert consultation, not low level salesmanship.

Have a local market expert by your side.

When buying your first home, the Realtor you choose should be an expert in your local market, market trends, and negotiating tactics. They should also have access to resources such as lenders, title companies, inspectors, appraisers, and contractors that can help you throughout the process. Remember, all of the little things matter here – you’re making a big purchase! 

The real estate experts at The Steve Laret Team are dedicated to staying up to date with Chester County’s latest market trends and conditions on a daily basis. Our local market expertise helps us to provide insight into the current market situation, and allows us to spot any potential opportunities or risks. Make sure your agent is knowledgeable about the following:

  • Current sales figures
  • Current inventory levels
  • Average market prices
  • Assessing property values

If done right, all of this information leads to a strong conviction of value. Without this, the wrong Realtor could end up costing you money that you can’t afford to lose.

I saw this happen recently, when a home in a local Chester County neighborhood was listed at $450,000.00. After touring the property, I could already tell that it was overpriced by at least $50,000.00. A friend of a friend had also toured the property, and they were advised to offer upwards of $500,000 in order to win. Ultimately, the client decided to pass and continue their search elsewhere. In the end, the home then sold for $400,000.00 a month later. Their agent almost cost them $100,000.00. With both a strong conviction of value and knowledge of the local market, a great agent from The Steve Laret Team would immediately know the home was well overpriced and advise you towards a market value offer or in a different direction entirely. 

Getting Pre-Approved

After you’ve secured an expert Realtor, they will recommend qualified lenders to get you pre-approved. You can certainly tour homes prior to this step; however, that would be like going to a tennis court without your tennis racket — You can check out the courts but you can’t play. Without getting pre-approved, how can you know what you can afford and therefore what to look for? 

Put together a file with your tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements, and any other pertinent financial documents. Having all of this together will give your lender a crystal-clear picture of your finances. Additionally, your lender will run your credit report. With this, they’re going to look at things like your debt-to-income ratio, your assets, any liabilities, plus your work history, and job security. This information is critical in helping your lender to determine the maximum amount of money that the bank is willing to loan you for a mortgage. 

The Mortgage Maze: Find Your Perfect Fit and Avoid Hidden Fees!

There are many different types of mortgages – each with different qualifiers and minimum down payments. For example, a buyer pre-approved for a conventional loan can put anywhere from 5% – 20% down while an FHA loan requires only 3.5% and a USDA and VA loan requires 0% down. Have your lender walk you through the different options available to you and what potential fees are associated with each mortgage. 

Ideally, a buyer would be approved for a 20% down, conventional loan to avoid added fees, such as PMI. Don’t forget to ask about government programs and grants that could be able to help you with your down payment!

Ask for an Estimated Closing Cost Worksheet with every pre-approval drawn up and have your lender carefully review the worksheet with you to avoid any surprise fees.  Once you figure out where you’d like to cap your monthly mortgage payment, you can start shopping the market

Swim to Success with an Expert Agent you can Trust. 

We didn’t become Chester County’s top Realtors by making enemies. If you’ve ever had to work with someone you can’t stand, then you know that it makes getting things done very difficult. Buying your first home is a huge milestone — you and your Realtor need to be able to work together. In order to build trust and reliability, it helps to share the same general life philosophy or worldview. This doesn’t mean that you have to agree on everything, but you will have to navigate complex situations together and it helps to have a good rapport and similar points of view. Be sure to hire an agent whose opinion you value. 

When you’re buying your first home, make sure that you’re hiring a Realtor that moves quickly, and is able to apply what they’ve learned from one transaction to the next. You don’t want a Realtor who’s spending the majority of their time (and yours!) trying to recall processes and tactics from their two sales last year. Think about it like this –  if you throw a kid into the deep end of the pool once every three months, they will never learn how to swim. Instead, they’ll be fighting for their life – every time.

Are you considering purchasing your first home? The Steve Laret Team is here to help! Voted Main Line Today’s and Philly Magazine’s Top Producers three years running, we are expert Realtors focused in Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties.

Contact us today to schedule a complimentary buyer consultation! 

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