As a Realtor in the Portland, Maine area I regularly help first-time buyers through the exciting process of buying their first home. Because there are so few homes on the market in the Greater Portland area, this can be a challenging process. But there are a few pieces of advice I can offer that can help you succeed in this market. (And this advice goes for seasoned home purchasers too!)
1. Find. The. Right. Real. Estate. Agent.
Easier said than done, right? And how do you find the “right” agent? While there’s no foolproof process for finding the right agent, some important considerations are that he or she:
- Makes you feel comfortable immediately.
- Asks about your needs.
- Explains the home-buying process and makes certain you understand exactly how the process works. This includes explaining the costs included in a home purchase, how the deadlines work, how inspections work, and how the broker gets paid. A good broker should make clear how often he or she will communicate with you, and what the best process for communication is.
- Describes how available he or she will be to you. In the Greater Portland region, buyer agents need to be ready to move immediately when a new property hits the market. A strategy of “waiting til the weekend to show you homes” is no strategy at all in our current real estate climate. If a home you’re interested in seeing goes on the market “tomorrow morning,” you need to be seeing that home tomorrow morning. If an agent cannot guarantee this ability, you could miss the chance to make an offer on a property before it goes under contract.
- Isn’t pushy! An agent who pushes you to sign, sign, sign the buyer agreement before you’re ready to do so may also push you to buy a home that you don’t love. (And signing the buyer agreement is something you should do. I’ll explain that in another blog, or you can call me and I’ll explain why.) At no point should you feel pressured to work with an agent. If you’re not sold on the agent’s abilities by the end of your first meeting, walk away. Things will rarely get better.
2. Find The Right Mortgage Broker
This one is a bit easier. Assuming that you don’t have a mortgage professional you plan on using, your real estate agent should be your greatest resource in helping you find one. Why? Because that agent has had experiences with dozens of mortgage brokers, and he or she will want to refer you to one that will take care of your financing needs and do so with a minimum of drama and a maximum of ease and efficiency. Remember, your broker wants you to have a successful transaction, and if there’s any element of a transaction that can bring the whole process tumbling down, it’s an incompetent lender. A great agent knows and wants to work with the best mortgage folks they can.
A great mortgage broker will have access to and knowledge of a wide range of products for buyers of all types, and will educate you on the best products for your situation.
*See all those rules that apply to picking a good real estate broker above? You can apply those to mortgage brokers too!
3. Prepare For The Challenge
This is a tough market. There are very few homes for sale and a lot of people competing for the ones that do hit the market. It is not uncommon, even when working with an outstanding agent, for buyers to put offers in on seven, eight, even ten homes unsuccessfully before finally having an offer accepted. It can be very discouraging. So as you move into buying mode, it’s a great idea to be ready for the challenge; understand that if your offer isn’t accepted (repeatedly), that it’s nothing personal, that it’s not because you don’t have enough money, that it’s not because you’re not meant to have a home or that you should have chosen a more lucrative career. It’s because it’s a tough market. But buying remains a better long-term choice than renting for almost everyone. Don’t give up. Stay the course. Keep swinging. And remember that it will happen eventually.
4. Don’t Apologize For Your Budget. Ever.
While you should be realistic about what you can buy with the amount you’re approved for, you should never, ever feel like you deserve anything less than the absolute best in service from everyone involved in helping you purchase a home, whether you’re spending a hundred thousand dollars or a million; not your real estate agent, not your mortgage broker, no one. Being chosen to represent any client is an honor, and your agent needs to reflect that fact in the way he or she treats you. Demand respect and great service always.
5. Get Ready To Have Fun
You can only ever buy one first home. The process, while seemingly a bit daunting, should ultimately be, more than anything, really fun and incredibly exciting. The good news is that if you’re looking to buy in the Greater Portland area (including South Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough, Westbrook, Saco, Biddeford, Old Orchard, Gorham, Falmouth and Cumberland) in a housing market that has a very, very bright future. The chances are very good that people will always want to live in this incredible area, so a home here will almost certainly be a great investment.
If you’re considering a home purchase and want to work with an experienced broker who takes an educational approach to home buying, who is patient and who loves to help put good people in great homes, I’d love to talk with you. Even if you don’t think you’re ready, I’d love to help you figure out what to do to get ready. I’m always available and looking forward to hearing from you!
Mike Faulkingham is a Realtor and writer who lives in South Portland.