Getting ready to buy a home? Start here!

29 April 2024

Getting ready - For first time buyers

Home buying tips if you’re a first time home buyer

Buying a house for the first time is a big undertaking. There are so many moving pieces, lots and lots of questions you’ve never had to ask or answer before, and you’re usually pretty busy in the meantime, right?

So how do you find what you need to buy a house you love, without setting yourself up for financial stress down the road?

The good news is there are plenty of tips and to-dos to make the home-buying process a whole lot simpler:

1) Make sure you talk to the right advisors. This may include people who can help with financial information, local details (if you don’t know the area), real estate know-how, and more.

  • Figure out the timelines you’re working with and how they impact your search. These may be issues like saving money or taking into account big life changes, but remember that your current situation may not require as many to-dos as you think (plenty of people are able to buy a house when they have student loans).
  • Figure out your budget and what that looks like for your overall financial situation, as well as your future goals. Know what money you’ll need in the process and when. Make sure to look for special programs you qualify for that may change your budget or down payment.
  • Figure out if you do need to tackle anything first, like cleaning up your credit or handling your lease.


2) Learn the market. Educated buyers have an easier time and make better financial decisions.

  • Once you have a general location, find spots that fit your desired lifestyle. A great way to do this is to use the Willowfinch search!
  • Also consider what spots fit your budget. You can find costs for properties on real estate sites for a broad picture. If you see something promising, save the property to your Willowfinch account with the bookmarklet extension. Entering your income and tax information into the Willowfinch tools gives us even more to go on, and our data can show areas that are more or less expensive based on your specific numbers.
  • If the market is competitive in your area, take some time to think about alternatives. It may be worth getting creative, like looking in the parts of town you love but just across the road or around the corner from the “typical” hot spots. Or you may find yourself thinking about a dual property with income potential or taking on a fixer-upper to make your dream home.
  • Take the time to really compare renting and buying in your area. This isn’t a universal fact. Different places have different times that renting or buying would make the most sense for your situation. Make sure you’re doing what’s best for you, not following an arbitrary timeline.


3) Think about what you want and know what matters most. Perfection likely isn’t out there, but clarity makes everything simpler.

  • Outline your personal requirements and any non-negotiables like the type of yard you want, the level of work needed to get things ready to move in, number of bedrooms, or anything else that matters most to you.
  • Are you looking at a first home and 5, 10, 15 years plan to move on to the next one? Or a forever home? (← Know that’s uncommon for a lot of buyers, it’s ok if you don’t get everything you’ll ever need covered this first time.) And how much space do you need before needing to move or remodel? The goal is to make sure 2nd and 3rd time buying worries don’t creep into a 1st time purchase, while also staying aware of real constrictions like big events or life changes.
  • Generally, it’s a good idea for first-time homebuyers to look for good bones and some needed cosmetic work. Finding something ”not new” really helps your price compared to the whole turn-key feel. Remember to go in for houses that are less than your budget and leave room for getting it to look like what you want.
  • Make sure you know what money you can access for renovations, it’s not always part of mortgages if not a particular kind of purchase.
  • This is a great way to avoid locking all your money up in a house and not having what you need to make the best use of it. It helps balance home comfort and economic comfort.

Don’t be afraid to do the leg work before you dive into driving all over for time-consuming showings on houses that may not even meet your criteria! And definitely talk to professionals, it’s worth it. Things like pre-qualification make the whole process smoother and may be the difference between you getting your first choice home.

Don’t let FOMO or scarcity push you into a purchase, either! I know in a busy market it doesn’t feel like it, but there are always more homes. You won’t miss your dream house, you’ll see more great options and you can always make your own! Homes shape your daily life and give you a way to build your financial foundation as you move forward.

I do remember that fear of missing out, but we made sure to buy without giving into it. Our biggest concern was we didn’t want to get caught on our heels with any unexpected economic turns, whether it was our own finances, downswings in our industry, or the whole nation. It made a huge difference for us in the long-term.

If this all has you thinking, make sure to sit down and gather all your ideas and questions and start working through everything with the right pros.

Willowfinch can help...either sign up through your Financial Advisor or just reach out to us and we’ll get you set up and ready to go!

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