Buying Your First Home? Here’s What You Need to Know

By Judy Royal

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, chances are you are about to start the process of making one of the biggest purchases of your lifetime: a new home. The Wilmington NC real estate market has plenty of first-time buyers eager to take advantage of the sea, sand, and sunshine Southeastern North Carolina has to offer. But before you hit the ground running to look at properties, it’s best to get your ducks in a row for what will be a hectic but exciting time in your life.

Who?

Navigating the often-confusing world of buying a home for the first time can be a daunting and downright terrifying experience. You’ll want someone you can trust to answer all your questions and concerns, not to mention look out for your best interests. Choose your real estate agent wisely. Ask friends and family for referrals. Talk to a prospective agent’s recent clients. Find out how long he or she has been in business. Familiarize yourself with what credentials (otherwise known as all those letters at the end of a name) mean. For instance, ABR stands for Accredited Buyer’s Representative, which means the agent has completed additional education in representing buyers in transactions.

What?

Before you start touring properties, think about what you really want out of your primary residence. Are you looking for privacy and a big yard? Or are you willing to share a wall and common spaces with neighbors in exchange for not having to worry about mowing grass and other exterior maintenance issues? This will help you narrow down your options to either single-family homes or condominiums/townhouses. Just bear in mind that the latter are more likely to have higher homeowners association dues as a tradeoff for the things you won’t have to deal with, so be sure to factor those into your budget.

When?

Speaking of budgets, you need to start saving well before you are ready to make an offer. Talk to a mortgage professional early in the process to ensure you are fiscally ready for this major step. Be honest with yourself about exactly what you can afford and stick to that range. If you don’t save at least 20 percent for a down payment, you’ll probably have to make mortgage insurance payments, adding to your monthly costs. Aside from the price of the home itself, other things to save for include the cost of property taxes, insurance, homeowners association dues, and regular maintenance. Many experts recommend budgeting at least 1 percent of the value of your home each year to cover routine maintenance. There are also potential emergency expenses, such as replacing a heating system or roof.

Where?

Be as specific as possible about the locations where you’ll consider living. Drive through neighborhoods to get a feel for an area. Find out crime rates. Research schools. Talk to other homeowners. When it comes to determining the community that you will call home for perhaps many years, you really can’t be too diligent. Be sure your search for properties includes only the locales where you will be comfortable making a life. After a tough day at work, you’ll want to retreat to a place that will make you feel safe, happy, and content.

Why?

If you’ve been renting for a while in an area you plan to call home for the foreseeable future, you might be a prime candidate for buying your first home. A smart real estate purchase can be a valuable investment asset for your long-term financial health by helping to increase your future net worth. Just be sure you are ready for the responsibility and commitment that comes with owning property. If you’re the type of person who wants the freedom to pack your bags and move to Key West after one really great vacation, then you might not be quite ready for home ownership.

How?

Most of us are not lucky enough to pay cash for our first home, so financing will likely be a reality. Think about the type of mortgage you want. Explore the pros and cons of a fixed rate vs. adjustable rate. Shop lenders to find the best deal on home loans. Your interest rate will play a huge role in the total price you pay for your home, so spending some time making comparisons now can pay off majorly in the long run.

Whether you’re in the market four your first or fifth home, or anything in between or above, Intracoastal Realty is here to meet your Wilmington NC real estate needs. We are a full-service real estate brokerage operating since 1976, and we currently have 12 offices with over 400 agents and staff to serve Southeastern North Carolina, including the areas of Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Southport, Oak Island, Ocean Isle Beach, Leland, Hampstead, and Topsail Island.

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