Ready To Buy Your First Home?

04/12/2015 10:46 pm ET | Updated Jun 12, 2015

(Photo courtesy of ©Bananastock)

Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions you will make in your lifetime.

From loan approval to choosing a neighborhood, the daunting details tend to perplex first-time homebuyers. If you're navigating the real estate market for the first time, follow this advice from Realtors.

Hire smart
Kelly Clevenger, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker, Wallace & Wallace in Knoxville, Tennessee, recommends using Angie's List or getting a referral to find a real estate agent. It takes some time for listings to appear on real estate websites, but he says working with a professional gives you access to listings as soon as they go on the market. Don't forget to hire a highly rated home inspector. "They are worth their weight in gold," Clevenger says.

(Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Todd C., of Maple Valley, Wash.)

See a variety of homes
Chanda Johnson, a Realtor with Flock Realty in Indianapolis, says to see as many places as you can. "The market is moving really quickly, so it's helpful for buyers to feel like they've seen a lot," she says. "If they've been looking, they will feel less rushed when they have to buy quickly."

Know your budget
Clevenger says to look at your credit, and make sure you don't have anything on your report that will be a detriment in the loan approval process. Once you do that, Johnson says to get preapproved with a reputable lender so you can know your budget right away. "It's much better to have that research in mind as you're searching versus falling in love with something before finding out it's not a financial fit," Johnson says. Also, most sellers want a preapproved letter when you make your offer. Clevenger says to make sure a home warranty is part of the negotiation.


Location, location, location
"If you buy the right location, you'll be fine on resale," Clevenger says. Choose the most desirable location that fits your needs. Clevenger recommends driving around the neighborhood. He also says you should look for neighborhoods with good schools. "A home in a good school zone will always have protection," he says. "There will always be a crop of buyers for that property."

Within the neighborhood, Clevenger says not to go for the top price. "If you can, it's always better to buy at the lower end," he says. "That way, as you make improvements, you're not going to go over what the comparable sales will be for the neighborhood."

Closing time

Allot for at least 30 to 45 days for closing from the time you make an offer. "So many unexpected things can come up, so be flexible," Johnson says.

After you close, she says you'll want to personalize the house, but don't go overboard. She recommends painting or changing light fixtures as a more cost-effective way of altering the home's look.

Clevenger walks through the home with his clients and helps identify what renovation projects will get them the most bang for their buck.

When it comes to bigger projects, Johnson says to budget ahead. "Prioritize what's necessary and plan a goal each year for what you want to tackle."

Making that priority list? Johnson says not to forget about the less glamorous home improvement projects, such as those involving the furnace or roof. "It's tempting to want to spend money on something that's more exciting," she says. "But budgeting for those things is better, so you're not stuck making an emergency decision."