So, here is my first word of advice. You want someone to represent your best interests when you are looking to purchase a home. Remember the seller’s agent is there to represent the seller and try to get as much return on the seller’s investment as possible. When you hire a buyer’s agent, they work for you. They help negotiate the best deal for you making sure you know exactly what you are buying and help “walk” you through the purchase so that you have full understanding of the process.
Most likely you will need an agent at some point. It is very rare that folks buy homes without agents; it’s just too risky. Without a buyer’s agent you may overpay, the seller may not be disclosing pertinent information about the house, and you could get in disputes while negotiating price or repairs, or worse. My suggestion is that you find an agent that has experience in the location you are searching, is highly reputable, and will be responsive to your needs. You want someone who communicates with you on a regular basis, really listens to what you are hunting for, has the time for you, and the ability to negotiate for you on your behalf. We are talking usually about the largest amount of money you will ever spend on anything here, folks. This is a huge investment so you want to be sure you purchase wisely.
So, you’ve located a good agent, but before you can really get started you have to get pre-qualified with a lender, unless of course you have the ability to purchase with cash. I do love those buyers. Or you talked to the lender first. You may belong to a credit union, or have a financial advisor that can direct you, or have a good established relationship with a local bank. Those are all good places to check into. If not, or additionally, you may want to have your realtor make a few suggestions in terms of quality local lenders – don’t use an internet lender. A local lender may be able to offer special lending programs to you specific to area or to your income. In my experience I have also found that out-of-area lenders sometimes are not as responsive and proactive if there are any “snags” in the process. In my area most commonly first-time buyers are using FHA, VA, and USDA / Rural Housing loans and occasionally other special type funding, as these loans offer either low or no down-payments and require less out of pocket money at time of closing. My advice is to check out all your options to find out what will best suit your situation and your financial needs. Compare the interest rates, and just as important, be very clear on what it will cost you to obtain that loan.
Once you have found a good realtor and have gotten your financing lined up, then you can really get the process rolling. Happy house hunting!