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Six tips for first time homebuyers

FARGO, N.D. -- Buying a first house is one of the biggest decisions an adult will ever make. For many people, becoming a homeowner gives a sense that they've arrived and signifies to the rest of the world that they're responsible enough to take o...

Buying a house for the first time can be stressful and involve a lot of hiccups those unfamiliar with the process might not know about. shironosov/iStock
Buying a house for the first time can be stressful and involve a lot of hiccups those unfamiliar with the process might not know about. shironosov/iStock

FARGO, N.D. - Buying a first house is one of the biggest decisions an adult will ever make. For many people, becoming a homeowner gives a sense that they’ve arrived and signifies to the rest of the world that they’re responsible enough to take on such a hefty commitment.

Whether you are a young buck looking to lay down roots or a newly single parent starting over, buying your first home can be a daunting task, unless you are fully prepared and have a sense of how the process goes.

1. Get pre-approved.
Sisters Aruna Hagen and Poonam Oatis of Advantage Realtors in West Fargo have been in the business of buying and selling houses for more than six years. Their specialty is first-time homebuyers.
The most important part of buying your first home is getting pre-approved, they say. Without a pre-approval letter, you can’t do anything beyond look at the house.
“Hook up with a good Realtor and lender,” Oatis says. “A good Realtor and lender will give you a decent idea of what’s needed for the downpayment and how much you are comfortable paying monthly.”
Once you know what you’re able to spend, you can start hunting for a house that is appropriate for your price range, Oatis says.

2. Find a lender willing to work with your situation.
A good lender is crucial for the home-buying experience. He or she can do several things, like get you the best interest rate possible and work around a less-than-ideal financial situation.
“We’ve seen people making really great money, but they have bad credit,” Hagen says. “Most people aren’t aware that there are lenders willing to work with those situations.”
Hagen says buyers have to be willing to shop around. Most first-time homebuyers should visit with at least two lenders before choosing the one that suits their situation best.

3. Get an inspection.
Inspections can be a scary part of the homebuying process. While your heart tells you to buy a house, your head typically takes over during the inspection. And, because it can be an eye-opening experience, an inspection is 100 percent necessary.
“Always get the inspection done,” Hagen says.
“Don’t get under pressure from the seller or Realtor ... or anybody, and take a house without an inspection. Even if there are multiple offers,” Oatis adds.
The sisters made it clear that even if you are purchasing a brand-new house you should get an inspection. Typically, brand-new homes have a builder warranty, so waiting to do the inspection until the warranty is nearing expiration is also an option.

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4. Shop existing and new homes.
In the Fargo-Moorhead area, Hagen says, “there aren’t many existing homes or if there are, they already have multiple offers.” So by the time buyers are ready to purchase, they get frustrated and start the search over from scratch.
You may think you are set on a new build, but you may be surprised by the character and charm that can be found only in older homes.
Older homes also come with very few specials - the additional taxes tacked on to your mortgage to pay for land, neighborhood and road improvements. In the Red River Valley, specials aren’t something to joke about because they can add thousands of dollars a year to your mortgage. So, stay open-minded and shop around.

5. Figure out what you’re looking for.
“When (you’re) becoming a homeowner, you’re definitely looking to gain more responsibility,” Hagen says. “And more space so you can concentrate on the family.”
Make a list of must-haves and figure out what you are willing to live with and without.
“A lot of first-time homebuyers are expecting everything to be done. They want basements and decks to be finished, and it shouldn’t require any updates, but that just isn’t realistic,” Hagen says.

6. Expect hiccups and  be patient. 

If you aren’t finding your dream home right away, don’t stress out. Most homebuyers don’t settle on a house until they’ve visited an average of 10 homes.
“Have patience. That’s the most important thing,” Oatis says.
From the time the process starts until the house closes, it’s a lot of information and there could be hiccups that most first-time homebuyers aren’t aware of.
Although buying a first home can be a stressful experience, Oatis and Hagan say if buyers are fully prepared and have done their homework right, they won’t have much to worry about.

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