Buyer's Guide

Everything you need to know about the process of buying a new home.

A Step-by-Step First Time Buyer's Guide

Buying a home is one of the most exciting milestones of your life. To prepare yourself for this moment, you need to know what to expect during the process. This step-by-step first time buyer’s guide created by your agent will help reduce the stress of buying a home and help you enjoy the journey as much as possible.


Step 1: Research

Do you already know where you want to buy? If you want a condo, townhome, or single-family home? Which features do you like and dislike? What’s available on the market now? If you answered no to any of these questions, now is the time to start researching. In addition to looking for homes that interest you, also take note of any changes in asking prices. This could give you valuable insight into housing trends in specific neighborhoods and help you when the time comes to make an offer.


Step 2: Decide on Your Budget

Notice I said to decide on your budget—not determine how much the mortgage company will give you. In many cases, a mortgage company will pre-approve you for more than you’re comfortable spending, which is why you need to determine the monthly payment you feel comfortable with before talking to a lender. This likely includes doing a full household budget and taking into consideration what changes other than a mortgage payment will occur once you move into your new home. If you’ve lived in an apartment or with roommates, you may overlook new expenses like garbage, water, or HOA fees that could easily blow your budget.


Step 3: Get Prequalified

Just because you think you can afford a certain payment every month doesn’t mean the mortgage company will agree. Just as they may approve you for too large of an amount, they may also approve you for a lesser amount or deny you a mortgage altogether. Lack of time at a job, insufficient credit, past bankruptcies, or other financial issues can cause major problems when trying to secure a mortgage. Before you get your heart set on a home, talk to a mortgage professional to find out what amount you can qualify for. This will also be an advantage when you make an offer on a home, as some sellers won’t entertain offers from those who aren’t already prequalified for a loan.


Step 4: Choose a Real Estate Agent

Can you shop for, look at, and ultimately make an offer on a home without a real estate agent? Technically yes, but why would you when it costs you nothing for an agent like me to take much of the stress off your shoulders? Not only will I help identify properties you might be interested in, arrange showings, and ultimately handle the offer process, but I also have a knowledge of the market that you don’t possess. I may be able to steer you away from certain homes or neighborhoods, suggest hidden gems, or give you pointers that will help you find your dream home for the right price.

My goal is to provide you with the most personalized service that is designed to help you buy your dream home.


Step 5: Find the Right Home

This should be the most enjoyable step of the entire process (other than moving in!). I will arrange showings of homes you’re interested in that are within your price range. Take notes about what you like and don’t like, and make sure to pay attention to details. Turn light switches on and off, open and close doors, and run the faucets in various rooms. Don’t limit your inspection to the home itself. Make sure to take time to explore the neighborhood and keep an eye on traffic at certain times of the day, the parking situation, and how close it is to necessities like schools and grocery stores.


Step 6: Make an Offer

Once you have selected the perfect home, work with your agent to craft a fair offer based on the value of comparable homes on the market. Depending on what the home is listed at and whether the current environment is a buyer’s or seller’s market, your offer may be below, at, or even above the asking price. I will be able to help you negotiate if you receive a counteroffer and reach an agreement. At this point, the house will go into escrow.


Step 7: Have the Home Inspected

In most cases, your offer will be contingent on having the home inspected to ensure there is no major structural damage or large repairs needed. I can help you arrange this, and you can schedule it within days of making an offer. If there are no major issues, the process goes to step eight. If there is, you can renegotiate your offer based on what needs to be fixed, or you can withdraw it.


Step 8: Select Your Loan

Now is the time to go back to the mortgage lender who pre-approved or pre-qualified you and choose your mortgage. You will be presented with various options based on your unique financial situation, including fixed-rate, variable-rate, 15-year, 30-year, or special programs such as VA loans or FHA loans. Work with your mortgage lender to select the option you feel the most comfortable with.


Step 9: Get a Home Appraisal

Your lender will have your new home appraised so they have their independent value of it. The appraisal is to ensure that all parties involved are paying a fair price for the house.


Step 10: Finish Paperwork

No one looks forward to all the paperwork involved in buying a home, but it’s a necessary part of the process. Fortunately, everything will be arranged by your lender and title company and, when you’re finished, you’ll know you are the legal owner of your new home.


After signing the final paperwork to complete the purchase, you are now the owner of a new house. It may take a few days for your loan to be funded once the paperwork has been returned to the lender, but once that check is delivered to the seller, you’ll be all set to move into the home of your dreams.


The trio this team has brought together is a testament to diligent work, commitment to clients, and exceptional results. Their foundation of knowledge and skill through repeated success in caring for their clients while creating the best outcome for them has earned this team their top-ranking position at Berkshire Hathaway.  


My wife and I just moved into our first home, and our experience with Stephanie could not have been better. We recommend her wholeheartedly! Every time I contacted Stephanie, she was either able to talk immediately or would at least respond immediately letting me know the soonest time we could chat. When we wanted to set up a showing, she always got us in the door and gave us a chance. As first-time home...

— Jake M.

If I could give Kevin 10 stars, I would. From the minute we met Kevin, my husband and I knew we were in the right hands. As first-time homebuyers, the house-hunting process especially during Covid times was overwhelming and intimidating, and we weren't quite sure what to expect. During the 3 months, it took us to find our dream home, Kevin was so incredibly knowledgeable, perceptive, approachable, honest...

— Chrissy R.

This was the 2nd time we have used Cathie Nicholson as a Realtor®. The 1st time was to sell our house in Lakewood 4 years ago when we moved out of state. This time we moved back and bought a beautiful home in Conifer. I am so grateful that she was our Realtor®. The week we put our offer in on the house she had 5 other clients go under contract. But she made us feel like we were the only ones! She goes ab...

— Erika D.

The highest rating of 5-stars says I would “Highly Recommend” this agent. Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer a sixth-star rating of “Wouldn’t Choose Anyone Else.” Stephanie had the dubious task of helping my wife and I find a house, with my wife in Arizona and unavailable for the actual house-hunting! We both sent Stephanie houses we wanted to look at and she would set up the tours literally. We looked at o...

— Marcey W.

My parents bought their home 62 years ago for a song. After my mom passed away 7 years ago and recently had to move my dad into an assisted living facility, I had to sell their home. I called Cathie and never considered calling anyone else. She was amazing. Not only did she do a standout job getting a great price and helping me navigate the various offers and selling process, but she also helped me in wa...

— Seller

We have used Kevin's services for 2 home purchases and 2 home sales over the last 11 years. Kevin is extremely knowledgeable and puts in the effort to truly understand his client's needs. When purchasing, Kevin never wasted our time. Every single home he lined up for showings could have worked for us. We were able to pick "the one" from a field of solid contenders. When selling, Kevin is spot on with pri...

— Buyer & Seller

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