Navigating the Home Buying Process

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By Carl Johnson, Realtor®, Broker, writer for New Homes & Ideas

Clifford Glen; Photos Courtesy of Lennar Homes

Deciding to buy a home can be challenging as well as navigating the process from start to finish. Whether you’re a first-time home buyer, someone looking to downsize, or a growing family, hiring a professional will elevate your home buying experience. If you owned a small business, you would hire a CPA; buying a home is a business transaction and an investment, so you want a Realtor there to help protect your best interests and lead you through the process.

Before starting to look at homes, it’s important to have a meeting with your Realtor about expectations, communication, and the overall process (including all the paperwork that goes with it). During this meeting, the Realtor must evaluate their client’s needs and understand the commitment to clear and timely communication and the desired features of a property. It is important to gain an understanding of the pace of the current housing market. Understanding the timing helps set up realistic expectations for the home buyer. By the end of the meeting, the two parties have created a team that can fire on all cylinders once you start searching for homes.

When looking at homes, I always suggest for the home buyers to drive around different locations and scout out the entire neighborhood. You can find out a lot about a property by looking at its exterior and surroundings. If you’re interested in a new home community, work with a lender to determine if special lending packages are available. Lenders are able to provide a buyer with more discounts or additional upgrades, but this step can always be done when you find the community you want to live in.

If you’re a first-time home buyer, chances are, the main feature you’re looking for in a home is four walls and a roof. Every first-time home buyer is different, so it depends entirely on their budget, expectations, and needs to dictate the home buying process. First-time home buyers tend to buy properties that start at a lower price point, but that is not always the case. Many first-time buyers realize once they start looking at homes, that their initial budget may not accommodate everything they want. This means the buyer either will need to adjust their expectations or consider altering their initial budget.

The unique challenge of first-time home buying is navigating a process that is entirely new. This is why hiring a really good Real Estate Agent is critical to walk the buyer through each step of the process. This is especially pertinent for relocating buyers looking to buy a home in another city or state. As a home buyer, it helps to clearly establish your must-have list and any additional desired features you are looking for in your neighborhood and home. Your Realtor will match you with homes in your desired area that include important factors such as nearby schools, highway accessibility, and shopping and entertainment attractions. Additionally, improved technology allows your Realtor to show a home through a video call or view 3-D Virtual Tours of floorplans and even the community amenities. Many home buyers are taking advantage of seeing homes first virtually.

Most people looking to downsize, usually empty nesters, enjoy the space they already have but are looking for a smaller home. When these buyers begin their search, they sometimes have that “aha” moment; they realize they need to adjust their expectations so that they are able to take all the things they love about their old house with them or have the extra space they are used to having. Every downsizing buyer is different, however new construction homes with open floorplans and spacious eating and family room areas are trending.

For growing families, navigating home purchasing means compromise and collaboration. More and more families are choosing homes that include bedrooms for each member, a guest room, bonus room, office, and a family room that opens to the kitchen or eating area. When you add those up, it’s a lot of bedrooms; five bedroom houses are the most common. The variability of buying a home for a growing family is determined by the buyer’s needs because the whole family is involved in choosing the home. Maintaining a strong level of communication with the professional you’re working with is especially important in this circumstance so that the Realtor can assure the buyer is pleased with the outcome.

It is important to remember that there is no cost to the buyer for having a buyer’s agent, except for possible small administration fees. The seller of the home is the party that pays compensation to the Realtor; so there is practically no cost to the buyer to work with a professional. When you purchase a home, leaning on the knowledge base of your real estate professional is helpful in protecting your best interest.  Even if there are on-site agents for new construction, you should still bring your own agent. The onsite agent works for the seller and your agent will be there to look out for your best interests and sometimes even protect you from yourself. You want an advocate in your corner so they can ask you the right questions and help you through the tough decision process.

Each buyer is completely unique so the home buying process depends upon what the buyer has on their wish list, not necessarily their circumstances. There is never a preset determination of features for a home buyer. It is the Realtor’s job help make the home buying process seamless and find your perfect home! A Realtor will carefully walk you through the process and advocate for you along the way. If you are a first-time home buyer or downsizing, first and foremost have fun. It is an exciting time and a time to be celebrated!

I’ve lived in the Triangle area since 1986, and it has always been home in my heart. I attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts for high school and college, where I studied voice. After graduating, I decided to enter the business world, where I worked in several marketing, publishing and advertising endeavors, one which took me across the United States prior to my real estate career. Learn more about Carl Johnson by visiting