5 Tips for First-Time Home Buyers
Over the years, I’ve put in four different offers on four different homes in Austin, TX. Here’s what I did to finally close the deal.
I am a homeowner in Austin, Texas! For years, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever speak these words. The market here is competitive, and it’s 100% a seller’s market; so if you want to purchase a home you have to be prepared.
Prior to closing on my new house, I put an offer in on a house each year, only to have the home go to someone else. In 2017 and 2018, I was beat out by an investor’s cash offer. Then in 2019, the house fell through after reviewing the inspection report.
In 2020 I was ready, fully prepared, and in it to win it!
Here are a few tips that helped me close on my first home in Austin.
1. Select a home you can afford based on what is important to YOU- After I closed on my new home, a friend asked me if it was my dream house. What exactly defines a dream home? To me, a dream home is a house that is safe, has character and is within my budget. It’s a home that is cozy and can afford me the lifestyle that I want to live. I don’t want a home that constrains me to large mortgage payments or that requires expensive upkeep. For me, a backyard was the most important, and I was willing to purchase a smaller home if it had a nice size backyard. For you, square footage might be more important, so sacrificing a large yard could be a better compromise.
2. Have your down payment ready- I made a lot of sacrifices throughout the years to save for a down payment. Since I moved to Austin, I’ve chosen to have a roommate in order to split my rent in half and SAVE. Rather than continuing with private horseback riding lessons, I opted for group lessons to save. I’ve also cut back on other unnecessary purchases like cooking at home versus eating out and reducing my shopping habits so I could be ready when the time was right. I would put money into my savings account each month and leave it there until I found the perfect home.
3. Select a realtor who means business- Choose a realtor wayyyy before you start looking for houses. It was very important for me to have a realtor who was eager to close the deal and Tricia Tumlinson was the right pick! She is very active in the community, she understands the market and is a hustler. When I came across the listing on Zillow, I immediately got into my car, called Tricia on a Saturday and asked her to meet me at the house ASAP. She was in Dripping Springs showing a house at the time, but she delivered on her promise and met me right after. She also guided me on exactly what needed to be done in order to close on the house.
4. Be prepared to get aggressive- This is a seller’s market and the market is HOT in Austin. My offer was aggressive. I went in over asking price, with a 3-day option period and offered to pay the closing cost. Fortunately, this house was within my budget so I had the means to do so. The 3-day option period meant that I had to have the house inspected and appraised within 3 days. Fortunately for me, I had these companies in my phone because of the prior offers that I made which was huge in helping me to get business done quickly. BE PREPARED to have these companies on hand for a quick close. If you live in Austin too, here are a few resources I used and highly recommend based on experience…
Property Doctors- Kirby Smith- 512.832.6161 I originally called Justice and asked him to inspect my home, but he was booked solid. He took it upon himself to contact Kirby and put us in touch with each other. Kirby was fantastic, and the inspection report was above and beyond what I expected. There was a clear image attached to each write up which made it very easy for me to understand. He was fantastic, and I would use him again in a heartbeat. Save his number!
Level Best Foundation Repair- Bret Baker, 512-832-6161 I used Bret Baker from Level Best Foundation to ensure that there were no foundation issues with my house and I highly recommend this company. He was very prompt in getting back to me and made himself available within my time frame. I strongly recommend having a foundation company stored in your phone if you are looking to own.
Guild Mortgage Company- Brook Noth, 512.583.5496 Brook was very prompt, had great communication skills and moved this process along quickly. She sent me day-to-day updates, and I felt like she made herself or someone else available in her absence each day for questions. She was very professional and clearly has a lot of experience in the business.
Keller Williams- Tricia Tumlinson, 512.705.1799 Where do I begin? The single most important aspect of closing on your first home is the realtor that you select. I personally feel that Tricia lives, eats and sleeps real estate. It’s not a job for her but her true passion. She communicated with me exactly what to expect throughout the process. One day I checked my voicemail after a work Zoom call, and it was Tricia laying out the next steps in the process. It’s like she read my mind and answered questions before I even asked them. Tricia does not tell you what you want to hear; she tells you what you need to hear to close the deal, and that is not only a trait I look for in a realtor, it’s a character trait I seek out in people who I want to surround myself with.
Texas National Title- Stacey Johnson, 512.381.9920 Closing day! While I did not have a lot of communication with the Texas National Title throughout the process, my encounter with them on closing day went very smooth.. COVID restrictions made this process a little different, and I had to arrive and stay in my car to sign all of the paperwork.
5. Write A Letter- Desperate to not lose to another cash investor, I wrote the seller a meaningful letter to let them know there was a person behind the offer and that I planned on living in the house and creating lifetime memories in the house. My realtor informed me that the seller received an offer for $2k over mine but opted to proceed with my offer over the investor’s. Personally, if I were to sell my house I would take this same approach. I would much rather sell my home to a family or an individual looking to make their start in life over another cash investor who is going to flip it after several months. My hope is that more sellers will take this approach to give the citizens who love this city a chance to continue to call Austin home.
Lastly, I encourage you to trust the process. Looking back now, the homes that I made offers on were out of my budget and could have compromised my lifestyle in a major way. This would have shackled me and created a major stressor which is not the objective of purchasing a home. Looking back now, I recommend taking your “projected budget” and slashing it by 25% when looking at your own price range. This will not only give you a safety net, it will also afford you the opportunity to remodel and make changes so your house feels more like a home. (By the way, I plan on remodeling my home and will be sure to share that experience as well. Stay tuned!)
Four years in the making, and I could not be prouder to call myself an official homeowner. I hope this blog post helps you to prepare for your own home-buying experience if you are in the market. If I can provide any additional insight, please feel free to comment below.