How To: Start the Home Buying Process

It might just be time to start the home buying process!

Hi y’all,

I reached out to an Alpha Delta Pi sister and realtor, Sadie McGann, to answer a few questions I had. Unfortunately for me, she’s not available in my area of Virginia, but if you’re in the NOVA area, feel free to reach out to her!

How to start the home buying process

Now, small disclaimer, I started to work with a realtor this summer when my district decided to send elementary students back in person. Rent is super expensive in Charlottesville (more than a monthly mortgage, electricity, and water combined a lot of the time). Plus, with renting you don’t have anything to show for where you spent your money. While a home is a huge purchase, it gives you assets and helps your networth.

Since I have already started working with a realtor, I thought it would be fun to see if I went about things the right or wrong way. It’s been over 27 years since my parents last bought a house, and my brother was in a different area of Virginia and the economy was different when he bought his almost 5 years ago now.

What are the Steps to Starting the Home Buying Process?

Sadie suggests you reach out about 6 months prior to when you would want to purchase. This is also when you should contact a lender. The Realtor will walk you through the process, and help you come up with a timeline that’s specific to your needs. They focus on what areas you want to be in, what type of property you are looking for, what features are on your must have list and etc.

The lender is going to walk you through the different loan programs, and show you what you can afford. Sometimes people think they are comfortable at a certain price point, and then feel completely differently after talking to the lender.

Talking to an agent and lender 6 months out ensures you’ll be ready to go when the time comes! As a side note, you need to know what you can afford before seriously working with a realtor. Go check out what your financial situation really is!

My Thoughts on How I Started the Home Buying Process

Well, I definitely did not reach out 6 months prior. I did reach out to a lender, and just like Sadie send, found out I could afford something a little bit more than I thought; however, I still want to stay in my initial price range. I did find out about some programs. I talked to a mortgage brokerage firm instead of a bank. However, I do think it depends on what my bank is offering before I make a final decision when the time comes.

What is the Home Buying Process Really Like?

I always tell people working with first time home buyers is my absolute favorite, as I love getting to teach them all about the process. Buying a house is a HUGE investment, so it’s only natural that it can be daunting and stressful. That being said, it’s also a ton of fun!

Buyers typically start looking at places 2-3 months prior to when they’d like to move. Looking at properties is my favorite part of the process as you get to see all kinds of cool properties. Once they find a property they want to write an offer on, we structure the offer to best meet their needs while also being appealing to the sellers. Most people assume in order to have a competitive offer, they have to offer over the asking price and waive contingencies – That is definitely not the case!

Once under contract, meaning both the seller and buyer have agreed to the offer terms, it is usually anywhere from 21 -45 days before settlement. During that time, various inspections will be done on the property to make sure the buyers are fully informed about the property prior to moving in. The most rewarding part of the process is closing day, when they get the keys and are officially homeowners!

My Thoughts on What I did Wrong

I definitely did not have this much of a timeline available to me at the time. We signed our contracts in June, and at the time school was scheduled to start in the middle of August.

the timeline of the home buying process

What Should you Look for in a Potential Realtor?

Yes! I recommend talking to at least two Realtors prior to picking an agent.  You want to make sure you pick someone who you are comfortable with and connect with. They are going to guide you through one of the largest investments you’ll make, so you want to have someone you’re comfortable calling with all of your questions. Also, everyone knows at least one Realtor, so ask friends and family if they have any agents they’d recommend before interviewing other agents!

My Thoughts

My Realtor was a recommendation from the Junior League of Charlottesville. Like Sadie mentioned, I definitely know multiple realtors or have connections. My old soccer coach from elementary school is actually a realtor! I did not really “interview” around due to the time crunch. I did email a few different ones, though. The one I was recommended through the Junior League is the one I liked the most. Also, I would suggest checking Social Media. Sadie and a few other realtors I know have Instagram accounts entirely devoted to real estate and tips! Even if you don’t end up going with them, they might leave you a great tip.

What’s your Preference: New Construction or Previously Owned Home?

There are definitely pros and cons to both! For new construction, you get to buy a brand new house and pick out all of the finishes. With new construction is that the base price you see for the property is not the price you’ll pay, as that is before any upgrades. When dealing with an older home, old doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Pay attention to the age of the major systems, roof, windows and etc. Older homes are also in more established neighborhoods, which is a pro for some people. I always encourage people to learn about both the new construction process and resale market process before making a decision!

My Thoughts

I like the fact that new construction comes with warranties that older homes typically don’t. Personally, my dad works in the construction industry so I’m torn on this one! I can definitely see the pros and cons.

What are the biggest mistakes you see?

Having unrealistic expectations before going into the process. It’s natural to have a wishlist for the property, and something I always encourage my clients to come up with before we go out and look at places. That being said, not everything on your wishlist can be a deal breaker. Be willing to re-evaluate your wishlist throughout the process – There is nothing worse than having a buyer miss out on a property because of something small that was easily fixable. I always try to set the proper expectations with my clients before starting the process as it can save them a lot of heartache throughout the transaction.

My Thoughts

Well, I do have a wishlist now. I definitely feel like all those TV shows on HGTV really blow things out of proportion depending on your market. What’s available in Virginia is definitely not available for prices in Texas!

What is your advice to a first time home buyer?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and take your time!  Do your research and don’t try to rush the process. Lean into your agent as they are there as a resource – They deal with the in’s and out’s of the process every single day, and want to make it as stress-free as possible for you!

My Thoughts on First Time Home Buying Advice

Well, I for one obviously know nothing and went about the process all the wrong ways. I’m actually really glad that I put the brakes on it and can start again soon.

Hopefully this helps you if you’re starting the home buying process! I cannot thank Sadie enough for taking the time to answer my questions and share her wealth of knowledge with us!

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below and maybe we can talk Sadie into answering them!



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