Here's what you need to know if you're a first-time homebuyer

By Christine Alleman

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Jan. 10 2013 10:20 a.m. MST

So you want to buy your first house. What do you do now?

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First-time homebuyers are looking to take advantage of record low interest rates and sales prices. As a licensed real estate agent, here are a few things I believe every prospective buyer should know.

Here they are:

First things first

Meet with a licensed loan mortgage agent. They can help you know your credit score and what you can afford. They can show you what down payment and rate will work for you. I recommend meeting with at least three loan mortgage agents. Don’t allow all of them to pull your credit; this can hurt you. Get rates and closing costs from them. Closing costs are the fees you pay to the lender/bank. They can be paid for by the seller. Compare different rates and go back to the person you are most compatible with and let them know about the best rate you found. Tell them they should be able to meet it or beat it. Go with a payment you are comfortable with — not necessarily the one you have been told you can go up to.

Now it’s time to find a real estate agent

Do you really have to use an agent like me? No. But a licensed real estate agent can guide you, send you lists of homes, help you understand and fill out forms, deal with scheduling, assess the market, scour the neighborhood, and make you feel comfortable during the buying process. Best of all, their services should cost you nothing. (Some companies can charge you a transaction fee.) Their fees are paid for by the seller. Interview your agent. Find out how long they have been in the business, if they are full time, and if they have any references. Again, go with whom you are most comfortable — you’ll appreciate this after looking at many houses.

What is the difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor?

Both real estate agents and Realtors are licensed with the state to sell real estate. However, Realtors belong to the National Association of Realtors and are held to high codes of ethics. These codes of ethics are rules that Realtors have to adhere to. For more information about Utah Realtors, visit utahrealtors.com.

Take a Class

There are new homebuyer classes available. Check with your local community action center for a list of these classes. Visit utahcap.org to find a list of community action centers in Utah.

Looking at houses

When looking at houses don’t be afraid to ask your agent or the home seller questions. They expect this. If you have an agent, they are on your side, so ask them the uncomfortable questions you wouldn't dare ask the home seller. The agent will get the answers for you.

Home Inspection

A professional home inspector will inspect your prospective house from the roof to the foundation. Inspections can cost from $300-$500. The report is thorough and informative. It will tell you what is wrong with the property and what items need attention to prevent future problems.

Home warranty — what is it?

It’s a warranty on the home for the workings inside the home like appliances, plumbing, electrical work, furnace, and air conditioner. You can negotiate for the seller to pay for your warranty. You will have to pay a trade call fee every time someone has to come out. This varies from company to company.

Throughout the process, don't be afraid to ask questions. Feel free to ask “dumb” questions. In real estate there is no such thing as a stupid question. The people you work with are professionals you hire to help you, so ask away. Always seek the advice of professionals in their field.

Good luck and have fun.

Christine is a licensed real estate agent with the state of Utah. She has 11 years of experience selling real estate full time. As a second generation real estate agent she has a unique perspective on real estate.

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