We asked our agent community to weigh in on what those new to buying can expect, how real estate agents can help, and what can be surprising about the process as a whole.
What do you think most first-time homebuyers don’t realize about the process when they first embark on the journey?
“I think closing costs confuse most first-time buyers. I usually prepare my clients to be ready for the higher end of possible costs, as it is important to be fiscally stable for all of the monies that will be needed at closing. A new home should bring joy, not painful austerity. Also, a seller that would cover some of the closing costs is not likely to cover all possible closing costs incurred by the buyer. An agent can help you understand what is negotiable on a more granular level. I think the other part that surprises most people is how big their emotions may get during the process. A good agent will help you manage those waves, a great agent will anticipate those waves and minimize the emotional impact of any stumbles in the process.” – Molly Franklin
“It’s important that clients realize how long the purchase process is in New York City, and just how much paperwork is involved—mortgage application, condo/co-op purchase application, etc. It can be very overwhelming for someone who hasn’t gone through it before.” – Victoria Rong Kennedy
“I think they don’t realize the actual steps involved. I know that sounds vague, but each part of the process is so specific—from negotiating the offer, to achieving an accepted offer, to contract negotiation, to signing, to the loan process and board applications and finally, the closing. Even when you explain the general timeline of things, clients are still asking, “what’s next?” at each point in the process, and I think this is when they realize how valuable our representation and assistance is throughout the process. I think educating clients early on is very important when approaching first-time buyers because you have to manage their expectations while preparing them for the general timeline of the process. This is also a good time to reassure them that not only are we here to guide them through the process and negotiate in their best interest, but we have a wealth of resources they should feel comfortable utilizing from lenders to attorneys, inspectors, contractors, you name it.” – Jacob Henderson
What is the #1 piece of advice you would give a first-time homebuyer?
“Choose a broker not because he or she has a license, but because he or she has experience and a proven record.” – Roy Silber
“One piece of advice I would give first-time buyers is that there are creative ways to receive deals or concessions from sellers other than just the asking price. For instance, when purchasing a home in a new development, you may be able to negotiate certain closing costs with the sponsor which will save you money that you are unable to finance, like the purchase price.” – Jacob Henderson
“The perfect time to buy is specific to your individual needs and the market conditions at the time. I see too many people crippled by FOMO and regrets about the one that got away. Yes, things were cheaper at other times in history. If you didn’t have the money at the time, it shouldn’t be a reason to beat yourself up. Yes you could buy something now, and three years from now, you might see another property that seems shiny and perfect, but that won’t invalidate the amazing home you did invest in. Stay in the present. Buy for the person you are now, and the person you hope to grow into in the next five years.” – Molly Franklin
“As a professional in the field, you are here to truly help and guide your clients through the process, every step of the way.” – Victoria Rong Kennedy
Why is it important for a first-time homebuyer to engage the help of a real estate professional?
“It’s included in the price thus it’s free. Additionally, the buyer has to be educated about the market starting with trends, affordability, neighborhoods, value, qualifications, and so much more.” – Roy Silber
“Local knowledge is very much needed for a successful purchase in NYC—compared to any other market outside of New York—as it is super competitive and complicated.” – Victoria Rong Kennedy
“A good real estate professional can take the sting away from the process. We are there to guide you to the best decision possible at each stage of the process. We negotiate on your behalf. We have relationships throughout many different fields to help put together the best team to care of you—from attorneys to insurance brokers to mortgage brokers/loan officers. After we are in motion, we help push each segment of the process through so you can go about life in as normal a manner as possible. We can help you understand the costs of a cheap property, and explain how a slightly higher purchase price is often less expensive than a gut renovation. We are a sounding board, and we pay attention to your body language in a space to see how you react to different finishes, and we use those moments to shorten the number of properties you need to view, by honing in on what you love. With very few exceptions, seller pays buy-side commission, so you should take advantage of having your needs and interest be a top priority throughout the process.” – Molly Franklin
Do you approach working with a first-time buyer differently than you would a buyer who has been through the process before?
“Absolutely! You want to make it the best possible experience as it’s likely the biggest purchase they’ve ever made. There is more holding their hands throughout the process, more explaining and nurturing. They don’t know what to expect and it’s your job to manage it. Also if it is a co-op purchaser it’s much more involved as it’s not only liking an apartment, but also qualifying for that specific co-op.” – Roy Silber
“Many of the conversations are similar, as at first inquiry we go through a client questionnaire to see what moving parts are in play. New York is a unique market, in that attorneys are needed for a transaction, and a variety of taxes are city-specific, so sometimes a buyer that has purchased in another market still needs to be walked through the intricate NYC process. That being said, I often sit down with people who hope to purchase in the future years in advance of the search, to help them understand the process, get in touch with mortgage professionals, financial planners, and attorneys if applicable, to set them on the road for success. It’s never too early to connect with a professional so you are ready the moment your personal perfect time arrives. I spend an hour or two with first-time buyers on a first sit down, and it makes a true difference to their satisfaction at the end of the process.” – Molly Franklin
“You have to prepare them from day one, guide them throughout the entire process, and foresee any possible problems and delays. It’s important to make sure your client feels completely prepared when the process starts.” – Victoria Rong Kennedy