Today's real estate market presents many unique opportunities for first-time home buyers. From low interest rates to foreclosure properties and short sales, the current economic climate puts homeownership within reach for many who might have thought they couldn't afford it.

Many first-time home buyers may not be aware of the numerous aspects involved in the home-buying process, however. As a Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, I am aware of the many pitfalls that can trip new buyers up along the way. Here are five important tips to keep in mind when embarking on homeownership.

  1. Study: Do your homework before you buy and be sure to review the closing numbers of comparable homes in the neighborhoods you are exploring. Use the Internet, including social media sites, to garner as much information as possible about homes that interest you and the communities in which they're located. Bring this information to your real estate agent who can interpret it and put it within proper context to your needs.
  2. Credit: With today's tight lending standards, it’s imperative to clean up your credit score before applying for a mortgage. A bad credit score may not just affect your rates, but may prevent you from getting a mortgage altogether.
  3. Get preapproved: Getting your mortgage preapproved gives you extra leverage with home sellers. Not only will you know what the purchase parameters are, but you may be able to negotiate a better purchase price because you can close with more certainty and more quickly. Work with your real estate agent to negotiate a mortgage contingency.
  4. Title: Make sure any new additions or construction to an existing home have been properly filed with the local municipality and have been approved.
  5. Inspection and appraisal: Getting a home inspection is imperative in order to weed out any hidden problems, such as mold or termites, before you sign the contracts. Problems found during the inspection can potentially be used as a bargaining chip with sellers. Likewise, an appraisal is a must to ensure the value of your purchase.

Working with a professional real estate agent is essential for all home buyers, but especially first-time home buyers. Make sure the agent you select is experienced, informed and a local expert on the areas you're considering. For more information, e-mail me, and please forward this to other first-time home buyers you may know.