Because I am licensed with one of Charleston's premiere luxury real estate firms, buyers sometimes assume that a "smaller" sale is not in my wheelhouse or that I don't have the time for a first time buyer. To the contrary!
Maybe it's the former counselor in me, but I love working with first time buyers. It wasn't that long ago that I was purchasing my first home, a $200k 2 bed/1 bath charmer in West Ashley. It was 2008. I was 27, fresh out of grad school and back in Charleston. While this was years before I would get into real estate as a career, the decision to buy then had lasting positive impacts, and it is from this place that I love to help other first time buyers navigate the buying process.
Below are my tips for first time buyers. Email me with any additional questions you may have!
FAQs for First Time Buyers
If I am thinking about buying, when should I start looking?
I generally recommend that buyers start looking approximately 4-6 months before your ideal purchase date. Looking early can give you an opportunity to ease into the home-viewing process and also will allow you to get a sense of the market (what’s available, prices) before you are in it “for real.”
Once I find a home and make an offer, how long does it take to close?
On average, the time from contract to close for homes in the Charleston market is about 6-8 weeks. This timeline can be shorter, but if you are getting mortgage, most banks ask for at least 4-5 weeks to process a loan. The timeline can also be longer, but sellers typically like to keep the timeline as short as possible.
Once I close, when I do get to move in?
Usually, a buyer takes possession at closing which means that, as of closing, the house is yours! Occasionally, buyer and seller may agree to allow the seller to stay in the house past closing or for the buyer to have access before closing, but these types of arrangements are less common.
When in the process should I talk to a mortgage lender?
As soon as possible! Or, at least before you go out seriously looking at homes. A mortgage lender can “pre-qualify” you; this is helpful for a few reasons:
How do I find a mortgage lender?
Your real estate agent is a great source for recommendations, and friends and family can also be a great resource.
Other than a down payment, how much cash do I need to buy a home?
When it comes to buying a house, you will need some cash handy. These are to cover (1) Closing Costs, (2) Items paid outside of closing, and (3) Moving and other miscellaneous costs.
How does my Buyers’ Agent get paid?
In the Charleston market, 99.99% of the time, the buyer’s agent is paid by the seller at closing. To be more specific, with the proceeds of the sale, the seller pays the listing agent's company, then the listing agents's company pays the buyer agent's company. The individual agents get paid a portion of this by their respective companies.
So, as a buyer, you do not need to worry about paying the agent directly—this is covered by the transaction and is already factored in to the final sale price of the home. In extremely rare cases—typically in an off-market, for-sale-by-owner situation, the seller may refuse to pay a buyer’s agent. If this unlikely scenario were to happen, the buyer and the buyer agent would discuss the buyer agent’s compensation before engaging in the transaction so everyone feels comfortable with moving forward.
Why should I use a Buyer’s Agent? Why not just call the name of the agent that’s on the sign of a house I’m interested in?
The agent whose name is on a sign outside of the home is the exclusively representing the seller of that home—while they are required to treat you, a prospective buyer, with honesty and fairness, their job is to represent the best interests of the seller.
On the other hand, when you work with a Buyers’ Agent, your agent’s duty is to YOU and your interests. In addition to the logistics of setting up showings and gathering market information, your buyers’ agent will go to bat for you when it’s time to negotiate a contract, and they will manage the transaction from contract-to-close on your behalf. And, since the sellers have already agreed to pay a buyers’ agent when they put the home in the MLS, using a buyer’s agent does not cost the buyer anything on top of the price of the home (see “How does my Buyers’ Agent get paid?” above), so it’s a win-win for the buyer.
Have additional questions? Email Leize at firstname.lastname@example.org