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Tips for First Time Buyers

ForSaleByOwner September 8, 2023

Savvy homebuyers know they can potentially save thousands of dollars buying directly from a homeowner. This cuts out the middlemen and extra expenses they incur.

Tips for First time Buyers

If you’ve made the decision to buy a home, then it’s time to get started. Here’s your guide to buying your first home straight from the owner.

Location, Location, Location

The amount of house you can afford largely dictates your search area. Look at asking prices and don’t forget to factor in things like HOA fees and commuting expenses when you’re figuring out the total cost.

Estimate how much mortgage you can afford by using our Mortgage Calculators. Generally, lenders require a 10 percent and 20 percent down payment, and your down payment plus your mortgage equals the total amount you can offer.

Get Pre-approved for a Loan

Once you’ve got a ballpark idea of what you can afford, find a lender and get pre-approved for a loan. It’s the No. 1 negotiating tool with a seller because they know you’re operating in good faith. Getting pre-approved also tells you exactly how much you can offer, helping you better target your search. Before you meet your lender, check your credit score, gather the mortgage calculations you made and take supporting documents, such as proof of income.

Search Smarter

Here’s where the real legwork begins. Using the ForSaleByOwner search page, check out homes in your target neighborhoods. You can also find ForSaleByOwner homes on, and Here’s a convenient checklist to help you keep track of all the properties you are considering. Take good notes, because once you’ve toured several homes, they start to blend together in your memory.

Straight to the Owner

When you buy a home ForSaleByOwner, there are no middlemen. If you find a property you want to know more about, email or call the owner and ask for a showing. Take your checklist with you, ask lots of questions and take notes. Is the home a fit for your price, location and function? Any personal deal breakers?

Check Out the Comps

Once you’ve narrowed your home buying search, use our Pricing Scout to see how your home compares to other recently sold homes in the neighborhood. This computer-generated valuation report of 20 nearby recent home sales should give you a rough idea if the asking price is on target.

Hire an Attorney

Make room in your budget to spend a few hundred dollars to hire a real estate attorney. This person will offer you invaluable advice and counsel you’ll need as you move from offer to closing.

Make Your Offer

With all these steps in place, you’re ready to make an offer! Preview the necessary forms at our Real Estate Forms section, and let your attorney fill out the state-specific paperwork. The main thing is to leave room for negotiation in your offer without lowballing. Here’s another area in which your attorney will be invaluable — rely on his or her advice.

Lock In Your Mortgage Rate

Once you and the owner agree on a price, the house becomes “under contract.” Your next step is to contact your lender to get your mortgage “locked in” for 30 to 60 days. An appraiser from your lender will examine the terms of the sale and the property, looking at those neighborhood comps. If there are problems, you can take the appraiser’s report back to the owner and renegotiate.

Home Inspection

Doing some research ahead of time will help you when you’re ready to do a home inspection. You can hire a local, licensed home inspector for an inspection report. This will cost about $500 and take about two hours. Your inspection report will spell out any mechanical or structural problems, another tool in the negotiation process.

Seal the Deal

Your real estate attorney will earn his or her keep in this step, handling most of the details at closing. You’ll be signing lots of paperwork. Your attorney, as well as your mortgage lender, will also handle coordinating financing and payments to the seller. Come closing day, the seller signs over the deed, you complete the paperwork and you get the keys to your new home!

Buying a new home for the first time is an exciting process, and we’re here to help you find success. Learn more about buying a home through ForSaleByOwner, here.