Moving to Austin
Buying your first home can be an exciting yet overwhelming experience. At first glance, it may seem like an easy process — you pick a home, make an offer, and someone hands you the keys. But the truth is that there's much more to it than that, and it can be difficult to navigate on your own. With so many people moving to Austin right now, we thought we'd share a few first time home buyer tips to help make the process a little easier.
Before you make any sort of move, you need to determine your budget. How much of a down payment can you afford? What is the max monthly mortgage payment you can handle? Do you have money set aside for property taxes, house insurance, repairs, maintenance, and HOA fees? Putting together a firm budget can help narrow down your choices and help you determine which neighborhoods you can afford.
Once you have a budget, make a list of what you need in a house, as well as a list of what you want. And remind yourself that these are two different things. The "needs" list should contain the features you absolutely can't live without.
Needs might look like living in a certain school district if you have young children, a certain number of bedrooms if you have a large family, a yard if you have pets, or a certain proximity to your workplace. Wants are features that you'd love to have but that you could live without or could eventually change on your own, like a swimming pool, an open floor plan, new appliances, or even paint colors.
Use this list, along with your budget, as a guide while you search for your new home.
As a first-time home buyer in Austin, you'll want to make sure you get pre-approved for a mortgage. Not only does this help support your ideas about a budget, but it shows sellers and agents that you're a serious buyer and not just someone who is wasting their time. While a pre-approval isn't set in stone, it can help any surprises with your budget or credit score popping up when you actually do get ready to buy a home. If you don't already have a lender, I have many trusted local lenders that I would be happy to refer you to.
Austin is home to a mix of diverse and unique neighborhoods that offer a little something for everyone. As an Austin first-time home buyer, you'll want to get to know these neighborhoods. Sure, you can read about them online and look at pictures, but even better, take some time to visit. Drive around. Better yet, drive around twice. Once on a Thursday evening, and once on a Sunday afternoon so you can get an idea of what the community is like at different times of the day and week. You might discover that you love the social aspects of a neighborhood like Barton Hills or you might prefer something a little quieter like West Lake Hills. I am always happy to do a personal tour of a neighborhood with you.
If you can’t visit in person, check out this West Lake Hills Neighborhood Tour where fellow realtor, Shane Adams, and myself take a ride through the West Lake Drive corridor.
It's super easy to find a house you fall in love with, become attached, and believe that this is the only house you can buy. Because Austin is currently mostly a seller's market, this can either lead to heartache or to you spending way over your budget. For this reason, it's important to be flexible, and take your time. You may lose your first dream house, but your second dream may be just around the corner, ready to go on the market in a few weeks. This is another reason why it's great to see houses and neighborhoods in person. For example, you may think you have to have an open floor plan, but might discover that you tend to like houses that don't have one better, or you might discover that you're willing to give up that open floor plan for that beautiful backyard with the pool and outdoor kitchen.
Last but not least, don't do it alone. Find a trusted, reputable real estate agent who has experience working with first-time buyers in the Austin area. Find someone who knows the city. They'll help you through every step of the process and may even be able to show you homes that you didn't see when you did your own online search. They'll help keep you from making bad deals, and they'll walk you through the mounds of paperwork that come with buying a new home.
If you're a first time home buyer in Austin, Texas, consider working with me, realtor Heather Burke. Born and raised in Austin, I have the knowledge you need to help you find the house of your dreams. Contact me today at (512) 434-9004 or [email protected].
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