Working with first-time homebuyers can be among the most rewarding real estate transactions an agent can embark upon. Not only are you helping guide newcomers into the housing market, but you’re also witness to the excitement and triumphs along the way, including handing over those keys for the first time. While helping first-time homebuyers navigate the transactional process can be a reminder of real estate’s benevolent power, it can also come with its own bumps and bruises. So, what’s the best way to streamline the homebuying process for first-timers, while maintaining the magic and keeping your sanity along the way?
Set expectations upfront and often.
It’s no secret that communication is a cornerstone of a successful real estate practice and client relationship. Amidst a transaction as complex as buying (or selling) a home, it’s important that no wires get crossed, no questions go unanswered, and no information gets lost in translation. To accomplish this, create communication parameters with your clients up front. Inquire about the communication medium they’re most comfortable with—a text, a call, an email, etc. Then, tailor your outreach accordingly. Also, consider setting a weekly time to check in, even if no official progress has been made. This helps clients and agents touch base, float questions and concerns, and get ahead of any problems or developments. Another helpful tool is to draft a transaction timeline for your client that outlines the major milestones along the way, what sort of information will need to be gathered, what steps taken, and what outcomes are possible. This might seem like exhaustive work, but in the era of digital research, clients will come to their own conclusions and biases whether you like it or not. To stay on the same page and timeline, be the foremost resource for your client, and don’t leave their questions up to chance.
Know your first-time homebuyer programs and perks.
There are a variety of national, state, regional, and local grants and programs that aid first-time homebuyers as they pay their down payment, shop for home or mortgage insurance, and otherwise deal with the financial implications of becoming a homeowner. Sometimes these programs are neighborhood-specific in certain cities, with incentives to buy in up and coming areas. In some cases, there are grants that support underrepresented minority communities breaking into homebuying, and these can go a long way in making the burden of a down payment and associated fees doable. In other words, do your research. The right program or grant could make the difference in nabbing a dream starter home for your client, while setting them up for future financial success.
Get pre-approved for a mortgage—and shop around for the best rate.
Not all mortgage rates are made equal. As an agent, you likely have good relationships with area lenders that you trust, but it’s still important to complete your due diligence when helping first-time homebuyers find the rate that suits their long-term housing goals. Also remember that first-time homebuyers are new to this process, and while real estate transactions are complex in their own right, the borrowing and lending processes can be alienating in their complexity. As an agent, it’s your job to play intermediary and teacher, ensuring your clients know their options, are prepared to make an educated decision, and feel confident that they’ve chosen correctly. Talk with your preferred mortgage partners to best outline options for your clients’ understanding, laying out a framework that’s informative, projected into the future, and allows them to feel empowered by knowledge.
All in all, working with first-time homebuyers can be an exciting and joyous occasion, as long as you’re adequately prepared for some hand-holding and instruction along the way. Aside from the enthusiasm of successful first-timers at the closing table, you’ll also enjoy the lasting benefit of strong referrals to their friends and family, many of whom will be shopping with you for their own first dream homes.