Buyer's Guide

A Step-by-Step First Time Buyer's Guide

Buying a home is one of the most exciting milestones of your life. To prepare yourself for this moment, you need to know what to expect during the process. This step-by-step first time buyer’s guide created by your agent will help reduce the stress of buying a home and help you enjoy the journey as much as possible.

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Step 1: Research

Do you already know where you want to buy? If you want a condo, townhome, or single-family home? Which features do you like and dislike? What’s available on the market now? If you answered no to any of these questions, now is the time to start researching. In addition to looking for homes that interest you, also take note of any changes in asking prices. This could give you valuable insight into housing trends in specific neighborhoods and help you when the time comes to make an offer.

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Step 2: Decide on Your Budget

Notice I said to decide on your budget—not determine how much the mortgage company will give you. In many cases, a mortgage company will pre-approve you for more than you’re comfortable spending, which is why you need to determine the monthly payment you feel comfortable with before talking to a lender. This likely includes doing a full household budget and taking into consideration what changes other than a mortgage payment will occur once you move into your new home. If you’ve lived in an apartment or with roommates, you may overlook new expenses like garbage, water, or HOA fees that could easily blow your budget.

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Step 3: Get Prequalified

Just because you think you can afford a certain payment every month doesn’t mean the mortgage company will agree. Just as they may approve you for too large of an amount, they may also approve you for a lesser amount or deny you a mortgage altogether. Lack of time at a job, insufficient credit, past bankruptcies, or other financial issues can cause major problems when trying to secure a mortgage. Before you get your heart set on a home, talk to a mortgage professional to find out what amount you can qualify for. This will also be an advantage when you make an offer on a home, as some sellers won’t entertain offers from those who aren’t already prequalified for a loan.

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Step 4: Choose a Real Estate Agent

Can you shop for, look at, and ultimately make an offer on a home without a real estate agent? Technically yes, but why would you when it costs you nothing for an agent like me to take much of the stress off your shoulders? Not only will I help identify properties you might be interested in, arrange showings, and ultimately handle the offer process, but I also have a knowledge of the market that you don’t possess. I may be able to steer you away from certain homes or neighborhoods, suggest hidden gems, or give you pointers that will help you find your dream home for the right price.

Our goal is to provide you with the most personalized service that is designed to help you buy your dream home.

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Step 5: Find the Right Home

This should be the most enjoyable step of the entire process (other than moving in!). I will arrange showings of homes you’re interested in that are within your price range. Take notes about what you like and don’t like, and make sure to pay attention to details. Turn light switches on and off, open and close doors, and run the faucets in various rooms. Don’t limit your inspection to the home itself. Make sure to take time to explore the neighborhood and keep an eye on traffic at certain times of the day, the parking situation, and how close it is to necessities like schools and grocery stores.

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Step 6: Make an Offer

Once you have selected the perfect home, work with your agent to craft a fair offer based on the value of comparable homes on the market. Depending on what the home is listed at and whether the current environment is a buyer’s or seller’s market, your offer may be below, at, or even above the asking price. I will be able to help you negotiate if you receive a counteroffer and reach an agreement. At this point, the house will go into escrow.

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Step 7: Have the Home Inspected

In most cases, your offer will be contingent on having the home inspected to ensure there is no major structural damage or large repairs needed. I can help you arrange this, and you can schedule it within days of making an offer. If there are no major issues, the process goes to step eight. If there is, you can renegotiate your offer based on what needs to be fixed, or you can withdraw it.

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Step 8: Select Your Loan

Now is the time to go back to the mortgage lender who pre-approved or pre-qualified you and choose your mortgage. You will be presented with various options based on your unique financial situation, including fixed-rate, variable-rate, 15-year, 30-year, or special programs such as VA loans or FHA loans. Work with your mortgage lender to select the option you feel the most comfortable with.

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Step 9: Get a Home Appraisal

Your lender will have your new home appraised so they have their independent value of it. The appraisal is to ensure that all parties involved are paying a fair price for the house.

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Step 10: Finish Paperwork

No one looks forward to all the paperwork involved in buying a home, but it’s a necessary part of the process. Fortunately, everything will be arranged by your lender and title company and, when you’re finished, you’ll know you are the legal owner of your new home.

Congratulations!

After signing the final paperwork to complete the purchase, you are now the owner of a new house. It may take a few days for your loan to be funded once the paperwork has been returned to the lender, but once that check is delivered to the seller, you’ll be all set to move into the home of your dreams. 

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Kaitlyn M.

Kaitlyn M.

My husband and I bought our first home with Helen. She was incredible having shown us what felt like more than 30 homes over the course of two years. We felt like her only clients even when the house we bought was nowhere near ...
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Ryan L.

Ryan L.

Very to concerns, details, and negotiations. Helen and Spencer helped me find a house by literally picking it out for me. Every house I wanted to go to, I got there and didn’t love it. Helen and Spencer was busy taking note of ...
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Gail J.

Gail J.

About five years ago, I was casually looking for a condo or house for my daughter and son-in-law when they chose to move back from Florida. Helen and Spencer gave me a call to introduce themselves and to see if I had any questi...
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Drew & Sherry O.

Drew & Sherry O.

My experience with Helen and Spencer during the entire home-buying process, from start to finish, has been nothing short of exceptional. I have a unique work structure, and because of this, it was very difficult to find mortgag...
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Cassandra S.

Cassandra S.

My husband and I worked with Helen and Spencer to buy our very first home in South Portland. They were both attentive, walked us through the entire process, and let us know exactly what was coming and all the steps that go into...
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Kathleen A.

Kathleen A.

I worked with both Helen and Spencer on the purchase of my new home. They always returned my call, advised me on what would be in my best interest, and truly cared about my home buying experience. Having Realtors® who know the ...
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Kathleen A.

Kathleen A.

I’ve hired Helen and Spencer twice so far, and I was impressed both times. I bought my dream home with them a year ago. They worked long and hard to find me the perfect home, and they just recently sold another property of mine...
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Richard, Sherry J. & Barb S.

Richard, Sherry J. & Barb S.

We were tough clients! We were moving to Maine and didn’t have a lot of time to look at houses, having to deal with our employer’s relocation and all of the other challenges that came along. But, Helen went above and beyond to ...
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Keira T.

Keira T.

My husband and I worked with LaCount Realty to purchase our first home, and we would highly recommend them to anyone looking for a Realtor®. Helen and Spencer are both attentive, proactive, and had our best interest at heart. T...
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Paula C.

Paula C.

Helen helped us snag the house of our dreams. She is a brilliant strategist, wonderfully well respected in the community, and the nicest person you're likely ever to meet. Need a professional who you'll love working with to buy...
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Dave & Cathy C.

Dave & Cathy C.

Helen and her team were able to rapidly list, show and sell my property. Being an expert in real estate, she was spot on in his pricing of my property and getting this deal completed. Overall, I highly recommend Helen and her t...
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Cathy C.

Cathy C.

We have worked with La Count Real Estate for 4 years as flippers. They are consistently available throughout the process and accurate market analysis is always provided and we get very quick sales. Helen and Spencer are a lot o...
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Troy F.

Troy F.

Helen and Spencer were with us every step of the way. Our phone calls were answered and returned promptly every time, information was sent quickly and feedback on our property was always delivered. We never felt in the dark wit...
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TJ & Ellen M.

TJ & Ellen M.

We needed to move quickly due to a growing family and another baby on the way. Helen helped alleviate that pressure by securing an acceptable offer within 3 days of listing. We put pressure on her, and she delivered. We couldn’...
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Richard P.

Richard P.

Helen was the consummate professional during our stressful and difficult process. In the midst of juggling a ‘failed’ marketing effort with another agent, she presented a well-thought-out plan and strategy to sell our home in s...
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Zac & Bonnie C.

Zac & Bonnie C.

Spencer always made himself available to answer questions. He worked hard to sell our home and find the best fit for our new home. Spencer and his team worked with us through the entire process and kept us calm when we got anxi...
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Lauren S.

Lauren S.

Helen and Spencer are two of the most trustworthy people I know. They genuinely care for their client's best interests. We highly recommend them to anybody looking to buy or sell.
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Patrick L.

Patrick L.

Helen and Spencer made selling our condo very easy and stress-free. We got multiple offers instantly and sold our property for $20,000 over asking. We can't thank them enough.
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Mark M.

Mark M.

Every transaction I have experienced has been handled professionally; with competence, passion, and integrity. I would highly recommend that you do business with this person.
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Kaitlyn M.

Kaitlyn M.

We felt like their only clients. Both Helen and Spencer are diligent, and patient, and were determined to help us to the best of their ability.
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