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.

My 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.

Charcuterie Board
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Chris Flanery is a salesperson, a buyers advocate, an analyst, a consultant, a negotiator, and a marketer. Words that come to mind in dealing with him are: honesty, attention to detail, vast network of connections, hustle and tenacity, and self-motivated entrepreneur - to name a few. Consider yourself in great hands to have him as your agent.

— Charcuterie Board

Laura Peng
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Chris is such a genuine person. He was caring and always willing to help me out. I instantly knew I was in good hands as he is extremely knowledgeable, professional, honest, and hardworking. Definitely recommend him as a realtor!

— Laura Peng

Natalie Mays
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Working for VSells & Associates has changed my life! The amount of support and opportunities given to every agent is incomparable. There is so much knowledge and experience that is shared among agents each and every day and we all truly love what we do. I couldn't imagine working anywhere else!

— Natalie Mays

Alina Ayoub
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Kyle was very professional, timely, and helpful with all of my inquiries. My experience with Kyle and the search process was nothing short of wonderful. Will be recommending him and your associates to family, friends, and colleagues. Thank you guys!

— Alina Ayoub

Derrick Ivey
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Chris Flanery has been really good to work with during these tough times with inflation. My mother was in need of a house that had special needs for her disabilities. He got us the right house that we needed and she really loves it.

— Derrick Ivey

Thomas McGuire
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Kyle Gavin is a fantastic agent. Very professional, responsive, and works extremely well with his clients to share his knowledge of the market to guide new homeowners. Highly recommend!

— Thomas McGuire

Bradley Kennedy
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Taylor Sevik was as dedicated to help me find my home in Baltimore as I could have ever asked. He was always available to answer questions, there were new listings for me to browse nearly everyday, and he was extremely flexible to find times that fit my schedule, and he is truly one of the kindest and caring people know. Without his help I would be homeless and lost in the world of real estate. I was bl...

— Bradley Kennedy

Steven Wilner
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Jessica Arnold did an incredible job in selling our home in Jefferson Maryland. Jessica took complete control from start to finish and the process was totally painless. The home sold quickly above our asking price and Jessica coordinated the closing and everything went seamlessly. I can recommend Jessica’s services without reservation for anyone seeking to sell or buy a home.

— Steven Wilner

Michelle G
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Our search for a beach home has been exciting and educational under the direction of Kyle Gavin! We have traveled back and forth to Ocean City several times looking for the perfect place. Kyle has been patient and very knowledgeable about the market. His daily emails with coming soon and new listings are a great way to keep up with what’s happening in our target area. I highly recommend working with ...

— Michelle G

Ilan Farrar
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Natalie at VSells & Associates is amazing! Her attention to detail, knowledge of the current real estate market, and her enthusiasm provided us with excellent opportunities. Natalie will go above and beyond to ensure her clients are satisfied! We could not be happier to recommend her to anyone in need of a real estate agent.

— Ilan Farrar

D Z
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
VSells is amazing! I’ve known Jessica for years and worked with her and I refer friends and family to her as well. She is very thorough, caring, and down to earth. She explains the whole process (multiple times if needed) and does not give off the “fake” vibe that often comes with interacting with agents. She will hold your hand through everything, there are no “dumb” questions! I’ve met some of the othe...

— D Z

Seth Lee
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
My family enjoyed the sales process with Veronica and the VSells team; the final sales price resulted in $201,000 over the listing price of our home. We had access to Veronica’s helpful vendors for staging recommendations and relocation services. We also appreciated the professional video and photography of our home which fueled the “frenzy” of more than 150 people visiting the property. The closing proc...

— Seth Lee

Buyer & Seller
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Veronica helped us buy and sell our house in the Howard County area. As many locals know; this area is extremely competitive. Veronica did a great job pricing us at the right price. We received multiple offers our went under 8 days. Every time we had a question she was there to answer. When we needed to look at homes buys, if she wasn’t available, a member of her team was. There was never a time we could...

— Buyer & Seller

Seller
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
I am truly lucky to have Veronica! She is so kind, patient, efficient with everything she does. As a first-time seller, I was pretty clueless, but she made the process as stress-free easy as possible. From the moment I reached out to her, she got everything rolling quickly - even during a challenging quarantine. Her team of professionals is so talented as well! Veronica sold my house in 48 hours, all com...

— Seller

Kathryn K.
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Kyle is professional, dependable, and trustworthy. He's communicative and answers questions thoroughly. He truly listens to what you are looking for and goes above and beyond to make sure you find that. He made himself available to show us houses around two nontraditional work schedules. I knew I could trust him to look out for our best interest and didn't question his ability for a second! Our house sea...

— Kathryn K.

Seller
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
I highly recommend Veronica Sniscak as a Realtor® because she is very knowledgeable about the Maryland Real Estate Market along with possessing an impressive dedication to her clients. Veronica instilled optimism and hope about selling my Baltimore. She built an excellent strategic real-estate plan to sell our 61- year-old. While this had a few obstacles to resolve, Veronica was always a valuable resourc...

— Seller

Buyer
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
We bought a house on the Maryland Eastern Shore. We knew nothing about the complexities of waterfront property with septic, well water, and propane to just name a few. Natalie was able to pull together a wide range of resources to assure we had the expertise we needed, during our multiple walkthroughs, the offer, countless inspections, and ultimately the close. The entire process was complicated but thro...

— Buyer

Buyer
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Jessica is amazing! She assisted me in the purchase of my first home ensured all of my questions were answered and really put my mind at ease throughout the entire process. She is so knowledgeable about everything I needed to know to make the decision to purchase my house. Hands down, best decision to use Jessica as my Realtor® and I highly recommend her services to anyone looking to find a home. She is ...

— Buyer

Buyer
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
My wife and I were super nervous when we went to buy our first home. Jessica was exceptional! She was persistent when working with our lender as well as patient and super kind to us. She answered every question we had, and if she didn't know it, she would find out. She was there for us and with us through the entire process and I definitely am going to pass her expertise off to anyone I know who's going ...

— Buyer

Buyer
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Jessica was amazing! She was always willing to help with anything through the long process of buying my first home. She did a fantastic job answering any and all of my questions about everything going on and guided me well through the whole journey. She was attentive and courteous and never made me feel as if there was something more important she had to do. Great work, so far so good in my new house.

— Buyer

Buyer
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Natalie is amazing! My boyfriend and I were looking to find our first home and Natalie couldn’t have been more perfect for the job. She was very knowledgeable about each location we were considering and found the perfect house for us. She was always available to answer questions and was quick to send documents. Working with Natalie was such a great experience, I couldn’t recommend her more!

— Buyer

Armiger G.
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
This was my first time buying a house and I had no idea how to do it or what to expect but Natalie was there, I couldn’t ask for a better Realtor®, If I ever had a question or concern or what’s going to happen next I’m not sure what to do she was always there to answer the phone and explain everything and walk you threw it, I will be recommending her to anyone I know looking for a house!

— Armiger G.

Chris G.
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Kyle helped me buy my first home. The experience was perfect. Easy, professional, fast, and he was always attentive to any questions or needs. My home was a multifamily home and through FHA and even though it was a bit more complicated because of these things, Kyle handled it with ease. A true professional you can trust.

— Chris G.

Ann M.
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
It was a pleasure working with Veronica and her team on the sale of our home. She was able to get multiple offers and sold our home well above the listing price in just a few days. Her marketing skills are top-notch and her suggestions for preparing our home for sale were spot on. We highly recommend her and her team.

— Ann M.

Buyer
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Natalie went above and beyond my expectations in walking me through the process of purchasing my first home. She was always available and quick to respond to my calls and texts. She is very personable and flexible. She made sure I found a home with everything I wanted for the perfect price!

— Buyer

Buyer
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Natalie was wonderful to work with. She was always quick to answer our questions and made us feel at ease with the process. She helped us navigate the home buying and renting process quickly and easily, even during a pandemic. I can’t wait to work with her again when we buy our next home!

— Buyer

Buyer
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Jessica was professional, responsive, and patient. She skillfully navigated me through the buying process. She did an outstanding job of keeping all participants informed. She was reliable and transparent throughout the buying experience. I would highly recommend this Realtor®!

— Buyer

Seller
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Natalie was very professional from the beginning process of finding a new house to selling my house. She always made herself available to show us houses at any request. I would highly recommend her for any house selling/buying.

— Seller

Seller
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Veronica and her team were so helpful in selling our house! They were very professional, provided excellent service, were always very responsive to our needs. We would highly recommend using Veronica and her team to sell your house.

— Seller

Reggae K.
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
This is my 2nd time working with Veronica. She's seen it all and is super knowledgeable on all things real estate! You are in good hands with Veronica and her team!

— Reggae K.

Josiah J.
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Natalie provided excellent service and was on top of everything throughout the bidding and closing phases. I would highly recommend utilizing Natalie's services.

— Josiah J.

Seller
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Veronica made the sale of our seem effortless! Her expert recommendations for staging saved us time money. Response time email texts were almost immediate.

— Seller

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
"Had a great time working with Taylor Sevik in finding a new home for my roommates and I! Taylor has been extremely helpful in answering all of our questions and provided us with numerous opportunities. Overall, it has been a wonderful experience!"

— Harrison Savidge

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
"Working with Taylor Sevik this past month has been an amazing experience. Not only was he very knowledgeable of all the properties but he was always accessible for when I had a question or needed something. I definitely recommend this company if you are looking to move and Taylor Sevik is as hard of a worker as you can find."

— Nicholas Purcell

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
"Taylor was extremely helpful in the whole entire process. My roommates and I were recent college graduates and trying to rent on our own for the first time. We had heard from others how hard it is to fine a home to rent in the Federal Hill area. However, Taylor was able to show us properties within a couple days of getting in contact with him. Once we found the one we liked he immediately got to work fo...

— Timothy Eller

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Hans is a wonderful realtor! He was always there when we needed help. He is so friendly and social! Would recommend him to anyone!

— Miranda Pence

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Hans provided exceptional service to us in the sale of our home in Ellicott City MD. He is an expert on MD real-estate matters, and helped us navigate this complex process smoothly. If you are seeking a realtor who is knowledgeable, responsive, professional, and well respected, we highly recommend Hans. We really enjoyed working with Hans and his team.

— Donald Hester

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Hans Arends is a spectacular real estate professional! He helped us purchase our home in 2020 during COVID. And then he helped us sell it again 16 months later when our daughter moved, so we could follow her. We were under so much stress to move again. Our home needed a lot of work that we didn't realize. He was very savvy in helping us get it fixed up quickly. He has an expert photographer. He has gr...

— Laurie Patton

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Hans was VERY easy to work with! He was easy to reach and easy to communicate with. He even answered our call when he was on vacation (oops, we didn't know!) when we had found something we liked and were interested in. He went on to negotiate everything right then, while on vacation!! He didn't want us to miss out. That was above and beyond! If you're ever in the market to buy or sell, contact Hans! You'...

— Joyce Koreck

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Hans helped us sell our old house and buy a new house. He was a top-notch as a buyer’s and seller’s agent. He attended to all our needs and managed the transition with little or no delay.

— Scott McLellan

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
We used Hans to buy a house last year, and had a great experience! He is thoughtful, patient, and very responsive. We looked at several properties before our ultimate choice, and he always provided insightful advice and was sensitive to our needs. Highly recommended!

— Adrian Hawk

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Hans, was referred to us and we are forever grateful for him and his kindness. He felt more like a part of our family. Hans went above and beyond- from being available, to helping us search for, and locate a home that would meet our needs. You won't be disappointed.

— Tracy Grigg

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