First-Time Home Buyers

Step by Step Guide

Thinking of taking the leap from home-renter to homeowner? It might seem like a big jump from responsibility-free to a 30-year-mortgage, but the process really doesn’t have to be that hard! We’ve broken down each and every step for you, from the beginning of the process to the years following the purchase of your first home. Let’s get started!

Before You Buy

Before you start searching for a home, it’s important to take some considerations into mind. Start by thinking about your long-term goals—career-wise and location-wise—and why you’re buying a home; are you looking to turn rent payments into equity or perhaps looking for more of a long-term “homey” attachment? Here are a few questions to ask before you start your home search.

What Type of Home Do I Need?

Single-family home, condo, townhome, brand-new home, fixer-upper… there are a lot of options, and it’s important to think about what you need, what you want, and what will fit into your budget.

What Size Loan Do I Qualify For?

Yes, before you even start searching for homes, you should start loan-shopping. There’s no point in starting to tour homes if you don’t qualify for a loan or a large enough loan. Talk to some lenders, like banks and credit unions, to see what types of loans you might be able to qualify for, based on your credit and income.

What Can I Actually Afford?

Just because a lender tells you that you’re approved for a loan, doesn’t mean you can actually afford that loan. Track your monthly spending to see where your money goes, and what you might actually be able to afford to spend, realistically, on a monthly mortgage payment. Consider your employment—are you likely to stay at this job? Is there potential for growth or increased income? Keep in mind that the price tag on your dream home is not the final price you will pay. Things like interest, insurance, and home inspections and appraisals will add to that price tag—a mortgage calculator can help you get a good estimate of what you can expect to pay.

Your Home Search

If everything looks good, it's time to sign the paperwork, make final negotiations and payments, and get your keys!

Find a Real Estate Expert

Especially as a first-time buyer, it’s important to seek expert advice of, well, an expert. Don’t try to navigate the real estate market on your own. Your choice in REALTOR® should be focused on who can give you the time and personalized attention you require as a first time homebuyer.

Find the Right Home!

This is the most exciting part of the process! This is where you get to start searching, touring, and imagining yourself in a beautiful new home! Our advanced home search tools can help you narrow down your search by location, neighborhood, price point, features, amenities, and more. Plus, our REALTORS® can help you prioritize your wish list of wants and needs of a home.

keys and a pen lying on top of a home inspection check list

Prepare for Closing

You've found a home you love! But you can't close just yet. This is the part where you and the sellers get ready for closing.

Finalize Your Finances

Shopping around for your mortgage, or working with a mortgage broker who can do the shopping for you, is well worth the time and effort! Only by considering all your options can you ensure that you’re getting the best interest rates, which will lower both your monthly costs and your overall cost. You should also explore first-time homebuyer assistance programs available in Erie County, which can help buyers purchase homes without a hefty down payment.

Make An Offer

This is the part where you name your price. Make sure you discuss this with your REALTOR® first, to ensure that you’re making a realistic offer.

Request a Home Inspection

Assuming that your offer is accepted, the next step is to hire a professional to walk through and inspect every inch of your potential new home to ensure that there are no hidden problems or underlying issues that could potentially cost you money down the road. You don’t want any unexpected problems right after you buy!

a young couple and their realtor looking very happy and ready to sign


If everything looks good, it's time to sign the paperwork, make final negotiations and payments, and get your keys!

Close on Your New Home

Almost there… just lots of paperwork to get through first! This is another place a real estate agent comes in handy—they can ensure everything is in order while you’re signing away! 

a young family sitting together happily in their new home

After You Buy

Congratulations! You bought your very first home! Time to pack up, move in, unpack, and start the real fun—decorating, arranging furniture, and making the home truly yours. It’s a very exciting time, but it’s important to keep in mind that your home is still ultimately a financial investment, one that must continue to be maintained and cared for over the years. It’s good to keep an emergency fund for any unforeseen expenses that might arise down the road, and to give your home some routine loving and maintenance in hopes of avoiding large damages and repairs.

Find Your Erie County Home

If you’re a first-time homebuyer in Northwestern PA or Western NY, we are here to help. We love connecting buyers with their perfect homes, and we want to help connect you with your first home. We understand you’ll have a lot of questions, and we’re more than willing to answer each and every one! So give us a call today and let’s get started!

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