First Time Homebuyers – Five Steps to a Wise Decision

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Charlotte NC

first time charlotte homesBuying a home in Charlotte for the first time? Or elsewhere, whatever your age, the first time home purchase is complex and entails some risks- so I’ve put together this list of essentials.  I  could have stretched it into a Top Ten List, kudos to David Letterman, but I think I’ve distilled it to 5 steps… 5 multi-part steps that if you get these right you’ll get a good result without a big mistake.

What is a great result?  The actual home will vary of course, but it will be for you,  a great home, in a great community,  at a great price-and in Charlotte, a great place to live and grow!

5 Steps to Buying Your First Charlotte Home

1.  Location.   Not the worn out quote on value, I want you to think of location in a different way.  I’ll write it in first person- like I am you, but it really is Location, Location and Location…

A)Location today– Am I happy with it now, 100%?  98% at least? I can see all of the community, or enough to know what it will look like. For the first time buyer, buying a house at the sales trailer with nothing but red dirt in front of you is a daunting and in most cases too risky a proposition.  The biggest risk isn’t that the builder won’t finish- though there is that, the biggest risk is it will grow into something you may not like. How many times have I heard people say, “If I had known they were going to do that…”

B)Location- 3 years from today– am I still likely to be happy with it? The houses here appear to be well-kept, the area around it is attractive, it is convenient unless I have a job change that takes me to the opposite end of Charlotte, no large unknown tracts of land looking down on you,  signs of improvement and investment are in the area (the opposite extreme of course is boarded up buildings) It has amenities I’ll enjoy now and in the future.

C) Location- I like it but “I’m not alone in this opinion.”  There are Value Anchors that make a community attractive to many people “like you.” What are some of these “value-anchors?” A few: close in or convenient location, physical beauty (some places got it some don’t!), amenities like community pools, clubhouse,  playgrounds, does the community have sidewalks?  on the water, great schools, in a golf community,etc  These are value added anchors that are time tested, and your community has a HUGE advantage if it has one, or more of the above value anchors. In transitional areas undergoing renovation, for example in Charlotte 2 favorites are  Midwood and Dilworth, if one street has had 20% of the homes renovated, and the next one over 50%, the 2nd one is less speculative, and more a matter of time.

If you love where you live, you will almost certainly live there longer, and the longer you stay, the greater your happiness and the lower the risk.

2. Size and shape that it can accommodate a life change. The most frequent cause of people moving? “Life Changes.” Singles getting married, young marrieds having children, or more children,  job transfer and the list goes on. We can’t anticipate all the changes that could happen to us, but buying for just beyond today’s needs makes sense, if it can be done reasonably and affordably, buy for now and one life change ahead, keeps you in your home longer. The only exception? A location so right that it’s too expensive to buy for that first life change too.

3. Buy Smart– There is a lot here, books have been written about this very issue, but once you have done the first two steps, 1)finding something you like and 2) being pretty sure there isn’t something nicer around the corner, then some of the highlights include:

a)how much size do you need? Can you buy for now, and one life change?  For example, you are single and considering a condo, one bedroom or two. You feel a large 1 br or 1 br and den is all you need, but you are also in the mating  “market”… the best buy?  2 people, 2x’ss as much junk, get the 2br if you can swing it, and if you find your mate, he or she will be able to move in without you automatically having to sell.

b) Bring some logic to the search:-do Not make a big sacrifice “locationally” for “bigger” place elsewhere,  avoid seeing an ad, falling in love with a picture, and then going there and wanting to buy the house or condo– despite the fact it is considerably outside your preferred living area. It is usally going to be better to take the smaller place where you really want to live- in the end this is more important than all the bells and whistles in the house or condo;

c) Do price research, you’ll need your Buyer Agent to help with this-  what type of  price is it? I break them house questionsdown into 3 categories, and the offer strategy is different with each. Is it a “hoped for?”Anything more than 5% above actual value is “hoped for” and will get our lowest offer.  Reasonable- within 5% of actual value? Or have they taken the discount already, and priced it exactly where it should be to sell, this happens about 10% of the time.

Zillow, Cyberhomes, and other aggregators are OK to show trends- but are of very little value actually predicting a particular home selling price.

I’ve written on this topic before-essentially the aggregators are, by definition,  just showing averages and within these averages, there is a large variance. It will take good price research- recent and localized- to help determine the actual value of a property, and consequently make an offer at the right price.

d)Best time to make an offer? When no one else is. Seriously, the answer is as soon as you are comfortable you know enough that it is the “right time.” But don’t waste  time either- even in this market, if the house is hot, and priced reasonable, there is often competition. After all, there are still 2 out of 3 buyers in the market in Charlotte. If you have an interest, have your Buyer  agent make and inquiry call- the other Agent will tell you if asked directly, “Are their any other offers working?”  If you have to make a competitive offer, in the interest of fairness, look for a “highest and best” situation. However, if its competitive, you will pay more than a non-competing situation.

e) IF you are buying new, buy inventory at a discount. No inventory? Buy a lightly lived in re-sale.

4. Find the Right Lending Partner– notice I said partner, not the faceless internet.  This partner is crucial to your success in this house, and they have to be good, very good at answering your questions. Because you will most likely have  a lot of questions, for example: Fixed or variable loan? Points or no points? What are points? FHA? Your Credit? Escrows? Required forms, getting to closing, etc. Recently I have developed a fondness for banks, those who have deposits– the two largest are Bank of America(our preferred lending partner) and Chase.

5. Find the Right Buyer Agent -a Realtor partner who understands your needs, the challenges you face and one with the patience to answer all of your questions. They should offer advice but take your lead in negotiations, and add value to the transaction.  Good Brokers won’t spend a lot of time telling you how great they are, but you’ll know it, you will sense it that they know exactly what they are doing.  Your Buyer Agent will do the price research, and pull additional homes to see in any neighborhood of interest, raise red flags, and help from the first showing through inspections, and then through closing.

A Great agent helps you avoid the “sand traps and (land) mine fields” of buying property.

The role of Agents has changed– in the old days they found the houses for you to look at… but the Internet has changed all that, and now their skills should shine through, in price research, in negotiations, inspections and contract management. As it’s gotten easier to find a home, it has grown more challenging  to get them to closing.  A good Agent will help you get there. Since you don’t pay for their services, it is a no brainer.

Is this all there is to it? Obviously not, that’s why a great Agent puts you ahead of the competition, reduces risk, and helps keep your goals in the forefront.

Try this link for more on First Time Home Buyers

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Moving to the Charlotte Area?  South Charlotte, Huntersville, Uptown?  Your first Charlotte home?

I am a Charlotte real estate broker  and lead a team specializing in relocation’s, 2nd homes and first time home buyers–buying and sellingTerry McDonald Charlotte Real estate real estate of all kinds- and will represent only you. My team works with Buyers and Sellers every day from Uptown to Ballantyne,  Lake Norman  to Concord-and Fort Mill SC too. My team and I know the homes, the communities, and the new home builders. We know what’s hot, what’s not, and where the deals are. I think as you read my posts you’ll see that we understand home buyer needs, from a first time home owner to a luxury home purchaser.

We are working to make your relocation to the Charlotte area easier, less stressful and help you “buy smart.”

I am easy to reach, please don’t hesitate to call, no question “too small,” call me direct at 704-351-1519. Terry

Related Links

Charlotte Homes For SaleMap & Community Based, over 30,000 properties for sale!

Fort Mill- First Time Home Buyer Report (maps included!)Fort Mill Homes For Sale- Deep Market Report

Charlotte NC Homes Best Value Under 500K

Fix Housing First-a Housing Stimulus plan of the NAHB  Housing Stimulus by The NAR Proposal for the 2009 housing stimulus by the National Association of Realtors


Bank of America Preferred RealEstate Broker

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Terry McDonald

Terry McDonald

I am the owner and operator of and was inspired to create this website when I moved my young family of 6 down to Charlotte from the northeast, now over 20 years ago. Charlotte quickly became home to us and I wanted to create a website that would help individuals and families considering a move to Charlotte. I'm also the owner of The McDonald Group at eXp Realty (my day job) and have helped hundreds of folks relocate to Charlotte over the years.

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So everybody’s heard that Atlanta calls itself the “capitol” of the New South. Ok, I’ll give them that. But if Atlanta is the “capitol”, then Charlotte is the heart of the New South. Charlotte is the 20th largest city

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