Lessons From a First-Time Home Buyer: Letting Professionals Do the Heavy Lifting
When buying our first home, I was afraid that I’d quickly feel as though I was in over my head. Thankfully, though, that didn’t really happen. Then again, that’s undoubtedly because we surrounded ourselves with professionals who were able to do a lot of the leg work for us as well as “hold our hands” during each step of the journey.
Rather than dive into the pros and cons of hiring help for your homebuying process, let me share our experience working with three types of pros as we bought our first home.
3 of Our Homebuying Heroes – The Professionals That Helped Us Along the Way
Working with a real estate agent
I’ll start with the most obvious and most common example: working with a real estate agent. While you can search houses on Zillow all day long (Lord knows we did), taking the next step and actually seeing homes in person usually requires an agent. Plus, when you are ready to make an offer, having an agent by your side is a must.
We met our agent at an open house we randomly decided to attend. After giving her our contact info, she set us up with a secure search site that was similar to Zillow — except that, when we saved properties we liked, she could see our selections and could initiate contact with the selling agent if we wanted. Of course, she was also vital in helping us write our offer and move toward closing. In fact, she managed most of it while we were out of the state and country!
Given how overwhelmingly common they are, I’m willing to bet that I don’t need to sell you on why you should work with a real estate agent — so let’s move on.
Our experience with a mortgage broker
Even before we knew we’d be buying a home within a few weeks, our realtor advised that we should gain pre-approval for a mortgage. That way, we’d not only be ready to make an offer when we found a house we really liked (foreshadowing) but would also be able to show sellers we were serious. So, to begin this process, she recommended a mortgage broker she worked with.
In short, a mortgage broker is someone who gathers all of your info and compares available loan options from various lenders. By doing so, the hope is that you can get the best rate since multiple lenders are competing. But, on top of that, you have someone in your corner who can answer your questions, offer advice, and help you navigate the process. To me, this proved to be invaluable.
As I’ve mentioned a couple of times and will discuss more deeply in the future, getting approved for a mortgage as a self-employed worker (make that two self-employed individuals) can be challenging. But, that’s exactly why working with a mortgage broker was so valuable. Rather than filling out an application online and perhaps being denied for various reasons, when our broker had questions about certain aspects of our employment or income, he’d call and chat with me about it. This gave me a chance to further clarify our unique situations, which he could then convey that information to others in a way that they’d better understand.
Now, is there some part of me that wonders whether we’d have chosen a different option had we gone about the mortgage process differently? Yes. However, I do trust that our broker made the best decision for us based not only on his experience but also on what we told him our goals were. And, once again, having him working to get us the clear to close while we were halfway around the world just goes to show that we could not have done it without him.
Using an insurance broker
Finally, in a similar vein, we also worked with an insurance broker. Continuing the theme, the broker we worked with was one recommended to us by our mortgage broker (whom, you’ll recall, was suggested by our realtor, tying this whole thing together). Just as our mortgage broker helped us find the best deal on a loan, the insurance broker compared homeowners insurance policies to find us the best offer. Actually, in the end, he found that we could also save on our car insurance by bundling it with our new homeowners policy at a different company. Impressively, he also made sure that our new auto policy had all of the same coverages and options as our previous one, so it truly was an apples-to-apples comparison.
I actually gave a shout-out to our insurance broker in a previous post I wrote about the various scams and spam you endure as a new homeowner. When my wife got a text about someone needing to come take photos of our home for our insurance policy, we were quite skeptical. Luckily, we were able to contact our broker and gain some insight. Sure enough, this request was indeed legit and is apparently increasingly common. Honestly though, if we didn’t have him to contact and ask about this, I feel like we probably would have been inclined to ignore that text — which may have then resulted in the cancelation of our policy! Thus, I again want to endorse the idea of working with an insurance broker even if this feels like something you could do yourself.
While I’m sure there are probably drawbacks to working with mortgage brokers, insurance brokers, or even real estate agents, I can’t imagine that those downsides would outweigh the benefits we gained from these professionals as first-time homebuyers. In fact, I honestly can’t even conceive of how much differently the process would have gone for us had we had to do everything on our own. Luckily, I won’t have to find out. So, should you find yourself in a similar boat to us, I’d personally recommend taking the help and letting the experts guide you.