Buyer's Guide

Everything you need to know about the process of buying a new home.

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.

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Caitlin is professional in every way, yet still made it feel like I teamed up with a best friend to sell the house together. I think that counts for a lot when working with an agent means they're stopping by your house, looking at every room, helping stage it, and talking with you about money and living situations. It's good to be working with someone that doesn't make it painfully boring, awkward, or so...

— Jordan P.

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
I can not say enough good things about working with Caitlin. I’m so thankful we were able to work with someone so attentive, informative, and thoughtful who made the entire process as easy and smooth as possible- from house hunting to making an offer- to everything that follows. Also fantastic response time. I never once had to worry about when I was going to hear back from her. We took her advice throug...

— Anna I.

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
In my opinion, Kim is the absolute best! Very knowledgeable of the area we were looking which was nice because she was able to let us know quite a bit about the area. She was always extremely responsive and on top of everything. The seller’s Realtor® of the house we were buying tried some dirty tricks to make us absorb some of the costs the seller had to pay, Kim stood up for us and never backed down, kn...

— Buyer

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
My husband and I met Tammy as the selling agent on our house. She went on to help us find and purchase our "dream home" working tirelessly to do so and was with us through every step/inspection during the process. She brings to the client/agent relationship a lot of professionalism and passion. She is going to find what you are looking for! As a local, homegrown Sussex County agent she is very familiar w...

— Seller

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Having to move a household and the memories that go with it - is very stressful. Oftentimes, you don't know where to start! Sandra, our Estate Sale Specialist, helped to make this process the best it could be. She is very knowledgeable in the field of Estate Sales. Sandra is organized and easy to work with. She does her research and was accommodating to our specific needs. It was comforting to have someo...

— Vivian B.

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
My husband and I were very fortunate to have Tammy as our Realtor® for our very first home. (We just closed last week!). She is super friendly, thoughtful, and a great communicator. She got the seller to go down on the price when we all thought it wasn't going to happen, and she worked to provide us with as much information as we could get about the property. We had big dreams to be at a certain location...

— Jacqueline S.

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Kim was great from start to finish. She worked with me for months as we narrowed down what I wanted and where I wanted it. She held my hand through the process as I knew nothing going into this. We found the right house and through her expertise, I got it at the right price. When the woman is standing at the edge of an open septic tank in good shoes and relaying the finer points of how a tank works - you...

— Lauren W.

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Working with Sandra was the best thing I could have done for myself! I reached out to her when I was relocating and in need of major downsizing. She is incredibly respectful and comforting. She understands that there is a job to get done. However, she remains extremely compassionate and conscious of the fact that she is working within someone's personal space. I recommend HomeState to everybody that is i...

— Elizabeth C.

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Sue Richardson is a personable and professional agent. She helped me both buy and sell my home. When I was selling my home I had multiple deals fall through but she got right on the phone and started calling other potential buyers who had put offers in. Her diligence and professionalism lead to the smooth and streamlined process of selling my home. I would totally recommend Sue to anyone whether buying o...

— Michael F.

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Eva brought excitement and fun to what is usually a stressful process. As a born and raised local, Eva showed me all around the area and was available day and night to get my offer accepted and keep the process moving smoothly. I'd been for a home for years and I didn't feel the confidence to jump until I started working with Eva. I love my new home and have already recommended Eva to several friends.

— Sara B.

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
We highly recommend using Mike Porter to sell or buy a home. He made the process of selling our home easy and had a great understanding of the local market. He was informative and guided us through each step while taking care of all that was needed efficiently. If you're looking for someone who will put what's in your best interest first he is the Realtor® for you!

— Seller

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
We have been interested in looking for a house and a friend recommended Caitlin McCall. I didn't want to be pressured into buying something that was out of our price range or something we don't love. She made us feel comfortable immediately and is actively listening to what we wanted. I don't normally write reviews but I feel inclined to share our wonderful experience.

— Katherine T.

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Mike was an exceptional agent. He listened to our wish list, searched out multiple properties for us to visit, and ultimately recommended a location that was a perfect choice for our family. His knowledge of the area and recommendations for local contractors are exceptional. I highly recommend Mike if you are looking for a property in NW New Jersey.

— Buyer

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Buying and selling a house is stressful, but Tony helped ease that stress throughout the whole process. He takes such pride in his job. His knowledge and positiveness were extremely helpful throughout our process. He goes above and beyond to make sure things happen on time and correctly! If you're buying or selling, he's your guy!

— Seller

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Wow! Eva is the best Realtor® to work with within Sussex County. My husband and I were able to find our dream home in record time with Eva’s help. She was communicative, super knowledgeable, and very professional. I will be referring her to everyone I know. Thank you, Eva, for such an amazing experience!

— Ileana O.

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
I highly recommend Caitlyn at Clearview Realty. She’s the best person on the planet. She will find what you are looking for and is very patient and will answer all your questions. If you have an easy deal or a very complicated deal she’ll be with you till the end. She is an awesome person.

— Tommy H.

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Tony was very helpful, patient, responsive, clear, and took great care of everything for me. I didn't feel like he was pressuring me or rushing me in any way. He was kind and easy to talk to and cared about my circumstances. I felt he was trying to do the best for me.

— Alyssa M.

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Tony was unbelievable in facilitating this transaction. Without his help, we never would’ve closed, we were given unfair time restraints and Tony got everything done! Awesome person, who made it personal. Highly recommend.

— Buyer

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Chris is amazing! He helped me through every step of the way with my first home purchase on Kittatinny Lake. Extremely knowledgeable, professional, punctual, and a great guy all around! Thanks for everything, Chris!

— Buyer

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Chris helped me with a smooth sale of my condo in Hardyston. He is very professional and was always available if I had any questions. I would recommend him if you needed to sell your home.

— Seller

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