What Every First-Time Homebuyer in Central Florida Should Know

By Loretta Maimone   Follow me: Loretta Maimone on Facebook
Fri, Apr 12, 2024 at 1:00PM

What Every First-Time Homebuyer in Central Florida Should Know

Purchasing your first home is one of the biggest financial decisions and investments you'll ever make. As exciting as it is, being a first-time homebuyer in Central Florida can also feel overwhelming and intimidating, especially in today's fast-paced real estate market. At The Loretta Maimone Team, we believe knowledge is power. The more you understand about the homebuying process upfront, the better prepared and positioned you'll be to find your dream first home.

Here are some essential things every first-time buyer in Central Florida needs to know before starting their search:

Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage Early

In today's competitive market, getting pre-approved for a mortgage is an absolutely critical first step. A pre-approval letter from a reputable lender shows sellers you're a qualified, legitimate buyer able to secure financing. Without being pre-approved, your offers will likely get passed over in favor of those from pre-approved buyers.

The pre-approval process involves a lender reviewing your credit history, verifying your income and assets, and determining the maximum loan amount you qualify for. It's smart to talk with a few different lenders to compare rates and fees. Knowing your exact price range allows you to search only for homes you can comfortably afford.

We can't stress enough how invaluable a mortgage pre-approval is in Central Florida's competitive market. Most sellers won't even let buyers start looking at their homes without one in hand. Getting pre-approved now also helps expedite the loan process later so you can close quickly.

Get Familiar With the Homebuying Timeline

Buying a home involves numerous stages, each with its own timeline to consider. While the overall process varies, having an understanding of the main steps involved will keep you prepared every step of the way:

- Pre-approval for mortgage (1-2 weeks)

- Home search and make an offer (1-4 weeks)

- Negotiate and enter into contract (1-2 weeks)

- Option period for inspections, appraisal, etc. (5-10 days)  

- Secure loan and homeowner's insurance (2-4 weeks)

- Final walkthrough (24-48 hours before closing)

- Closing on the home purchase

Although parts of the process can move quickly, like finding a home and entering into contract, other stages like securing financing typically take several weeks. Closings are typically set roughly 30-45 days from the initial contract date. Understanding these general timelines will ensure you don't feel rushed or fall behind at any point.

Understand the Full Costs Involved

While saving up for a down payment is crucial, many first-timers are caught off guard by the many additional out-of-pocket costs required to close and move into their home. Being aware of these expenses upfront prevents any surprises and empowers you to budget accurately.

Some of the major homebuying costs to prepare for include:

- Lender closing costs: loan origination fees, appraisal, credit report, etc. (2-5% of loan amount)

- Mortgage points & prepaid items: property taxes, hazard insurance, mortgage interest, etc.  

- Down payment: minimum of 3-5% for most loan programs, but 20% avoids private mortgage insurance 

- Inspections: whole home, termite, well/septic if applicable (typically $500-$1000)

- Home repairs/upgrades identified during inspections

- Moving costs for packing/loading and transporting belongings

- New furniture, window treatments, renovations, landscaping, etc.

As a general rule of thumb, first-time buyers in Central Florida should have 2-4% of their loan amount saved up to cover total closing costs on top of their down payment amount. Factoring in all these expenses early ensures a smooth path to your closing day.

Look Beyond the Buyer's Agent Commission

For first-timers, the thought of paying an upfront commission to a real estate agent can understandably make you want to go it alone as an "unrepresented buyer." However, trying to navigate the home buying process without professional representation is a major risk and can end up costing you significantly more money in the long run.

In Central Florida, a seller's agent is always involved and will be compensated by the seller out of proceeds from the sale. So as a buyer, you're not paying any extra fees for also having your own buyer's agent. Their services end up being completely free to you! Yet the protection and professional expertise provided by a first-rate buyer's agent is invaluable.

While you might save a small commission upfront going unrepresented, you'll lack support through every critical phase, from finding the right home and area, to negotiating the best deal, to ensuring all contract terms are met. Without experienced representation solely looking out for your best interests, you could overpay, undervalue needed repairs, miss important deadlines, or worse. A good buyer's agent ensures you make a fully informed, intelligent decision on likely your largest purchase ever.

At The Loretta Maimone Team, our skilled buyer's agents provide world-class service offerings and fiercely protect our client's interests every step of the way — at no extra cost to you. With our area expertise, stellar reputations, and impressive success rates, we more than cover our own fees by skillfully negotiating the lowest price and best terms possible.

Don't Buy Until You Know The Area

Before even looking for homes, it's crucial to first research and understand the different areas available to you in Central Florida. Between counties like Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Lake and more, plus all the individual cities and neighborhoods each contains, Central Florida offers an exceptionally wide range of lifestyles, amenities, and commutes. 

Choosing the right location upfront is key to finding your dream home that matches your needs and budget. For example, do you need to be within a certain school district, or prioritize low HOA fees and easy access to downtown? Are walkability, nearby parks, and bike trails critical? Or do you want to be situated closest to your job or specific attractions like theme parks? Each area offers its own unique appeal.

At The Loretta Maimone Team, we specialize in Central Florida's distinct locales, from urban hotspots to serene suburbs and rural countryside estates. As part of our personalized service, we take the time upfront to understand your wants and needs, then recommend specific areas you may not have considered but could be perfect. Having that critical area perspective takes the guesswork out and increases your odds of finding the ideal home for your lifestyle.

Know The Different Mortgage Loan Programs

One-size mortgage does not fit all, especially for first-time homebuyers. Taking time to research and understand the various loan programs available is vital, as working with the right one will save you significantly in the long run and ensure an easier path to qualifying.

For buyers with lower income levels and minimal savings, FHA and VA loans stand out for their low 3.5% down payment options and flexibility on credit scores and income requirements. Both are geared to make homeownership more accessible.

For those with higher incomes and assets to cover it, loans requiring 20% down avoid the added cost of private mortgage insurance, lowering your ongoing monthly payments. First-time buyers can tap into assistance programs (like the Freddie Mac BorrowSmart program) or withdrawal funds from retirement accounts without penalty to cover the bigger upfront amount.

Down payment assistance programs, flexible credit requirements, loan types like conventional, jumbo, adjustable-rate, interest-only...the mortgage options available can feel daunting. As a first-timer, it's absolutely essential to meet with multiple lenders and a qualified mortgage professional you trust. They'll analyze your complete financial profile to determine which loan program is optimal for your unique needs and situation.  

Work With a Realtor® Who Specializes in First-Time Homebuyers

While all the topics above highlight the key areas you'll need to be knowledgeable in as a first-time buyer in Central Florida, you don't have to go it alone through this major life decision! The optimal solution is aligning yourself with a knowledgeable real estate team that specializes in helping first-timers year after year.

At The Loretta Maimone Team, we have a specialized first-time buyer process designed to guide you step-by-step through every phase, while providing the expert advice and insights you require. Our First-Time Buyer Specialists are fully certified and recognized for their specific training. More importantly, they have extensive hands-on experience serving first-timers just like you.

Through an initial in-depth consultation, we take the time upfront to thoroughly understand your unique homeownership goals, lifestyle needs, financial situation, and any potential challenges you may face. We'll walk you through all aspects of the process, setting proper expectations along the way.

Once we've narrowed down the ideal areas and setup property alerts per your criteria, our Buyer Specialists work tirelessly to identify optimal homes for your consideration. And when it comes time to make an offer, we leverage our deep market expertise to advise you on the sharpest pricing and negotiating strategies. No stone is left unturned - from earnest money to inspection periods, appraisal process to securing the ideal lender, we protect your interests completely. 

All of our exclusive marketing resources, professional networking, and vast amounts of area data are utilized to keep you ahead of the competition and ensure a smooth, successful purchase. We handle all the headaches and stand by your side until well after the closing to ensure your complete satisfaction.

For first-time buyers wanting an expert partner to truly maximize their investment from day one, there's no better team than The Loretta Maimone Team. Our team approach blends the specialized skills of First-Time Buyer Specialists, Neighborhood Experts, Contract Professionals, and Closing Coordinators to elevate your experience. You'll have peace of mind feeling fully informed and supported at every turn. 

Owning your first home is a major life accomplishment worth celebrating! Yet getting to that celebratory moment while navigating today's competitive market requires a significant amount of preparation as a first-timer. From getting pre-approved to choosing the ideal area and loan program, the more you can educate yourself upfront, the smoother and less stressful the entire process will be.

At The Loretta Maimone Team, our passion is ensuring every first-time buyer in Central Florida is set up for success from day one. Our commitment to serving first-timers with an unparalleled level of expertise, resources, and service has earned us a stellar reputation and numerous industry awards. We understand the unique needs of first-timers and make your real estate goals our highest priority.  

If you're ready to stop renting and start building your future through homeownership, we're here to empower you with the knowledge, guidance and ongoing support every step of the way. The path to owning your dream first home begins with a conversation. Reach out to us today to get started!


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