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Buying a home may be easier than you think

Advance preparation can smooth the process

Melvin A. Vieira, Jr

Many people, even as they attend first-time homebuyer classes, do not believe they could ever own their own home, but it is possible to turn a home ownership dream into reality. Here are some recommendations for overcoming fears and misconceptions and approaching the homebuying process with knowledge and confidence.

Make a list. Having a list will help you identify and keep track of the various parts involved in the process, and will allow you to navigate the seas of purchasing your first home with confidence.

Select three areas that appeal to you and do your homework. There are many details that will be important to you in choosing best location for you and your family. Go online to collect information about cities and towns that interest you, and read about their schools, hospitals, highway access, transportation options and retail offerings. Google Maps is a useful tool that even provides daily traffic patterns for neighborhoods.

Get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a loan. For pre-qualification or pre-approval, you will be asked a series of questions by a lender or mortgage broker in order to determine what you can afford. The pre-approval process delves further into your personal finances to determine the amount of mortgage you will actually be qualified to borrow. This analysis involves the “Four Cs”— capacity, capital, collateral and credit. You can seek pre-approval from a lender, mortgage company, credit union or a private lender. There are some differences between the way these entities operate so it’s important to investigate and ask questions to determine which one will be the best one for your personal needs.

Assess your “needs” vs. “wants” for a new home. Consider aspects like the total number of rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms, type of kitchen, basement, backyard and the like. Do you want an updated kitchen and bathrooms, new hardwood floors and windows? Do you need those features? Consider looking for the “worst” house in your desired area and planning to fix it up to be one of the best. Taking this approach can build equity quickly in your new home. Just remember to be patient: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your dream home be.

Having your list ready before starting your home search will save you time and frustration and will give your real estate agent some clear ideas about what is most important to you, helping to narrow down which homes have the potential to fit your needs.

Perhaps you’re thinking that you don’t need an agent. Think again! Buying your first home is one of the most important purchases of your life. This is not the time to let your ego get in the way just to save yourself a few dollars. Be practical and use good business sense. Find a trusted agent.

How do you find the right agent? First speak with family, friends and co-workers who have recently bought a home to find out who their agent was and whether they were happy with the service they received. If they recommend someone, consider contacting that agent for an interview. After all, you need to be comfortable that this person will be a good fit for you during the home search and buying process. Ask questions that will assure you of the agent’s experience level, work ethic, creativity and record of success in the areas you are targeting. Keep in mind that you don’t have to limit yourself to an agent who works or has an office in a particular area.

As the buyer, you also need to know if the agent is going to represent your sole interests, the seller’s, or both. You should consider selecting an agent who will represent your interests solely. Every agent must provide a Massachusetts Agency Disclosure Form when they first meet with you. If they don’t, they have broken a state law. Ask for at least three references. Former clients can often provide a wealth of information to help you decide if the agent you’re considering is the right one for you. Do some research online, too, to see if the agent has received any positive or negative reviews.

Once selected, your agent should go over the process of buying a home from beginning of the process to the end, which includes the closing and beyond. The agent should also give you a list of their team members — lender, real estate attorney, home inspector and office administrative personnel.

Be aware that in the Boston market and in other markets across the country, the number of buyers looking for homes often far exceeds the number of homes for sale. This makes for competitive conditions. Competition means a buyer has to stand out when looking for a home, so a good team is important.

If you search online for homes for sale, be sure you are viewing sites that are updated frequently. Some sites, such as, RE/,, provide up-to-the-minute information.

Armed with a list of homebuying steps, a clear idea of your desired locations and home characteristics, and a trustworthy agent working for your interests, you may have the keys to your dream home sooner than you think.

Melvin A. Vieira Jr.’s 28-year real estate career has included working as a real estate agent/realtor and serving on the boards of directors of the Greater Boston Association of Realtors and the Massachusetts Association of Realtors. Vieira is a frequent speaker at first-time homebuyer classes sponsored by the City of Boston, MAHA, Urban Edge, Nuestra Comunidad CDC, WATCH CDC and many other organizations. He currently is a real estate agent with RE/MAX Destiny.

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