Finding the perfect property can be a challenge for any first-time homebuyer. But in Boston, where the city's rich history and thriving job market help make it one of the most competitive housing markets on the East Coast, the real estate landscape can be particularly intimidating.
According to two of Boston's top real estate agents, a solid team and a little bit of trust will get you exactly where you need to be. Here are these agents' top tips for first-time homebuyers in Boston.
Shop around before you shop around. One of the biggest favors you can do for yourself as a first-time homebuyer is to invest time and thought into selecting a real estate agent and mortgage broker you can trust. In a market as competitive as Boston's, having a team on your side who will represent your best interests will make the homebuying process more efficient.
"Buyers need to find someone that is going to advocate for them – someone who will have no responsibility to the seller," says real estate agent Ellen Grubert of Ellen, Janis and Josh Real Estate Team and RE/MAX Destiny.
Frank Celeste, a real estate agent with Gibson Sotheby's International Realty, agrees that the best brokers will know the comparable sales data inside and out, helping you navigate a fast-paced and highly competitive market. "It's a tough time to be a buyer," he says. "There are many dynamics that first-time buyers aren't privy to, but a knowledgeable broker can make all the difference."
Imagine multiple versions of your wish list. Boston's inventory is limited, so you likely won't have the luxury of shopping around too much or leisurely weighing your options. According to Grubert, Boston homebuyers should be prepared to make an offer on a property within 24 to 48 hours. The longer and more rigid your wish list, the more challenging it is to snag that perfect property. "Know the areas in which you're willing to be flexible," Grubert says.
Many wish list negotiations come down to lifestyle choices. Be honest with yourself about your transportation preferences or how important access to urban amenities like shops and restaurants is to you. If the amenities of the home are more important than location, know that ahead of time. If location is nonnegotiable, understand you may need to be willing to make some sacrifices on other aspects of the home.
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"At the end of the process, I believe everyone ends up in exactly the home they're meant to be in," Celeste says.
Assess the rental rates. According to Celeste, many of Boston's prospective buyers have already been renting in the city. "With the prospective career opportunities, a lot of people are looking to stay close to where they are currently living," he says.
Whether or not you are already living and renting in Boston, assess the rental rates. This information can help you justify the purchase: On average, rental rates for a one- or two-bedroom apartment priced somewhere between $2,000 and $3,000 a month are on par with – if not higher than – a monthly mortgage payment, according to Grubert. For a comparable price, home ownership grants you complete control over a property.
Don't be caught by surprise when the end is in sight. Grubert and Celeste most often see first-time homebuyers get caught off guard by closing costs and inspection processes.
"A good mortgage lender will inform you of things like whether you should expect to pay two weeks of additional taxes because you closed in the middle of a month," Grubert says. "These are the sorts of things that can add up and surprise homebuyers."
The closing step is perhaps when it is most critical to have a team of real estate agents and mortgage brokers you trust, according to Grubert. "It can be an emotional and complicated process," Grubert says. "But if you inform yourself and surround yourself with a team you trust, you will have a positive experience."
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