4 homeowners share what they wish they'd done differently before buying their first homes

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  • Buying a first home can be a complicated process, but homebuyers who have been through it have tips for anyone starting out. 
  • Do thorough research on the professionals you're planning to work with, and research the process itself to know what to expect. 
  • Try to be as organized as possible throughout the process, from getting the paperwork together to scheduling the various appointments. It can be more complicated when you're buying with a spouse or partner, so this step is critical. 
  • After buying, there will inevitably be a lot of things you'll want to do to make the house yours. Prioritizing your projects can keep your to-do list and budget in check. 
  • Policygenius can help you compare homeowner's insurance policies to find the right coverage for you, at the right price »

Buying your first house is never as easy as it seems. 

The process can be long — some people search for years to find the right place at the right price. It can also play with your emotions, since your home is so tied up with the bigger picture of your life. But it's also incredibly rewarding on many levels. 

Whether you're starting the process or still considering how much to save, advice from others who have been through the process before can help you navigate your own experience. Here, four first-time homebuyers share what they wish they'd done differently.

1. Do your research on every aspect of the home-buying process before getting started

Writer Lindsay VanSomeren and her husband bought their first home in Fairbanks, Alaska. As first-time buyers, they didn't know exactly what to expect. However, she writes that they didn't do the research they needed to have a smooth and easy experience. 

"Rather than do my own research in an area I didn't understand anyway, we relied on a cadre of real estate and lending professionals to guide us through the process," she writes. But the couple soon found that the professionals who were supposed to be guiding them weren't giving the best advice. 

"You don't rely on a car salesman to tell you what kind of car you need and how to buy it," she writes. She says that the next time they buy a home, the couple will do their own research on every part of the process, and do more research on the professionals they choose to work with. 

2. Pick the right real estate agent

When financial planner Eric Roberge and his wife bought their first home, their real estate agent was less than trustworthy. "Looking back, there were a lot of red flags we let slide, and shouldn't have," he writes. Their agent showed up late, missed appointments, and didn't coordinate with other people working on their home's closing, like the lender and closing attorney. Ultimately, it slowed down the process. 

They wish they'd simply walked away to find a different agent who could offer more help. "As a buyer, it's on you to do your due diligence, run the inspections you need to, and press people for the information you need to make an informed decision," he writes.

After their experience, they recommend anyone looking into buying do a lot of research on potential real estate agents and other professionals you'll be working with. 

3. Be organized with your documents and scheduling

Financial planner Mark Reyes and his wife bought their first home during the coronavirus pandemic, in southern California. In his experience, getting together all the documents necessary for getting a mortgage, and coordinating schedules with his wife and real estate agent, were aspects of the process that proved complicated. 

"Having all of our mortgage documents in place for the mortgage lender was kind of a pain," he says. Mortgage lending involves a very thorough review of a borrower's finances, and it can mean collecting years' worth of tax returns, work history, and bank account balances. For Reyes, who was buying the home with his wife, it meant getting two sets of documents together. 

Then, they needed to meet various deadlines for contingencies, like arranging finances and organizing inspections. Reyes said that using an online calendar shared between himself, his agent, and his wife made coordinating and staying on track much easier. 

4. Prioritize your projects after buying

After writer Bridget Shirvell and her husband bought their first home in Connecticut, they found that there was a lot to be done. But, after making the down payment, making the home livable, and moving in, they found that they couldn't fund all the projects at once. 

They made a list of all the things they needed and wanted to do, and prioritized the list. Shirvell made a spreadsheet of all of the projects they wanted to do, when they'd get done, and what they'd need to do for the project.  Then, they were able to do the most pressing projects first, save for future projects, and build a home emergency fund. 

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