Home Business A Real Estate Guide for First-Time Homebuyers

A Real Estate Guide for First-Time Homebuyers

After a twenty year career in real estate, the last several being on The Zimmern Team, it’s easy to say my absolute FAVORITE buyers are the ones who are diving into the market for the very first time.


My passion for real estate stems from my love of helping people and ultimately watching their dreams come true. There is no better feeling than handing over the keys to a brand new homeowner. Their sense of pride is overwhelming and let’s face it, happy tears are hard to beat!

While it’s beneficial that consumers have a wealth of knowledge right at their fingertips, it can also be overwhelming and sometimes misleading. The first-time home buyer call typically start like this:

“We love this home and want to go and take a look at it TODAY.”

There is nothing I want more than to jump in my car and rush over to show them their dream home before the next buyer makes a move, but we have to be careful to not jump the gun.   The last thing we want to do is have a buyer fall in love with a home they were certain they could afford, but then not qualify for the purchase.

On The Zimmern Team, we like to start our process with a buyer consultation where we get down to the nitty gritty. We set realistic goals, connect our buyers with industry professionals and devise a good, workable plan. This process can be very quick if time is of the essence. For example, most lenders can prequalify a borrower in a day as long as they have their information together.

After serving four years in the United States Airforce, there is a coined military phrase that has stuck with me —“go ugly early”.  While it doesn’t sound glamorous, I found it helps keep tough conversations at a minimum, avoids wasting a buyer’s time and gives us an opportunity to identify solutions to eliminate any potential issues from the very beginning.

It is critical that buyers reach out even if they feel they have something that will hold them back. I have seen just about every circumstance and dilemma during my two decades in the industry. Most of the time, people just need a little help and guidance so we are able to help them through a tough situation — whether it be financial, job related or personal set backs.

The guiding principle in real estate is that the process is all about the consumer. Buying a home is a highly customizable process that can be tailored to meet the specific needs and preferences of each individual or family unit. Homeownership goals become our mission and we consider every aspect of your life including your family, your expectations, needs and finances.

Here is a peak into a few questions during one of my buyer consultations:

1) Have you researched our organization and do you have any questions regarding myself or our team?  

It is important to have firsthand knowledge of your realtor’s organization, statistics, background, processes, experience, knowledge and ethical behavior.  

2) Have you spoken with a lender?  Do you understand different types of financing, the qualifiers and how that applies to your situation?

Loan products change frequently so we rely on industry professionals to inform you of your options. There are home loans available that allow for 100% financing and some that will require 20%-30% down. The loan product types also come with qualifying factors related to the property itself so getting that pre-qualification is necessary so we are clear on helping you find one that is suitable.  There are options for most borrowers with 2 years of steady employment, an acceptable debt to income ratio and a 620 credit score or higher.    

What is your current living situation and timeline?  

There are occasional hiccups in a transaction that push closing dates out like repairs needed or simultaneous closings on the other end. We like to be prepared for all of it. The last thing we want is a homeless buyer. If a person is in a lease on another property, we like to be sure any expenses or penalties for breaking a lease are considered. Military orders are sometimes up in the air, maybe they are expecting orders but they do not have the official documents yet, so we make sure there is protection in the contract. There are times where we have to do pre or post occupancy agreements meaning you move in before closing or the seller stays in the property and leases back from a buyer for a period of time. Every situation is different, but we get through it and most importantly, we prepare for it.          

Are you familiar with our area?  Do you know where you want to live?  

Many times we have people moving to the area who have never even been close to the Panhandle of Florida. If that’s the case, we have a lot to talk about! This can be a challenge especially if they will be unable to visit prior to purchasing a property. Visiting first is ideal, in which we will help you plan for that. We really try to get to know our buyer and dig in to their interests. What’s important to them? What areas can they afford? What are their school expectations? How important is their proximity to work? The list goes on! Earning a buyers trust is the biggest factor and technology has given us all of the tools to help. We have the option of doing virtual showings and Google Maps are very helpful — especially the little man that drives you around your perspective neighborhood.

What is the perfect home for you?  

This is the fun part! We normally have the buyer describe their ideal home and name the important features that are on their wish list. This is where number of bedrooms/bathrooms, yard size, storage and that “mancave” come in. Most people know exactly what they want and it’s our job to help them find it! We work diligently to help find the perfect match. 

Buying a home for the first time can be an exciting and rewarding experience. It’s a significant milestone that marks a transition toward financial stability and long-term investment. With careful planning, research and the right guidance, first-time homebuyers can turn their dreams into a reality and I would be honored to go on that journey with you!

Florida Hometown Heroes Program is BACK

Live in Florida and a first time home buyer? Great news! Florida is reintroducing the Hometown Heroes Program, offering up to $35,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance.

If you’re a first-time homebuyer or haven’t owned a home in the last three years, this is your chance to turn your homeownership dreams into reality. The program kicks off on July 1st, but funds will go fast. It’s crucial to get pre-approved now to secure your spot.

If either of these apply to you, please let me know:

  1. I am interested in learning more about this program. I would greatly benefit from closing cost and down payment assistance, and this may help me take the next step towards homeownership.
  2. I am already a homeowner, but I have a coworker, family member, or friend who would benefit from this program. I would like to connect you with them to further explain the program!

Kelley Smith

Residential and Commercial Real Estate

The Zimmern Team


Kelley Smith is a part of our Community Real Estate Voices, brought to by The Zimmern Team. The Zimmern Team Powered by Keller Williams Realty Gulf Coast is a team of experienced, licensed real estate agents serving the residential and commercial real estate needs of the Gulf Coast.