Chapman Agency
Mike and Jill Kohler


Search for homes
search for a home


whats my home worth
home value request
home value request
free preapproval


free preapproval
get pre approved
free preapproval free preapproval
home value request

4 Things first-time homebuyers need to know!

Buying a home is likely the biggest purchase you'll ever make, and it's not always an easy one.

Low inventory has pushed home prices up in cities throughout the country, giving sellers an advantage. Homes sell fast, bidding wars break out and offers above the asking price are common.

All of this means that buyers need to be on their game and have their finances in order before entering the market.

Here's what experts said first-time buyers need to know:

1. What you can actually afford
Before buyers start their house hunt, it's important they know how much they can afford to spend.
"Start with a plan," said Chantel Bonneau, a financial adviser at Northwestern Mutual. "Don't let your imagination take over and don't let what you see from friends' houses drive your budget."
Buyers should list out all of their monthly expenses. Don't forget to include items like groceries, transportation, and discretionary spending, like gym memberships and nights out.
Related: Should real estate be part of my retirement plan?

A general rule of thumb is that housing costs shouldn't take up more than 30% of your before-tax income.

But experts said that the percentage can vary, especially if you have other debts, like student loans or car payments.

Spending too much on monthly housing payments can leave homeowners house poor, and unable to afford other expenses -- like saving for retirement.
"A home is not a good excuse to be reckless with the rest of your financial situation," said Bonneau.

In competitive markets, it's common for buyers to get pre-approved for financing to get a leg up. But experts said that just because a bank approves you for a certain amount, it doesn't mean that's what you should spend. Stick to a price limit you're comfortable with.

2. You need a buffer
While it may be tempting to throw everything you've got at your offer to stay competitive, experts recommended having at least some money left over after you close on a home.

"If buying a house takes your checking account down to $1,000, it's probably too expensive," said Bonneau.
Experts advised having at least three to six months in savings the day you become homeowners. One reason is that you'll need emergency savings now more than ever.

"You don't want a flat tire or a deductible on a medical plan to throw you into financial turmoil," said Bonneau. "When you are a homeowner, you have a lot more things that can go wrong."

If a home purchase leaves you with no liquidity, it might be worth considering waiting to increase your savings or lowering your price point, advised Neil Krishnaswamy, a certified financial planner with Exencial Wealth Advisors.

3. The true cost of owning a home
The down payment tends to be the biggest financial hurdle to owning a home, but there are many other costs that pop up along the way: appraisal, origination, credit report and notary fees can all add up.

And the costs don't stop just when the keys are handed over. There's the move, new furniture and costs like lawn care and utility payments that former renters might not be used to paying.

"I don't know if anyone truly understands the total cost of owning a home," said Krishnaswamy. "Things just continually come up that you want to do, either buy something to fill a room or fix or improve something. Most people underestimate the cost."

4. Renovations are not as seen on TV

Buying a fixer-up might allow you to snag a bigger home or afford one in a more desirable area, but experts warned there are huge risks.
"Know that it is always more expensive than what you are imagining ... or what you see on TV," said Bonneau.
If a home needs renovations, factor that into the total cost of buying, recommended Krishnaswamy.
A private loan is an option to finance the project, but can be difficult to secure, especially after just taking out a mortgage.

If your home appraises for more than you purchased it for, you could have the option of tapping your equity to help pay for renovations.

There are some mortgage options that include renovation expenses. For instance, 203k FHA loan allows homebuyers to finance the sale and rehabilitation on a single mortgage.
Another option is asking a friend or family member for a loan.

"If you are trying to secure the best low-rate loan, look at those closest to you, but be mindful of your relationship status if you can't pay back the loan," said Krishnaswamy.
Send us your money questions for a chance to be featured in Broke no more! Ask us here.


CNNMoney (New York)First published May 11, 2017: 10:38 AM ET

get prequalified

search for a home
search for homes
search for a home
 

home value request
home value request
 

free pre approval

get prequalified
 

Calculator

 
 

Quick Search

$
$
 

Contact Me

Type the characters

 

Navigation

 

What my clients are saying  

PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO READ OUR REVIEWS BELOW FROM OUR SATISFIED BUCKS COUNTY, PA REAL ESTATE AND MORTGAGE CLIENTS!

 

~ 2017

Michael is very genuine & honest . He goes the extra mile & always has your best interest in mind . If i have any additional lending or Realtor needs , Michael will be my first choice !

 

~ M. Jones, Morrisville Pa

Jill was very knowledgeable and helpful during my first home buying. She answered any questions or concerns I had. She was able to walk me through the process from beginning to end and he never rushed or pressured me to make a decision on the house. I would highly recommend using Jill as a real estate agent

 

~ Denise L, Bensalem Pa

Jill Kohler is remarkable. Not only did she do her job she went above and beyond to help us with refinancing our home and that in itself was a huge project. Unlike many others she stuck with us and helped us every step of the way to refinance our home. SHE IS DEFINITELY TOP NOTCH IN OUR BOOK! We really can't thank her and her associates enough

 

~ Jen Biddle, Levittown Pa

Mike assisted me with financing the purchase of a condo. From beginning to end he was very responsive to my needs, extremely knowledgeable and helpful about the real estate market and just a pleasure to work with in general. He anticipated and communicated each step in the process of mortgage financing and made it easy for me to understand and qualify for a mortgage. I would work with him again in a heart beat and strongly recommend them to anyone shopping for real estate or a mortgage. Thanks Mike!

 

~ Bob M, Yardley Pa

Jill is a great person to work with. We refinanced our mortgage and Jill was very persistent on getting everything done. The entire process took about 5 weeks from beginning to end. She knows her stuff and answered any questions we had. I would highly recommend working with her.

 

~ Dawn S, Fairless Hills, Pa

Jill was awesome to work with. She told us what we needed up front things went as smooth as possible. Jill would always keep us in the loop never a guessing game. Thank you so much.

 

~ Frank B, Langhorne Pa

Mike and Jill Kohler are the ultimate professionals in the real estate world. Mike and Jill guided us through the entire home-buying process from beginning our search, to understanding our price range (based on credit and income), to finding houses for us, to scheduling walk-throughs and taking us to the houses (sometimes 6 or 7 in a night), to evaluating the properties (to ensure it is worth what they were asking), to making the offer, to finding the best mortgage rate and walking us through the mounds of paperwork, and helping us through all the inspections and requirements that lead to settlement. Buying a house is not an easy process and Mike and Jill Kohler made it as simple and pain-free as anybody could and we could not have asked for a better team!!

 

~ Jim & Wendy, Bensalem Pa

Mike is a very personable, trustworthy professional. I have worked with him in several capacities over the past 20 years and have appreciated his professionalism, confidence and overall good nature.

 

~ Bill D, Langhorne Pa

I have talk to Mike several time for advise and he was honest and very knowledgeable on my situations. I would recommend him because he walks you through without making you feel confused.

 

~ M Deon, Yardley Pa

I was a first time buyer and Jill made it as easy as can be. It was overwhelming but she guided us through to the best of her abilities. Her honesty was key and made me feel very comfortable. The process of buying a home was all brand new to me and without her guidance I would have been lost. She was very professional and new all about the information I had questions with. I would recommend her to anybody when buying a home.

 

~ Anthony B, Levittown Pa

I have worked with Mike on several occasions. Both with helping to finance my primary residence, but also to seek advice on refinancing, and the possibility of purchasing other properties. I have always enjoyed working with Mike and he has become a trusted advisor. I highly recommend him!

 

~ John K, Upper Makefield, Pa

The entire process of buying a house, even when you've done your research as I had done, can be unavoidably frustrating and nerve wracking. Jill was there to walk us through every stage, from the agreement of sale, to building inspection, repair requests, to final walk-through, to settlement day. Being a person who does everything in advance, Jill was there to calm me down when I was frustrated by sellers who were, in my eyes, slow to respond. She was continuously an integral part of the process, always pushing the sellers and their agent for the information we needed. Having met 3 other real estate agents in the past, I can say undoubtedly that if you want to find a house that meets your needs, that Jill Kohler is the best person for the job. She's more concerned about your needs as a buyer, than trying to pressure you into buying something you don't quite want.

 

~ Jimmy Mac, Levittown Pa

Jill, I cannot thank you enough for all of your hard work. You listened to what I wanted. We worked out a plan and were able to accomplish my goals. You made the process simplier than I could have imagined. And the communication was amazing. I will definitely refer you to my friends and family. Thank you for everything.

 

~ Wendy W, Langhorne, Pa

Jill was truly a godsend! She helped us sell my elderly in-law's home, which wasn't easy since we live an hour from the property. No task was too big or small to help us sell in a timely manner. Jill had a strong grasp of local real estate markets, and helped us price and market the property quickly. She also kept an eye on the house in our absence, and kept us informed every step of the way. We simply can't recommend Jill more highly!

 

~ S Fiorentino, Langhorne Pa

Jill and her husband helped me through a very tough time selling my mother's home. Being a good real estate agent is a great thing and they both were but it is even better when they really support you through it as well. I would highly recommend them.

 

~ Chris S, Langhorne Pa

We were lucky to find Jill. We had a house floundering on the market (as plenty were at the time) and decided to change realtors. We gave Jill a call. She gave us great advice on staging and even provided us with some of her own things to help with the staging process. She took great photos of our home and we had the house sold a short time later. My husband calls both Jill and Mike with questions about real estate and they are very knowledgeable and always available to us and we really appreciate it! I would recommend Jill Kohler to anyone looking to buy/sell a property.

 

~ Joann O, Levittown Pa

Jill did a great job understanding exactly what I was looking for. She arranged a full day to see numerous properties that met my requirements. We found the perfect property the first day that we started looking.

 

~ Tim K, Yardley Pa

More Reviews

Want to Know How Much Your Home is Worth?

Get Your FREE Home Market Analysis Report Right Now!

YES, SHOW ME NOW