A Step-by-Step First Time Home Buyer's Guide

Buying a home is one of the most exciting milestones of your life. To prepare yourself for this moment, you need to know what to expect during the process. This step-by-step first time buyer’s guide created by your agent will help reduce the stress of buying a home in the Florida Keys and help you enjoy the journey as much as possible.


Step 1: Research

Do you already know where you want to buy? If you want a condo, townhome, or single-family home? Which features do you like and dislike? What’s available on the market now? If you answered no to any of these questions, now is the time to start researching. In addition to looking for homes that interest you, also take note of any changes in asking prices. This could give you valuable insight into housing trends in specific neighborhoods and help you when the time comes to make an offer.


Step 2: Decide on Your Budget

Notice I said to decide on your budget—not determine how much the mortgage company will give you. In many cases, a mortgage company will pre-approve you for more than you’re comfortable spending, which is why you need to determine the monthly payment you feel comfortable with before talking to a lender. This likely includes doing a full household budget and taking into consideration what changes other than a mortgage payment will occur once you move into your new home. If you’ve lived in an apartment or with roommates, you may overlook new expenses like garbage, water, or HOA fees that could easily blow your budget.


Step 3: Get Prequalified

Just because you think you can afford a certain payment every month doesn’t mean the mortgage company will agree. Just as they may approve you for too large of an amount, they may also approve you for a lesser amount or deny you a mortgage altogether. Lack of time at a job, insufficient credit, past bankruptcies, or other financial issues can cause major problems when trying to secure a mortgage. Before you get your heart set on a home, talk to a mortgage professional to find out what amount you can qualify for. This will also be an advantage when you make an offer on a home, as some sellers won’t entertain offers from those who aren’t already prequalified for a loan.


Step 4: Choose a Real Estate Agent

Can you shop for, look at, and ultimately make an offer on a home without a real estate agent? Technically yes, but why would you when it costs you nothing for an agent like me to take much of the stress off your shoulders? Not only will I help identify properties you might be interested in, arrange showings, and ultimately handle the offer process, but I also have a knowledge of the market that you don’t possess. I may be able to steer you away from certain homes or neighborhoods, suggest hidden gems, or give you pointers that will help you find your dream home for the right price.

My goal is to provide you with the most personalized service that is designed to help you buy your dream home.


Step 5: Find the Right Home

This should be the most enjoyable step of the entire process (other than moving in!). I will arrange showings of homes you’re interested in that are within your price range. Take notes about what you like and don’t like, and make sure to pay attention to details. Turn light switches on and off, open and close doors, and run the faucets in various rooms. Don’t limit your inspection to the home itself. Make sure to take time to explore the neighborhood and keep an eye on traffic at certain times of the day, the parking situation, and how close it is to necessities like schools and grocery stores.


Step 6: Make an Offer

Once you have selected the perfect home, work with your agent to craft a fair offer based on the value of comparable homes on the market. Depending on what the home is listed at and whether the current environment is a buyer’s or seller’s market, your offer may be below, at, or even above the asking price. I will be able to help you negotiate if you receive a counteroffer and reach an agreement. At this point, the house will go into escrow.


Step 7: Have the Home Inspected

In most cases, your offer will be contingent on having the home inspected to ensure there is no major structural damage or large repairs needed. I can help you arrange this, and you can schedule it within days of making an offer. If there are no major issues, the process goes to step eight. If there is, you can renegotiate your offer based on what needs to be fixed, or you can withdraw it.


Step 8: Select Your Loan

Now is the time to go back to the mortgage lender who pre-approved or pre-qualified you and choose your mortgage. You will be presented with various options based on your unique financial situation, including fixed-rate, variable-rate, 15-year, 30-year, or special programs such as VA loans or FHA loans. Work with your mortgage lender to select the option you feel the most comfortable with.


Step 9: Get a Home Appraisal

Your lender will have your new home appraised so they have their independent value of it. The appraisal is to ensure that all parties involved are paying a fair price for the house.


Step 10: Finish Paperwork

No one looks forward to all the paperwork involved in buying a home, but it’s a necessary part of the process. Fortunately, everything will be arranged by your lender and title company and, when you’re finished, you’ll know you are the legal owner of your new home.


After signing the final paperwork to complete the purchase, you are now the owner of a new house. It may take a few days for your loan to be funded once the paperwork has been returned to the lender, but once that check is delivered to the seller, you’ll be all set to move into the home of your dreams.

Jim and Carol
Carol V.
Richard F.
Desiree F.
Ocean Sothebys International is superior to all of the other luxury companies in the Florida Keys. Gloria Walters is an outstanding agent! I have gotten to know her over the past few years and I would highly recommend her for her honesty, professionalism, and knowledge of the Florida Keys Real Estate market

— Isabella

Our first trip coming to the Florida keys to look for a home was thought to be a nervous adventure not knowing anyone. Then we found Gloria Walters from Ocean Sotheby's International Realty... what a relief. Gloria Walters is such a wonderful person and a professional at her job as a real estate agent. Gloria has made Carol and myself feel so welcomed to the Florida Keys. With taking her time and listeni...

— Jim and Carol

We used Gloria for both buying a new house and selling our old one. No one is more knowledgeable about the Upper Keys housing market. She is honest and ethical, and when things get stressful she is always calm and encouraging. I would highly recommend her to anyone looking to buy or sell here.

— Carol V.

The Walters were great to work with and extremely valuable to us as we were coming from a remote location and looking to buy our dream house in the Florida Keys. They are great people to work with and I would highly recommend them.

— Matt

We have had the pleasure of working with Gloria Walters on the purchase of our home in Islamorada in 2021. She has always been extremely kind and very patient. She showed us many homes and we were never rushed to make a decision. We loved working with her so much that we have recently listed another property with her.

— Rosann

Michaela was our Realtor® for our first home purchase and far exceeded our expectations. On top of being incredibly proactive about the home-buying process for us first-time homebuyers, Michaela proved to have an incredible knowledge of the areas we were searching for. She was also very ambitious and proactive, helping us get answers to questions we would have during the home buying process, and lining u...

— Richard F.

After 40 years of Keys life in Islamorada, our decision to sell our second home was hard. We loved it but the time had come. The decision of who the selling agent should be was easy. We interviewed 3 local agents before deciding Gloria Walters was our choice. She had the best experience, sales skills, energy and personality. She helped us understand the value of our property and how to prepare and pres...

— Courtney

Gloria was our agent when buying our home in Marathon. She was very responsive to our every request and went out of her way to ensure that the whole process went smoothly. She helped us find a good inspector, recommended a seawall expert, followed up with the title and the seller's agent, and was always on time and well-prepared. I would definitely recommend Gloria to anyone looking to buy or sell in the...

— Buyer

Michaela was fantastic during every step of our home buying journey! She provided sound counsel and even helped us navigate application processes for projects we'd need to work on after closing. She definitely went above and beyond. We are thankful for all of her help and would recommend her to anyone!

— Desiree F.

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The Walters Luxury Group in Florida shares the dedication and commitment required to deliver exceptional service with the world's most discerning sellers and buyers. Their local expertise, combined with Sotheby's one-of-a-kind relationships in most influential media outlets worldwide, artfully connects people with extraordinary homes for sale in the Florida Keys and beyond.