When it comes to buying a home (your first, or first in a while), you may find yourself overwhelmed or not really knowing where to start beyond browsing homes online and hoping the pieces come together. For better or worse, there’s a lot of noise out there. Here’s an attempt to reduce it as you start searching. Or at least give you the steps to take prior to working with a qualified agent, who should be able to explain the many next steps and how they’ll help you through the process.

So, here’s what you need to know before you ever call up an agent and have a sit down.

Step by Step…

1 - Obtain a Pre-Approval

Down Payments, monthly mortgage payments, closings costs, insurance, principle and property taxes. It can get overwhelming. Especially when you are considering the biggest purchase you may make in your lifetime. Regardless, there are tools out there, like this home affordability calculator that will help you decide what is in your budget.  

After some guess work, and unless you’re throwing down some serious cash, you’ll be purchasing with a loan. In order to do that you will want a bank or lending institution to provide you with a pre-approval letter. It will not only make any future offers you submit more serious to a seller, but give you a snap shot of what you can afford. A lot of you assume this is a difficult process. Many of my preferred lenders have online tools you can complete in 10 minutes. They’ll also usually give advice on your financials for how to improve your rate, making your monthly payments less expensive.

2 - Define Your Perfect Home

Make a list, make a vision board, whatever it may be. You will want to have a list ready of what is most important to you in a new home. Go ahead and rank them from most important to least important. A top 5 list helps. Knowing ahead of time what you’re looking for and what’s important to you will help you tremendously in the process. 

It will also help any future agent you work with to know what neighborhoods to recommend based on your desires and their expertise. The more time you invest identifying the most important aspects of your future home, the less time you’ll spend seeing homes that may not work for you.

Do you like a short commute? Are school districts important? How many bedrooms are wanted vs needed? Have you tested the drive at rush hour?

Know before you go!  

3 - Find Your Agent

Now that you know what your price range is, know what is important in a home, it’s time to sit down and find a qualified agent. One that knows the area you desire to live in and can help educate you on the process so you’re comfortable when it comes time to make an offer. We are supposed to be educators before all else. With 6000+ licensed agents in the Charleston area, there are many who simply do not have the experience to help advise you through your largest financial transaction.

Now if you want my shameless plug, please check out Why Gentry Todd? Also, check out The Home Buying Process to understand from first contact to well after you close on your home all that me and my team do for you. I encourage you to meet with multiple agents and learn about their experience, their abilities and what sets them apart from others. I, of course, would love to be one of the agents you meet. If we’re a good fit well then…

Most of you start here. Frankly if you’re just info gathering and/or browsing, it’s where you should start. Oh yea, I’ve got an app for that (shameless plug)…

4 - Start Searching


My mobile answer to Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, or any other search sites that pull from outdated third-party data. Not only is the info frequently inaccurate, but your information is their product to sell to a bunch of desperate agents hoping to sell you a house today. Sounds annoying? Yeah, i know because years ago my old brokerage forced us to be some of those annoying agents. So download it, see what i see and browse without anyone annoying you… including me.

Now that you’ve got your pre-approval lined up, you have an idea where you’d like to be, and you’ve found a great agent to help you out… now the fun part. Maybe you browsed some on my app, but I’ll be setting up a search that will hit your email from my MLS portal, we’ll refine your search over time as we both understand better what the best fit is going to be for you.