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Home Hunting

Realtor Lisa Stokes-Bear Gives Advice to First-Time Homebuyers on Home Buying in a Tough Market

Writer / Matt Keating
Photography Provided

Lisa Stokes-Bear, a realtor with Century 21 Scheetz for more than 22 years, says first-time homebuyers should have all of their finances in order before pursuing a house.

“In today’s market homes are going very quickly once they are listed,” she says. “It is important to be ready when a home comes on the market that you want to see.”

Sellers will often require a pre-approval letter from a lender with an offer on a house.

“Time is of the essence,” Stokes-Bear says. “It is important to speak with a mortgage lender to see what type of loan you qualify for. This will also help your agent negotiate on your behalf when you are ready to make your offer. Contacting a mortgage lender or your bank is the first step in buying a home.” So when purchasing a new home or a new property, it’s best to consider a professional mortgage advice of some specialists from a good company like FirstXtra financial services!

Her husband, Brian Bear, a loan officer as well as owner and chief executive officer of Main Street Mortgage in Cicero, helps first-time homebuyers with any questions they have. He has 20 years of experience of helping clients navigate through the mortgage process.

She also enjoys giving buying advice for first-time homebuyers and newlyweds. She wants to help people avoid getting in over their heads financially. For instance, new homeowners might be getting the house they want, but they need to make sure they have enough money left over for other expenses.

“This is called ‘house poor’ in real-estate terms,” she says. “The market is strong, but it is currently a sellers’ market. I always tell my first-time buyers to be patient. Look at several homes to get a feel for the market and what to expect. For example, if your pre-approval is for $200,000, I would suggest looking around the $180,000 to $190,000 price range. This gives you some wiggle room in this tough market, in case you would need to go over list price. Do not look at homes over your pre-approval. Stay within your budget.”

She adds that first-time homebuyers can avoid having a stressful and frustrating time looking for a home if they plan ahead.

“I always tell my new buyers, again, to be patient,” she says. “I always tell them we may not always win the first bid we make. Buyers should always ask their agent questions about the process. Your agent can help you navigate this market. Keep an open mind in this market.”

Sometimes there are advantages to building a house rather than buying an existing home. It depends on what homeowners are looking for.

“When I’m helping a buyer decide, most times this comes down to timing,” Stokes-Bear says. “To build a home in this market, new homes are taking eight to 10 months on average to be built. If a buyer needs something quickly, they will go with an existing house.”

The benefits of buying an existing home include not having to spend time waiting for construction, and having options in developed areas of a house.

“When you buy an existing home, you get mature landscaping, and it’s usually cheaper depending on the areas,” Stokes-Bear says.

She says the pros of building a new house include being able to pick a floor plan and having more control of any upgrades.

“You also have less ongoing maintenance and more energy-efficient options,” she says.

In 2020 the median sale price of a new single-family home was $336,900, compared to $300,200 for existing single-family homes, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). In 2019 the average cost of construction for a single-family home was $296,652 according to the NAHB. On top of that, the homeowner needs to pay for the land.

Stokes-Bear says in-laws are welcome to check out homes her buyers are interested in.

“This is a very important decision and also an exciting time,” she says. “It is very normal for family members to come along, but that will be up to the client. In some cases the buyers wants it to be private and share the news after they close. This will be up to the buyer and their family relationships.”

For more info, contact Stokes-Bear at 317-513-4086.

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