Diana Sames | Gulfport Real Estate, Clearwater Real Estate, St. Petersburg Real Estate


If you've set a goal of buying your first home within the next year, there are several things you can begin doing now to set the stage for a positive experience.

While it pays to familiarize yourself with everything from your credit score to mortgage options, choosing a good real estate agent will prove to be an invaluable advantage when navigating through the process of buying a home. An experienced, knowledgeable agent will help keep you on track, prepare necessary documents for you, and answer the myriad of questions that will occur to you.

Should you choose the first real estate agent you talk to? People occasionally find a perfect fit right off the bat, but it's often a good idea to interview a couple agents before you make your final decision. Having one or two points of comparison can provide you with a wider perspective of available choices.

Not only would you want to work with a professional who has a successful track record in helping first-time home buyers, but you also want to make sure your personality is compatible with your agent's communication style and energy level. Unless you stumble on the home of your dreams on the first day, you're probably going to be spending a lot of time with them. Most real estate agents do tend to be knowledgeable, resourceful, and service oriented, but your journey will be a lot smoother and more satisfying if you sign on with an agent who's a good match for your individual needs and personality.

One of the most effective ways to prepare yourself for a real estate search is to create lists of things you need to do, have, and schedule. It's also helpful to prioritize what you want in your ideal house. By identifying and reminding yourself of the features that are most important to you, you'll have a greater tendency to recognize what you want when you see it. You'll also find yourself communicating your needs and wants more clearly to your real estate agent. As is the case with any professional or personal relationship, good quality communication usually yields the best possible results.

As a home buyer, there are many property features and priorities you'll want to ponder and discuss with your significant other. In addition to your future home's square footage, bedroom space, and number of bathrooms, you may also be interested in the reputation of school districts, the character of neighborhoods you're considering, and the amount of privacy each property affords.

Another list worth compiling before you get too far into the house hunting process is a personal budget. By seeing how your income stacks up against your monthly expenses, you'll be in a stronger position to determine a realistic price range for your next home.


When you decide to make an offer on a home, your mind may be flooded with dozens of questions and concerns -- several of which may involve money matters, while others are about the condition of the house.

However, if you've had the house professionally inspected and made sure your income is sufficient to absorb monthly expenses, than you've already taken steps to prevent or at least minimize future challenges.

Since buying a home is such a big investment and there are so many emotional factors that could influence your decision, it's essential to stay focused, adhere to a budget, and be aware of what you need in order to be satisfied with your purchase.

The Financial Side of Things: Even though a mortgage broker or loan officer may approve you for a large mortgage, only you can determine whether you'd be comfortable making those monthly payments. In  addition to the cost of your mortgage, property taxes, and school taxes, there are also other expenses to consider and include in the equation. If you're moving into a larger house, for example, the cost of heating and/or cooling your home may be higher than you're used to. Poorly insulated houses can also have a negative impact on home energy costs.

Another key factor to think about when you're figuring out the affordability of a potential new home is property maintenance, the cost of HVAC service, and miscellaneous expenses, such as appliance repairs, plumbing leaks, and electrical services. Some neighborhoods, residential developments, and condos also require a monthly Homeowner Association (HOA) fee, which can potentially put a burden on your cash flow situation. A good rule of thumb, of course, is to avoid spending beyond your means. While nobody would dispute the logic of that advice, it's often a lot easier said than done -- especially on an ongoing, consistent basis.

Non-Financial Priorities: The only way to know what you truly want and need in a new home is to clarify your goals, requirements, and wishes. Making lists, discussing it with your partner, and visiting lots of homes for sale will help give you the ideas, the inspiration, and helpful points of comparison you need. Online real estate listings and home improvement websites can also provide a wealth of practical ideas.

In addition to having enough bedrooms and bathrooms to meet your family's needs, it's also important to feel comfortable with the quality of the school district, the amount of noise in the neighborhood, and the traffic level on nearby streets. Proximity to recreation, shopping, and other amenities can also make the difference between your ideal home and one which doesn't quite make the grade. Privacy (or the lack, thereof) is also a major issue which can impact your satisfaction with a real estate purchase. While it's good to approach home buying with a sense of optimism, the best time to weigh all the pros and cons is before you sign the final papers at the closing table!


For those who want to buy a home, it generally is a good idea to remain open to negotiating with a seller. That way, you can acquire your dream residence without delay.

Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you streamline a negotiation with a home seller.

1. Be Flexible

There is no telling how a home negotiation will turn out. Fortunately, if you maintain flexibility, you will be able to go with the flow throughout a negotiation with a seller.

Remember, a homebuyer and home seller share a common goal: to ensure a seamless transaction. If you are open to negotiating with a seller, both you and this individual can work together to achieve results that satisfy all parties.

Don't forget to maintain open lines of communication with a seller during a negotiation as well. By doing so, you and a seller can keep in touch with one another throughout a negotiation and avoid potential miscommunications that otherwise could slow down or stop a home purchase.

2. Establish Realistic Expectations

A home negotiation may work out in your favor or a seller's favor. Or, in the best-case scenario, you and a seller will come to terms that fulfill the needs of both sides. On the other hand, in the worst-case scenario, you may need to walk away from a home purchase altogether.

As a homebuyer, it is important to prepare for all possible scenarios. If you establish realistic expectations as you enter a home negotiation, you can plan accordingly. Then, you and a seller can work together to accomplish the optimal results.

You may want to study the housing market closely too. In fact, you can review the prices of available houses that are comparable to the one you want to buy to ensure your offer to purchase falls in line with the current housing market's conditions.

3. Work with a Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent is well-equipped to help you handle a homebuying negotiation. Thus, if you work with a real estate agent, you can get the assistance you need to acquire your dream house at a price that matches your budget.

Typically, a real estate agent will learn about your homebuying goals and help you discover your ideal residence. Once you find a house you want to buy, a real estate agent will help you submit a competitive offer to purchase this home. Next, if a seller wants to negotiate the terms of a home transaction, a real estate agent is ready to negotiate with this individual on your behalf.

A real estate agent also will keep you informed throughout a home negotiation. Plus, if you ever have concerns or questions during the homebuying journey, a real estate agent is prepared to respond to them.

Want to acquire your dream house as quickly as possible? Take advantage of the aforementioned tips, and you should have no trouble handling a home negotiation with any seller, at any time.


For those who want to buy a house, it helps to consider your options closely. That way, you can make an informed home purchase.

Now, let's take a look at three factors to consider as you prepare to conduct a home search:

1. The Local Housing Market

Assess the local housing market before you dive headfirst into a home search – you will be glad you did. If you analyze the housing market in towns and cities where you want to live, you can determine if a buyer's or seller's market is in place. Then, you can map out your homebuying journey accordingly.

To differentiate a buyer's market from a seller's market, you should find out how long recently sold houses were available before they were purchased. You also may want to track houses as soon as they become available and see how long it takes them to sell. If residences linger on the housing market for many weeks or months, the real estate sector likely favors buyers. Or, if houses are purchased shortly after they become available, the real estate sector may favor sellers.

2. Your Home Must-Haves

Think about the features you want to find in your dream house. This will help you hone your house search to residences that match your expectations.

Oftentimes, it helps to enter the housing market with a list of home must-haves. This list can be updated throughout your house search and may help you simplify your quest to find your dream residence.

As you craft a list of home must-haves, be sure to include any house amenities you simply cannot live without. For instance, if you require a home that boasts a state-of-the-art air-conditioning system, you can search for a residence that offers this amenity. On the other hand, if you need a home that is located just minutes from your office in the city, you can search for a house in or near the city itself.

3. Your Homebuying Budget

You may have only a finite amount of money to spend on a house. If you get pre-approved for a mortgage, you will know precisely how much money is at your disposal. You then can search for a house that corresponds to your budget.

To get pre-approved for a mortgage, you should meet with a variety of banks and credit unions. These financial institutions can teach you about your home financing options and help you select a mortgage that suits you perfectly.

Lastly, as you get set to embark on a house search, you may want to hire a real estate agent. This housing market professional can offer expert insights into the homebuying journey. Plus, he or she is ready to respond to your homebuying concerns, at any time.

If you want to streamline the process of finding and buying a wonderful residence, it helps to plan ahead for the homebuying journey. Thanks to the aforementioned tips, you can review your options and boost the likelihood of enjoying a successful homebuying experience.


There is a science to selling your home at the best price and within the shortest period of time, but it's not always an exact science!

Although you can't control market conditions, seasonal fluctuations, or the condition of your neighbors' property, you are still in the driver's seat when it comes to pricing, curb appeal, and the interior condition of your home.

Assuming there's no legal snags or major "red flags" about the condition or appearance or your home, the selling price you set may make the difference between a fast sale and house that lingers on the market for months on end. Many house hunters and (all) real estate agents are quite savvy about property values and real estate prices. If the selling price of your home is based on emotional factors or the amount of money you need to get back in order to purchase your next house, then there's a good chance you'll be pricing yourself out of the market. That's where your real estate agent comes in. They will help you set a realistic asking price that will favorably position it to similar properties in your neighborhood and community.

While everyone wants to get the maximum return on their real estate investment, there's usually a limited amount of "wiggle room" between the appraised value of your home and the amount of money a potential buyer would be willing to pay for it. Since it may be difficult for you, as a homeowner, to be objective when determining a realistic price for your home, it's often beneficial to have a comparative market analysis done by a real estate agent or professional appraiser.

Another reason for consulting with professionals involves the need to be objective about home improvements. Some home sellers have a difficult time accepting the fact that their asking price can't always reflect the full cost of recent home improvements. Home additions, updates, and recent remodeling work can have a positive impact on your home's asking price, but it's usually not a dollar-for-dollar return on investment.

If you're preparing to put your house on the market in the near future, it pays to do a little online research, have your property professionally appraised, and/or work with a real estate agent who will do a comparative analysis of your home's value. Other things you can do to increase the likelihood of getting your home sold quickly include a thorough top-to-bottom cleaning, applying a fresh coat of paint where needed, and "staging" your home to appeal to the widest variety of potential buyers. While that might include making some major changes to your home's décor, its landscaping, or even furniture arrangement, the rewards of a speedy sale often justify the effort and short-term inconvenience of getting your home ready for the close scrutiny of house hunters, home inspectors, and buyers' agents!




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