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Buying a home is a stressful time for anyone, but first-time home buyers are particularly prone to anxiety and uncertainty. It’s easy to get tangled up in doubts and confusion; there are clashes between what buyers want their homes to be and what they can afford mortgage rates and down payments to sort out, and that crazy swirl of excitement and fear that comes with finally signing on the bottom line. Understanding what your newbie house hunters are going through and being equipped with answers to their most frequently asked questions could help you close your next deal.

How Do I Know How Much I Can Afford?

There are really two answers to this question. The first answer is that it’s up to you, the buyer. Take a look at your total personal or family budget. Understand how much you can set aside for a mortgage, house repairs and HOA fees, and then think about what you might be losing out on (vacations, dinners out, etc.) if you choose to stretch your financial limits. The second answer comes courtesy of your loan officer. They may well give you a number that’s higher than you expect, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend it all. What you can pay and what you should pay are not necessarily the same thing.

How Much of the Total Cost Will I Need Up Front?

Origination fees, title fees, taxes, homeowners insurance — these are the first things due when people buy a new home and the last things they think about. Prevent any nasty surprises by learning what “closing costs” really means and factor in the appropriate amount.

What Do I Want in a Home?

Many buyers come armed with a wish list, but there’s a difference between needs and wants, and those aren’t always clearly identified. Catalog your housing hopes and then put them in order of importance. You can ask for a big backyard and a particular school district, but the houses in your price range may not have both. Having trouble envisioning your dream home? Tell your agent about your ideal day (everything from your commute to how you’ll spend your time after work) and ask them to make recommendations for a home that would suit your lifestyle.

Single-Family Home, Townhouse or Condo?

All housing options have their pros and cons. Single-family homes typically offer more privacy, outdoor space and parking, but the owner is responsible for upkeep. Condominiums are often closer to metropolitan areas, which is great for anyone who values proximity to nightlife, restaurants, and shopping, but properties are smaller and more expensive, with little room for expansion. In a condo, you’re also subject to community guidelines and rules regarding common spaces, but you won’t have to mow the lawn.

Do I Really Need a Realtor, or Are They All About the Sale and Their Commission Advance?

Would you go to court without a lawyer or load up on antibiotics without the guidance of a doctor? There are certainly people who buy their first property without the assistance of an agent, but why go in unprotected? A buyer’s agent has your best interests at heart, and they can do everything from providing comps to suggesting a bid strategy. As for their commission advance, that’s just a way for your agent to get their cut of the cash (which typically comes from the seller’s side, by the way) a little earlier.

Ready to add a decimal place to your next closing? The sooner you put yourself in your buyers’ shoes, the closer you’ll be to that big sale.