27 October 2014

First Time Home Buyer Diaries – My Story

First Time Home Buyer Diaries 

I’m always trying to think of ways to educate First Time Home Buyers in Northern Virginia and DC. One of the best ways for people to learn is through the experience of others. This is my first entry in my “First Time Home Buyer Diaries” series. For future entries, I will interview my past and present clients to give them the opportunity of sharing their experiences with you. For my first entry, I decided what better story to share than my own! Below is my experience being a First Time Home Buyer in Northern Virginia! 

What is your name?

Kevin Canto

When did you first start thinking about buying? What made you ultimately decide now was the right time? When was your buyer’s consultation?

Buying has been on my mind for well over a year but all the pieces had to be in place before I could move forward. I actually moved out of my place in Arlington in March 2014 because one of my roommates was moving out and I didn’t want to sign another lease because I wanted to buy before years end. I moved home for a bit which was perfect because I could pull the trigger whenever the right place came up and save valuable money. It also gave me peace of mind knowing I didn’t have to worry about finding a roommate to fill my spot or a 30 day notice to vacate. After I moved home, I was keeping my eye on the market and visiting lots of properties that were in my price range, I was primarily familiarizing myself with the Reston Condo market but also kept a loose eye out for myself. I’ve walked many first time home buyers through the process so I knew it was the right time when I found a one of a kind condo.

 Give us some information on what you were looking for? Areas, # of bedrooms/baths, price, updates, amenities, schools.

 I was looking in Reston, 20190. I wanted to be in the same zip code and walking distance to Reston Town Center. With the metro open and further metro plans, I think Reston is changing constantly and will continue to do so. I felt it was a great place to invest in my future. I was looking for a 2 bedrooms/2 bath condo, I looked into some other options but a 2/2 was my primary focus. I wanted room to grow in my condo but also hope to keep it as a rental in the future, so the more rooms, the better! I was looking upwards of $400,000 but obviously wanted to be lower. Amenities and schools weren’t a focus for me, any amenities the community had were simply a bonus. The most important thing to me was location.

 When and where did you buy your first home?

 I ended up in Reston, 20190! I closed on my condo on August 27th, 2014.

Kevin Canto First Time Home Buyer in Northern Virginia - REston VA

 Did your search criteria change throughout the process?

 My search criteria didn’t really change. I was very focused on what I wanted and had the time to sit around and wait until I got it. I was kind of split on looking for something to fix up or something that was already done. If the price was right for something renovated, I had no reservations about moving forward on that. Many of my first time home buyers see some things change but I was fortunate enough to get everything I set out for.

 Approximately how many homes did you see and how many offers did you write before you ratified the contract on your home?

 I saw quite a few condos but again, I’m in the business. So I didn’t see too many that I specifically looked at for myself but I knew the market very well. Homes I specifically went to see with the purpose of looking for myself was probably in between around 5. I only wrote this offer.

 What do you love most about your home that led you to make the offer?

 I initially went into the process thinking I wanted something I could fix up myself, hoping to get a better price then making improvements along the way. I didn’t end up with that condo at all. My unit was completely renovated from the ground up. I first saw my condo at a broker’s open, it was listed at $345,000. I didn’t think too much into it because I felt the timing wasn’t quite right for the price they were asking. I went back to show my parents about 3 weeks later to see what they thought. They absolutely loved it, we ran the numbers together and still felt they were over priced and again, timing was slightly off. Two days later, they dropped the price by $10,000 and I knew this condo wouldn’t last and another one wouldn’t come up like it, so I made the timing right and offered a price I could work with. What I love most about the home is that everything is brand new but what made me make the offer was the drop in price.

First Time Home Buyer Diaries - KEvin Canto Northern Virginia First Time Hom Buyer - The Canto GRoup

 Can you give us any details about your negotiations? Walk us through them a little bit.

 My negotiations went pretty smoothly, I wrote a very strong offer and included some things to really appeal to the Sellers. I offered $326,000 with a $5,000 credit back at settlement. The condo was listed at 335,000. I looked at the comparable properties in detail and included an explanation supporting my offer price to the listing agent. I do this with all my clients and this helps the other side see that we aren’t just throwing a low-ball offer out there but we have done our research and know the market. Since the condo was just totally renovated, I knew the home inspection wouldn’t reveal many deficiencies so I did a home inspection for information purposes only. Which makes the Seller feel comfortable because it means there won’t be any further negotiations of repairs or credits. I did about a 27 day settlement. I wrote a letter describing my situation and a little bit about me which often times goes a long way with Sellers. The Sellers agreed to all the terms in my initial offer except the $5,000 credit. They scratched that off, I knew this property was a one of a kind and I didn’t NEED that credit, so I signed off on their counter and we had a ratified contract roughly 24 hours after I submitted the offer.

 How about your home inspection, how did that go? How were those negotiations?

 My home inspection was as uneventful as I had anticipated, which is always a good thing. It was for information purposes only, so if there were things that came up I couldn’t ask for repairs but if something was glaring I still had the right to pull out of the contract. There was one broken thermal seal in a window (this is when the vacuum seal breaks in windows and you see some slight fogging, most people don’t even notice) and missing screens throughout. This was the cleanest home inspection I have ever done. I wish it was that easy for all my clients! So there were no negotiations and I was a happy, excited first time home buyer!

 How was the loan process?

 Since I have an understanding of the loan process, I felt it was rather easy. I always tell my clients to be patient and cooperative through this. The lender will always ask for more documents. It’s just the nature of the beast, they are also very specific things to be done in a specific way. You just need to follow their directions, there were times where I was like “I could’ve sworn I just gave this to you” but it honestly didn’t matter. They need what they need. So I knew what I was getting myself into and can just tell everybody to be patient and get them their stuff as soon as possible!

 How did you determine your budget and decide it was the right time to buy?

 I just looked at all my numbers and what monthly payments would look like and felt comfortable with it. I’ve had a strong urge to buy my own place as I was paying too much money for what I had renting, I wanted to invest in my own home. I wanted my monthly payments to be going to myself, not into someone else’s pocket.

 Did anything come up on your final walk through? If so, what was it and how did you handle it?

 My final walk through went off without a hitch. The condo was vacant the entire time and everything in it was new, so it was rather simple. I of course checked everything thoroughly, but it was smooth.

 What aspect of the home buying process did you find the most difficult? What was the easiest part? What were you most nervous about?

Since I’ve walked so many people through it, the process was fairly simple. It was a very exciting time. I was most nervous about the financing going through. The financing is where we see most deals fall apart, so being in the business and being reserved, I didn’t come to terms with being a new home owner until I signed the papers at settlement. The day I signed those papers the days following were some of the most exciting and fun days of my life. I was a new home owner!

 Now that you’ve gone through the process, what tips would you give someone who is thinking about buying their first home?

 Call The Canto Group ;)

But in all honesty, I would urge every person who is thinking of buying their first home to organize their finances, talk to a realtor, get a pre-approval and know what you’re looking for. Be patient throughout the loan process and understand that this is your FIRST home, it won’t necessarily be your dream home but you will find the right home :)


 I hope you enjoyed reading my story of being a first time home buyer in Northern Virginia! The Canto Group loves working with first time home buyers, so if you are thinking of getting in the market, let’s get together for a Buyer’s Consultation to get you on the right track!

Also, check out our blog series for First Time Home Buyers!

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