Five Tips for Confident First-Time Homebuyers

Guest Post by Mary Townley

Couple With Keys Standing Outside New Home

Congratulations! You’ve taken the plunge and entered wedded bliss! Or perhaps you’re dreaming about your growing family? Maybe you’ve added a furry friend to your pack? These are some of the most common milestones prompting Millennials to purchase a new home. (In fact, Fido tops the list of the three, according to the American Kennel Club). But where do you start?

At Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), we know that many first-time homebuyers have a lot of concerns and questions. Our job is to help empower these individuals to become confident, smart buyers and realize the dream of homeownership. Here are five ways newlyweds and young families can get started on the right track.

  1. Make a list of wants vs. needs. Your ideal home on Pinterest may have a dream list of features, but when you’re shopping for a home in real life, it’s important to be flexible. Have an up-front conversation with your partner about things that are non-negotiable (an updated kitchen or big back yard) and things that you’d be willing to update or customize later (a finished basement or master suite). Once you’ve got your list, share it with your Realtor® to ensure the listings you visit meet those basic requirements.
  1. Get smart before you shop. MSHDA can connect you with homebuying experts and classes that help you become more knowledgeable and confident about the buying process. Whether you’re combining two incomes and credit scores for the first time or looking to save up money for college tuition, we encourage all clients to take a class and enter homeownership with eyes wide open. A common point of confusion tends to be financing options. According to a 2016 MSHDA survey, 55 percent of future first-time homebuyers have not considered purchasing a home because they lack funds for a down payment. This shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. A Michigan Down Payment loan of up to $7,500 may be available to first and repeat Michigan homebuyers who qualify for a MSHDA mortgage. To learn more, visit


  1. Spend time in your prospective neighborhood and talk to the neighbors. If you have a young family, be on the lookout for perks that cater to kids, such as sidewalks, commons areas, or parks. As you drive around, look for signals of other young families. Lots of swing sets in the backyards? That’s a good indication your little ones will have plenty of playmates. Signs and bumper stickers for high schools or colleges could be a clue to future neighborhood babysitters. Be sure to check out the schools and bus systems and talk to other parents, as well. No matter your stage in life, talking with the neighbors can help paint a full picture of the community.
  1. Take pictures of the houses you tour. Listing photos are great — almost too They’re supposed to be enticing and showcase each home in its best light. Even without vanity pictures, it can be difficult to remember which house had the funky bathroom or the great fireplace after a long day of open houses. It’s also important to make sure you and your partner notice the same things. Were you too busy swooning over the antique clawfoot tub to notice the water spot on the ceiling? It happens. By taking your own photos as you tour a home, you can remember the small details and record a realistic picture of the homes you like.
  1. It’s okay to start on the internet, but be sure to work with a qualified Realtor® and lender when things get serious. Purchasing a home will be one of the biggest investments you make in your life. Having an experienced, knowledgeable and trusted resource looking out for your best interests is the key to entering the process with confidence. Realtors can be an invaluable resource during negotiations, paperwork, inspections and other important procedures. For more on the benefits of working with a Realtor, check out these helpful resources from

If you are a prospective new Michigan homeowner, let MSHDA help! Visit to learn more about the program and the various helpful resources we can provide.


Mary Townley is the director of homeownership for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

*Photos courtesy of Michigan Housing Development Authority

Lindsey Jenn

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