Must-Do Due Diligence: First-Time Buying in a Seller’s Market

Nope, the record isn’t broken – Spring is here and we’re facing another season of sparse inventory across the St. Louis region. If buying a house used to be comparable to running a 5k, it now feels a lot like running a marathon – blindfolded and backward.

Pent-up buyer demand is creating literal traffic jams in residential neighborhoods (did you see that video out of Raleigh, North Carolina?!).

Contracts are being written sight-unseen.

Inspections and appraisals are being waived left and right.

So, what’s an uneasy first-time buyer to do? Sabina Hearty, Buyer’s Specialist with the Dawn Griffin Group, is here with five tips for due diligence in a seller’s market.

1. Sit down with a trusted REALTOR®

This is a great first step, as meeting with a professional will give you the insight you’ll need to hit the ground running. A trusted, empathetic REALTOR® should talk to you candidly about current market conditions, what to expect throughout the buying process and obviously your wants and needs in a home. Selecting the right buyer’s specialist is the first crucial step in being ready to go later on down the road.

2. Speak with a Lender

A savvy real estate agent will also provide a shortlist of trusted local lenders. (You can also do your own research to find lenders that fit your needs!) Sitting down with an experienced lender early on is critical, as he or she will help you organize your finances, understand how much you can afford and guide you through a variety of products and services to ultimately find a mortgage that is best suited for your needs. Finally, they’ll get you on your way to getting a pre-approval letter, which you will need when you begin the hunt for the right home.

3. Think Realistically about Budget

With steps one and two out of the way and a pre-approval letter in hand, you’ll now have a solid idea of a true and realistic price range for your home search. But wait! Before you start scheduling showings, spend some time tracking your current spending habits and expenses, as well as working with your buyer’s specialist to get estimates of what some of those expenses might look like in areas you are interested in (utilities and taxes can vary based upon municipality).

Beyond your monthly mortgage payment (which typically includes principal, interest, taxes and insurance), you want to make sure the general costs of homeownership are well within your budget. Having an understanding of what those costs are before you make the move can help you plan ahead and budget accordingly.

4. Explore Neighborhoods of Interest

Before committing to a home purchase (one of the biggest commitments you’ll make in a lifetime!), take the time to thoroughly explore potential neighborhoods of interest. Are there must-have activities or amenities that you want nearby? Is school district important? Hop in the car and drive to the nearest grocery store, coffee shop or public park, and look up your commute time to work, friends and family. It’s helpful to know ahead of time what different neighborhoods have to offer, especially if you’re looking for amenities that align with your specific lifestyle. 

Bonus tip: Touring a neighborhood at different times of the day is a great way to get a sense of the traffic flow, especially during those peak commute times!

Not sure where to start? Here’s a quick video tour of Maplewood, one of my favorite spots in Saint Louis county. This ultra-walkable neighborhood is a fantastic option for first-time buyers.

5. Get out in the Field; Start Previewing Now!

Now that you’ve connected with a buyer’s specialist and lender, established a budget and explored areas of interest, it’s time to get out into the field and start previewing homes! It is never too early to start getting a feel for different architectural styles, floorplans and neighborhoods. You’ve likely spent months looking at pictures of houses online, but nothing compares to actually seeing them in person. This is when we’ll really learn what works for you (and what doesn’t!) – which means we won’t have to waste a minute of time when spring comes and you are ready to buy.

Have additional questions for Sabina? Ready to get out and explore potential neighborhoods? Shoot her an email at

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