Real Estate Education: First 9 Steps for Buyers

by South Shore Realtor Alice Pierce, Premier Associate at Coldwell Banker, Hingham, MA

Buying a house on the south shore
This is the first real estate article in a series about purchasing a home.

First 9 Steps in the Home Buying Process

There are many phases within the home buying journey, and as someone interested in buying a home in Hingham, Cohasset, Norwell, or anywhere really, educating you is an part of my job as your real estate agent. Educating you as a home buyer will go a long way towards minimizing surprises and it also gets your mind thinking differently so you can ask new questions. I want you to anticipate responses to people like potential mortgage lenders, attorneys, home inspectors and other real estate professionals. What I don’t want for you are preventable surprises.

I have yet to meet a first time home buyer who is aware of all the nuances within a real estate transaction. Even experienced home buyers forget some parts to the process. Updates to real estate regulations cause parts of transactions to change. When this happens in the Hingham area or Plymouth County in general, I like to write about the updates on my real estate blog. Keep in mind that every state, and every real estate market has different processes, but that the general features of any real estate transaction are similar.

Instead of giving you the same, general outlines you can find on hundreds of other real estate sites, I decided to take each major step and closely look at the details in each, while also trying to put together possible scenarios, based on my experience selling real estate. I hope that by writing firsthand, and in more detail, that you, as a home buyer, will gain a more comprehensive knowledge base to draw from in your process.

Stay tuned for more articles and education in my Real Estate Education Series for Buyers.

Homes for Sale: Readiness and Planning
“I want to buy a house.”

Before buying anything, you have to find the very thing you wish to buy. To find the very thing you want to buy, in this case, the house that aligns with most of your needs, you have to figure out the community and town where you might want to live and then the neighborhoods that suit you. Along with defining the geographical particulars, considering the features in your new home is just as important a step.

Defining wants and needs is a good place to start in the real estate buying process. It might sound overdone to you, but devote a comfortable notebook to the task ahead of you. Writing down home and neighborhood features that are meaningful to you is more important than you think. First of all, it is easy to forget some of these things when you are smitten with one feature of a particular house. Secondly, some of the real estate features you want to keep as a priority might unwittingly become negotiable in the buying process.

This is why I suggest that buyers clearly define their non-negotiable desires. Once you do this, there is no need to debate downplaying the features that define your idea of home. For example, you might think that giving up an outdoor space is fine if your new home search is happening in the wintertime, but once the other three seasons roll around, you might regret moving this out of a priority position. Allowing yourself to consider all the possibilities in a house before you even start to look gives you a freer mind to generate the list.

Figuring out towns and neighborhoods within towns is a time-consuming task. I have worked with many buyers in my 14 years as a real estate agent, and every buyer has a mental list of towns they have no interest in, and towns they must live in. The hard part comes when consideration is given to all the neighborhoods within each preferred town.

There are many ways to look at houses for sale on the south shore, and obviously, as a long-time Realtor, I believe that using a real estate agent is the safest, most efficient strategy of all. This is not simply a career bias, but a common sense approach.

In having an expert partner in your home buying journey, you have a lifeline of sorts. I can offer you advice, teach you things, look out for your best interests, and drive you to the houses you would like to see. Because I grew up in Hingham, MA, I do know the areas of each town and community I serve that are off the main roads. Not only do I know how to navigate to the neighborhoods you want to see, I also know a lot about the neighborhoods within each community. I probably know about neighborhoods that you don’t.

You can go online and poke around to find some general town information, but reliable, trustworthy neighborhood information is much harder to come by.  Town websites do not have information about what it’s like to live in each specific neighborhood within the town limits.

I am forever grateful to have grown up here in the Hingham area and because of this I have organic, local knowledge acquired over time. Realtors that are new to any geographical area have the gigantic task of acquainting themselves with each town, and more importantly, the nuances of every single neighborhood within each town. This learning takes on a life of its own and with demographics always changing, the chase for familiarity never ends.

Even though I am a Realtor, it would be unfair if I did not mention that there are other methods people use to see homes for sale. Online searching is sometimes an exclusive means to an end for some home buyers, although I prefer to use this as a tool for your advantage. Sometimes homes change hands within families without a Realtor, but usually the buyers have significant knowledge of the home and area. Buyers sometimes wander to open houses on Sundays and have yet to work with a broker. This is actually a useful way to meet and see real estate agents in action and might come in handy when it comes time to choose your Realtor. When homes are advertised privately, and without a listing real estate agent, anyone, including a buyer working with a Realtor, can make an offer.

Below is a short list of first steps to take when planning to buy real estate. 
1) Buy a notebook devoted exclusively towards buying your first house

2) Let your mind wander and imagine all the home features you would like and write them down

3) After letting the list sit for a few days, edit the list by crossing out things you can live without

4) After a few more days, edit your list again by making several home features untouchable, or must haves

5) Leave the other house features as potentially negotiable

6) List towns that interest you

7) List towns that don’t interest you

8) If you can, start to list neighborhoods that you like within each town

9) Or, find a Realtor with local and organic experience to help you learn about neighborhoods within your preferred communities

I am available to show you all the towns and neighborhoods around Hingham and the South Shore.


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