Advice from a Real Estate Agent

Hi everyone! I'm excited for today's post, because I'm teaming up Amanda, one of my favorite bloggers out there, to give you some advice. Once I found out that Amanda is a licensed realtor, I knew I had to get some help with her during my home buying process.  Luckily for me, she was willing to share some secrets and now I'm going to pass that knowledge on to you.

Whether you're currently house hunting, or hoping to do so in the next few years, I think this is all great advice and I hope you'll find it helpful!  Take it away, Amanda!

Hi I’m Amanda! I’m a Licensed Realtor in Dubuque, Iowa. I started working in real estate as a part-time marketing assistant during college and I’ve been in the industry just about 3 years now. After graduation
I obtained my real estate license and am now working as a Realtor/Licensed Assistant on a team of 3

Some of these tips may seem like common sense, but as I think back to just a few years ago, I had
absolutely no clue about the home-buying process. I remember wishing there would have been a class
in college about topics such as buying a home, how to improve your credit score, buying a car, investing,
and other things that are super important, but not as commonly taught in classes (or at least not mine!).

Real estate is different from state to state and the markets can even vary between each city. Every place
is different, but these tips are based on my experience working in real estate in Iowa.

10 tips for first time home buyers:

1. Getting pre-approved is the very first step when you start to get serious about buying a home.
Meet with your lender and find out how much you can afford. The last thing you want is to look
at a house, fall in love with it, and then learn that it’s out of reach for you.

2. As a buyer, working with a Realtor is no cost to you. Before I got into real estate this was
something I didn’t understand at all. The Realtors are paid commission from the seller and it will
be split between the seller’s agent and the buyer’s agent.

3. Realtors really are the experts on the local market so get in contact with one and see if you can
meet with him/her to discuss what you’re looking for. They can keep an eye out for you and if
something comes on the market that fits your criteria, they can get you in for a showing right
away so you don’t miss anything.

4. Pay attention to (or ask your Realtor) what the market conditions are. Are you in a seller’s
market? A buyer’s market? Or a relatively stable market? Each of these scenarios will call for a
different strategy when it comes to not only placing an offer, but the house hunting in process in

5. Zillow and Trulia aren’t usually the best resources for searching for homes. Oftentimes there will
be homes that look like they’re for sale on here, but they aren’t even listed on the market or for
sale by owner. They have inaccurate information and the home value estimates (Zestimates) are
generally off. No one from Zillow ever steps foot into one of these homes, so how are they
supposed to know how much it is worth? Stick with websites such as or your local
real estate company’s website.

6. Ask your Realtor or lender about any first time home buyer incentives. In my city there are a few
grants you can receive if you’re buying your first home to go towards the down payment or
closing costs. There are also loans targeted towards these buyers too that won’t require as
much of a down payment.

7. If a home says it’s “under contract,” “pending,” “subject to contingencies” or “subject to
financing,” that’s generally just a long of saying it’s sold. It hasn’t closed yet, but it’s no longer
active and (usually) not accepting showings.

8. Before you make an offer on a home, make sure you’re aware of the costs that may come up.
Aside from the mortgage, buyers usually pay for a home inspection, radon test, pest inspection,
closing costs, and potentially others. Ask your Realtor for an estimate sheet so you know up
front the fees/costs you should be ready for.

9. When you’ve been pre-approved and have placed an offer on a home, it’s important that you
don’t make any big purchases or switch jobs during this time. This can really affect your credit
score so hold off on buying a new car, purchasing new furniture, or quitting your job until after
you close on the home.

10. There is no perfect home! Be open minded and flexible when searching for homes. For the
majority of people, they may only do this a small number of times (or once!) in their life.

Although it can be a stressful process, try to have fun and make the best of it!

Thank you so much to Amanda for all of the helpful tips!  Be sure to check out her blog, Exploring Life and Things.  I know you'll love it as much as I do!

Who else is in the house hunting process?
What tips do you have for finding and purchasing a home?
Do you have any other questions about home buying?

Linking up with Amanda!


  1. Really great tips, Amanda! Especially the one about Zillow and Trulia. Obviously I'm not in the market for a home yet but (for some reason) I've always assumed their listings were accurate.

  2. OK, this was fascinating! I had no idea that working with a realtor was at no cost to the buyer! I haven't bought a house, but I can see us upgrading to one within the next few years. Thanks for the tips, Gretchen & Amanda!

  3. Well... I am married to a realtor so I've got the inside scoop! Woohoo! In more ways than one. Ha ha! Okay so anyway, it's really true how most people don't even realize that as buyers it doesn't cost them a thing to use a realtor. So that would be the most important thing to consider when you're heading out there!

  4. Thanks so much Gretchen! You're so sweet:) So happy I could write for one of my favorite blogs for a day:)

  5. My advice: be realistic about what you are going to be able to change. Get a quote from a contractor, if you need to. Have an idea of what renovations cost, and factor them into your entire budget as well as your mortgage!

  6. My husband and I are in the pending process-close on may 5th. Everyone always said how fun buying a home is.. it's very stressful. Especially when you find your dream home and get outbid I also never realized that even though the sellers accepts your offer and your pre-approved there are many ways you can still lose the property. After the appraisal if both parties don't agree, then the underwriting stage. It's like you can not get happy about the home and know it's truly yours until your actually at the closing table. Also, always get an estimate of the entire closing costs for each home you want to put an offer in for to make sure you have the funds.

  7. These are all SUCH great tips - thank you Gretchen and Amanda for sharing (PS I'm also from Iowa! Yay!!). Count me among the total dummies who didn't know working with a realtor was free for the buyer, and who didn't realize to be wary of Zillow/Truvia. I dream of homeownership one day, but we are so far off from that reality, which is both sad and a little relieving. But I will absolutely be keeping this in mind for when that day comes!

    What Kristin mentioned above happened to my mom when she was trying to sell her condo a couple years ago, and it sucks. She went through all the work of cleaning it out and getting ready to move only have it fall through at the last minute. So I definitely harbor no illusions before I go in about this being a stressful process!

  8. this is great - the last one is definitely so true and so hard to wrap your mind around at first - i blame hgtv!

  9. I love Amanda! I'm saving this for the hopeful day that I can buy a home. This advice is so good and so important! She's the best

  10. These are great! I've bought two homes and sold one within the last two years. Before the entire process, I really had no idea how the agents got paid. I always assumed that is was a spit cost between the buyer and the seller. Who knew!


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