In Charlotte’s dynamic real estate market, finding your dream home can feel like an adventure, especially for first-time buyers. To offer expert guidance in our ever-changing realm state landscape, we sat down with Sarah Martin, crowned Charlotte’s Best Broker by the Charlotte Observer in 2023. With over a decade of experience and a deep passion for the city, Sarah shares invaluable insights and tips to help you find your place in Charlotte’s vibrant neighborhoods.

What advice would you offer to first-time homebuyers in Charlotte who are entering a competitive market this year?

My #1 advice would be to explore beyond your comfort zone. Charlotte’s growth is reshaping neighborhoods swiftly. Drive around and get to know your “top” choices and then collaborate closely with your agent to explore areas adjacent to your top-choice neighborhood. Maybe you love Dilworth but, at the moment, can’t jump into the $500/ft market. But, do you know about Ashbrook or the old (and new) areas of Sedgefield that still give you the same overall vicinity as Dilworth for a fraction of the price? In a few years, what feels like a distinct area now might seamlessly blend into your preferences, offering expanded options and potentially more affordable choices. And honestly, maybe even MORE equity in the long run.

We’re back to seeing multiple offer situations in our market. Can you share some insights on how first-time home buyers can be financially prepared to navigate this challenge?

Before embarking on your house-hunting journey, it is a MUST to chat with (and fill out an application with) a lender to understand your financial capacity. Ensure you have a robust cash reserve for the down payment, closing costs, and post-closing needs (blinds, a couch, moving truck cost, etc.). A stress-free financial position allows you to navigate the process with confidence, ensuring you don’t feel “strapped” during this significant life event. You will also very likely have to put down significant deposits and you want to be able to win offers with larger deposits. In Charlotte, we are talking at least $20,000 for those at the “entry-level” price point. Without a good amount of cash on hand, it could be virtually impossible to win in this market. And really, I would suggest talking to 2 or 3 lenders if you don’t feel comfortable and trusting of the first one you speak with.

What are some important factors first time home buyers should consider when selecting the right agent?

Collaborating with a seasoned real estate agent is not just a recommendation; it’s a necessity. Given Charlotte’s evolving landscape, an experienced agent provides invaluable insights into local market trends, helping you make informed decisions and navigate the complexities of the competitive market with ease. Last fall was a totally different environment than what this spring is gearing up to be. Due diligence fee amounts are changing. Knowing the in’s and out’s of the comparable of a neighborhood could make or break your financing. Long story short, an agent who is dripping with knowledge, insight, and confidence will help you win bids, make great investments, and keep you sane during the (entire) process.

In a market where multiple offers are the norm, your bid needs to stand out. Discuss with your agent the special tips and tricks that elevate your offer above the rest. A basic or average offer might not make the cut, so be prepared to get creative and think outside the box to make your offer irresistible. Want to know the tips? Give me a call; I can’t just publish all the juicy stuff here!! ;)

Any other advice for home buyers looking to purchase their first home in 2024?

In this fast-paced real estate market, patience becomes a valuable asset. Homes may fly off the market quickly, but rushing into decisions can lead to regrets. Stay patient, trust the process, and rest assured that the right home will come your way.

I’ve had clients get teary-eyed over homes they “lost out on” only to have tears of joy (and relief!) when “the one” that comes on the market and is actually meant for them works out! I truly can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I’m so glad we didn’t get that other house!” With offers, put your best foot forward, but don’t compromise your budget, your desires, or that “gut” feeling when something isn’t right. Patience WILL pay off.

Ready to kickstart your home buying journey? Give Sarah a call today! With her by your side, you’ll be well-equipped to navigate Charlotte’s market and make this YOUR year to find your dream home!