A Step-by-Step First Time Buyer's Guide

Buying a home is one of the most exciting milestones of your life. To prepare yourself for this moment, you need to know what to expect during the process. This step-by-step first time buyer’s guide created by your agent will help reduce the stress of buying a home and help you enjoy the journey as much as possible.


Step 1: Research

Do you already know where you want to buy? If you want a condo, townhome, or single-family home? Which features do you like and dislike? What’s available on the market now? If you answered no to any of these questions, now is the time to start researching. In addition to looking for homes that interest you, also take note of any changes in asking prices. This could give you valuable insight into housing trends in specific neighborhoods and help you when the time comes to make an offer.


Step 2: Decide on Your Budget

Notice I said to decide on your budget—not determine how much the mortgage company will give you. In many cases, a mortgage company will pre-approve you for more than you’re comfortable spending, which is why you need to determine the monthly payment you feel comfortable with before talking to a lender. This likely includes doing a full household budget and taking into consideration what changes other than a mortgage payment will occur once you move into your new home. If you’ve lived in an apartment or with roommates, you may overlook new expenses like garbage, water, or HOA fees that could easily blow your budget.


Step 3: Get Prequalified

Just because you think you can afford a certain payment every month doesn’t mean the mortgage company will agree. Just as they may approve you for too large of an amount, they may also approve you for a lesser amount or deny you a mortgage altogether. Lack of time at a job, insufficient credit, past bankruptcies, or other financial issues can cause major problems when trying to secure a mortgage. Before you get your heart set on a home, talk to a mortgage professional to find out what amount you can qualify for. This will also be an advantage when you make an offer on a home, as some sellers won’t entertain offers from those who aren’t already prequalified for a loan.


Step 4: Choose a Real Estate Agent

Can you shop for, look at, and ultimately make an offer on a home without a Real Estate Agent? Technically yes, but why would you when it costs you nothing for an agent like me to take much of the stress off your shoulders? Not only will we help identify properties you might be interested in, arrange showings, and ultimately handle the offer process, but we also have a knowledge of the market that you don’t possess. We may be able to steer you away from certain homes or neighborhoods, suggest hidden gems, or give you pointers that will help you find your dream home for the right price.

You are one step closer

Our goal is to provide you with the most personalized service that is designed to help you buy your dream home.


Step 5: Find the Right Home

This should be the most enjoyable step of the entire process (other than moving in!). We will arrange showings of homes you’re interested in that are within your price range. Take notes about what you like and don’t like, and make sure to pay attention to details. Turn light switches on and off, open and close doors, and run the faucets in various rooms. Don’t limit your inspection to the home itself. Make sure to take time to explore the neighborhood and keep an eye on traffic at certain times of the day, the parking situation, and how close it is to necessities like schools and grocery stores.


Step 6: Make an Offer

Once you have selected the perfect home, work with your agent to craft a fair offer based on the value of comparable homes on the market. Depending on what the home is listed at and whether the current environment is a buyer’s or seller’s market, your offer may be below, at, or even above the asking price. We will be able to help you negotiate if you receive a counteroffer and reach an agreement. At this point, the house will go into escrow.


Step 7: Have the Home Inspected

In most cases, your offer will be contingent on having the home inspected to ensure there is no major structural damage or large repairs needed. We can help you arrange this, and you can schedule it within days of making an offer. If there are no major issues, the process goes to step eight. If there is, you can renegotiate your offer based on what needs to be fixed, or you can withdraw it.


Step 8: Select Your Loan

Now is the time to go back to the mortgage lender who pre-approved or pre-qualified you and choose your mortgage. You will be presented with various options based on your unique financial situation, including fixed-rate, variable-rate, 15-year, 30-year, or special programs such as VA loans or FHA loans. Work with your mortgage lender to select the option you feel the most comfortable with.


Step 9: Get a Home Appraisal

Your lender will have your new home appraised so they have their independent value of it. The appraisal is to ensure that all parties involved are paying a fair price for the house.


Step 10: Finish Paperwork

No one looks forward to all the paperwork involved in buying a home, but it’s a necessary part of the process. Fortunately, everything will be arranged by your lender and title company and, when you’re finished, you’ll know you are the legal owner of your new home.


After signing the final paperwork to complete the purchase, you are now the owner of a new house. It may take a few days for your loan to be funded once the paperwork has been returned to the lender, but once that check is delivered to the seller, you’ll be all set to move into the home of your dreams.

There is no other team I would want to do business with in South Carolina. Sarah and Charlsi always go above and beyond what is expected of them to get the deal done. 5 stars all the way.

— Steve B.

Charsli was the first agent I have had that is worth her weight in gold! She went above and beyond with everything. Connected me to great people so I could move on with my project. Checked in on things well after our house was bought. I cannot recommend her and Sarah enough.

— David Z.

Working with Sarah and Charlsi for both the purchase and sale of our homes was the ideal experience. They went above and beyond to make sure everything went as smoothly as possible. Would recommend working with them in a heartbeat, and have referred anyone I know looking for a home their way.

— Meghan F.

Charlsi and Sarah are Rockstar agents in the Charleston area! Moving from California, they made the home-buying process a breeze from going to open houses, the walk-through with the home inspector, and linking me up with a lender, all the way to closing. Whether your looking for a new home or adding a rental property to your portfolio, these two are your go to team!

— Lawler N.

Sarah is the best! She helped me buy a house and then sell my old one and was with me every step of the way each time. I'm someone who gets nervous when it comes to real estate but she kept me on task, giving me gentle nudges when things were due - and kept me level-headed and calm when I would get anxious. Sarah made the experience really lovely, I will be using her forever!

— Sabine F.

Best real estate agents you can find in Charleston! As a first-time home buyer, it was great having agents extremely knowledgeable of real estate investing as a whole. They were awesome in providing virtual house tours since I was buying from another state, and even better in person when I was able to make a trip to Charleston to see homes. I would work with Charlsi and Sarah again in a heartbeat.

— Joshua K.

Charlsi and Sarah are a top-notch team and I highly recommend them. They are amazing at what they do, they have a great network, and they work quickly. I can say without hesitation they have the integrity and fortitude to have your best interests in mind. I was a difficult customer being in an unusual occupation and financial situation, but Charlsi and Sarah found ways to make it happen in one of the mos...

— Frank R.

Sarah and Charlsi represented me as real estate agents on the purchase of my first rental property in Charleston, SC. They were incredibly effective as a team - Sarah helped go through various MLS listings, while Charlsi ran proformas on those deals to assess profitability. Since I was a beginner in real estate investing, both helped me get up to speed on everything, from understanding the 1% rule to neg...

— Shrey D.

Sarah and I have been neighbors and friends for many years. When I decided to sell my home in Riverland Terrace, I debated whether to try selling FSBO or use an agent. Interest rates were edging up, and I decided to use a professional, and Sarah was my obvious choice. Sarah and Charlsie each bring their unique talents to form a synergistic partnership. In other words, the value they brought to the table ...

— Charles H.

We had the pleasure of working with Sarah Kozlik while searching for a multi-family property in downtown Charleston. She knows Charleston well and is familiar with the neighborhood and its uniqueness. We met Sarah at an open house and immediately felt a personal connection and just knew she could help us with our search. Sarah took notes regarding our specific needs and within days had a list of properti...

— Barry M.

We recently had the genuine pleasure of working with Sarah Kozlik and Charlsi Kelley of Living Well Group Charleston Real Estate Experts while searching for a property in downtown Charleston. These experts know Charleston extremely well and are familiar with all the neighborhoods and their characteristics. Meeting with Sarah and Charlsi, we immediately felt a personal connection and knew Living Well Grou...

— Tiffany M.

Work With Us

Whether purchasing your very first home or looking for your next investment property, we understand firsthand how important the decision is- and having the right agent in your corner can make all the difference! We value our clients' trust and work hard to exceed expectations at every step in the process.