How to buy your first home in a hot housing market

Multi-generational homes have long been a norm here in Hawaii, but with housing costs rising, moving out of mom and dad’s house is turning into more of dream than a reality for many young people.

If you’re a millennial, you don’t have to be stuck. You just need to act fast.

According to Locations, the median home price on Oahu last month was $750,000, up more than $30,000 from the same time last year. Condos are also seeing a $30,000-plus jump with median prices climbing to $407,000.

So what can you do if you’re looking to get into the real estate market? We went to the experts at Locations for tips on how to get the most for your money.

Regardless of what buying category you fall into, there is a basic to-do list that any perspective buyer should follow.

First, get prequalified.

Second, find an experienced agent and/or company with knowledge of the marketplace, and access to the technology to help you find a property that best meets your needs.

Third, educate yourself.

“Look at what lifestyle the property provides you. Match that lifestyle up to the needs that you have and what are the features of those properties that meet those needs,” said Chad Takesue, senior vice president of sales.

One the biggest concerns for a first-time buyer jumping in now is price.

Takesue says when it comes to a down payment, 20 percent isn’t set in stone.

“We have a 10-percent down program, 5-percent down programs, and even some areas where it’s hundred-percent financing available depending where the area is located,” Takesue said.

One note of caution however. Lower down payments could result in a higher interest rate or additional closing costs.

Of course, when comparing condominiums with single-family homes, you also need to look at maintenance fees or homeowners association fees and what they cover.

“Many of these projects are including packages with cable and internet, and internet speed matters to the millennials, so if it includes that, hey it’s a wash. You’d be spending that if you bought a single-family home without those maintenance fees,” Takesue said.

If you’re considering a fixer-upper, be careful and do your homework. While they may be less expensive on the front end, they can become money pits over time.

When it comes to millennials, Takesue says the home itself isn’t necessarily the top priority.

“They’re looking at amenities outside the property, what’s the closest rec center, grocery store, proximity to other entertainment facets of their lifestyle,” Takesue said.

Takesue says remember this isn’t your forever home, it’s your right-now home.

“Definitely, we grew up in a generation where parents bought their first home and are still in that same home,” Takesue said. “I say look at five to eight years, and then being willing to graduate to the next-level property over time and eventually work your way toward that dream home would be the best bet.”

In the meantime, he says, pick a place that fits your budget and, especially for millennials, one that fits your lifestyle.

Click here for more home-buying tips from Locations.

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