Advice of first-time home buyers
For newlyweds Taylor and Greg Flynn, the initial steps on the journey to owning their first home came rather naturally.
“Not sure I ever had a dream,” Taylor said. “I just kind of always assumed it would happen someday.”
For both of them, the benefits of looking for a house in Rhode Island were plentiful. “It was great that we found a home that we both loved in Warwick since it’s close to so many things. Rhode Island is such a quirky little state, and while it has its moments, I do really love living here. Our families and jobs are here, and we wanted to stay close,” says Taylor, who works in Enrollment Services at URI, while Greg is employed as a Pharmaceutical Benefits Manager at CVS/Caremark.
Both grew up in Rhode Island - Greg in Warwick, and Taylor, who was born in North Providence, moved to the city at age 4 or 5. They met during their freshman year of college. Taylor, then a student at Providence College, was introduced through mutual friends to Greg, who was on a weekend visit home from Eastern Connecticut College. The couple, which share a February 27th
birth date, dated for a 9 years and became engaged during Columbus Day weekend in 2015.
During their engagement, while she lived with her mother and Greg lived with his brother, they would discuss their future plans.
“We talked about what our living situation would be when we got married, and quickly decided that we would be better off buying and owning our home, rather than paying rent to someone else,” she said.
“You have nothing to show for it,” Greg said of rental payments. “With buying you’re putting money into something that you can get the money out of.”
The couple analyzed what they felt they could afford and set a maximum of $190,000.
As the process began prior to their wedding, they encountered disappointment when an offer they’d put on a house fell through. This crushed the young couple, but they didn’t let it stop them as they continued their pursuit of “the perfect” home. While spending long hours looking at a multitude of houses, pressure began to mount as their October 14th wedding date approached. It was mid-September and with both working full-time, along with the hustle and bustle of planning a wedding, they decided to act on advice from their realtor to temporarily halt the search. The couple decided if they didn’t find anything by October 1st, they would resume looking when they returned from their honeymoon, an 8-day romantic getaway in Turks and Caicos.
Thankfully, shortly after this decision was made, they found and ended up getting a house they both loved, a 2-bedroom colonial in the city’s Norwood section. Better yet, the price was below their threshold at $165,000.
After they signed the papers and returned from their honeymoon, they lived with Greg’s brother until they closed on the house in November. With the help of friends and family, they were able to get work done on the house before finally moving in shortly before Christmas. [The Christmas tree was one of the first things they set up in the house.] While they thought they might wait, they went ahead and had the hardwood floors refinished, giving the house a bright and “new” feel. The work didn’t stop there.
Greg said the wallpaper was easily removed from the kitchen, but when it came to the front hall it took hours, revealing cracks in the horsehair plaster walls and another task of filling and sanding
Realtor was their mentor
In addition to all of the help they received from loved ones, another person stands out. “It does help to have a good realtor who you trust,” says Taylor, “which in our case, we did!”
Their realtor, Sherri Mercurio, broker/owner of The Mercurio Group Real Estate in Pawtucket, recalls working with the couple, “They were a blast, the easiest clients to work with because they had no preconceived notions,” she said. “It’s fun when someone trusts you 110 percent.”
With 15 years of experience, she has become a leader in the industry while winning numerous awards during her career. This enables her to be a mentor to buyers who may be getting advice from well-meaning friends who’ve never purchased a home before.
“The more people watch HGTV, the more unrealistic they become,” she says. In reality, many homes need some fixing up to fit the wants and needs of the buyer. As with the Flynns, she takes the time to walk clients through the process, letting them know to plan on taking on one project at a time, and sprucing up a little as they go.
The process to purchase a home can seem lengthy as the average client looks at 10 to 15 houses. It all starts with calling a financial institution for pre-approval as many make the mistake of looking and falling in love with a home they won’t be able to afford. After getting approved, then set up an appointment with the realtor and sign a Buyers Agency Contract (which states the realtor is working for they buyer, not the seller). It’s important to discuss with the realtor things you can and can’t live with and the must-haves, and weed it out from there as you begin looking at houses. Once you’ve signed on a property, it takes 30 to 45 days for closing a traditional sale. Sherri strongly emphasizes the importance of not overspending to her clients.
“Even though people are approved for a higher amount, they should definitely sit down and look at a realistic budget after they add in the taxes, homeowners insurance, and typical household costs such as electric, oil, and unexpected costs such as snow removal,” she says, adding that “If you’re smart about what you’re doing and you don’t overspend, this could be a vehicle to financial freedom.”
Jo Ann Coniglio of Primary Residential Mortgage in Cranston, a Senior Loan Officer with over 25 years experience in real estate and financing, also spoke highly of her time with the Flynns.
“My experience was fun because I am so old now in the business that assisting young people is truly an honor and brings me joy,” she says. “Most especially when the buyers are so nice and
down to earth like Greg and Taylor. They worked well as a team, which was helpful and moved the process along.” She also states, “While first time homebuyers are more educated than ever, it can still be overwhelming with the amount of paperwork required.”
As lenders have rules and their paperwork must be complete, she has many tips to offer those seeking a loan. First is getting organized by having documents available such as 30 days of most recent pay stubs, 2 months most recent bank/asset statements, and past years’ tax returns (some programs require
3 years). Also, finding an experienced mortgage lender: “There are programs that may help a first-time home buyer that an inexperienced mortgage originator may not know about or be able to offer, for example, The Tax Credit Certificate,” she advises, also stating that many cities offer down payment and closing cost assistance from time to time. She also stresses the importance of getting pre-qualified especially with a local lender as opposed to online services, which rarely offer specific state agency financing options for first time home buyers. Lastly, it’s important to use an experienced realtor as there are so many details in buying a home, and a realtor will guide clients through shopping, regulations, inspections, and many other aspects.
Now that they are married and settled into their home, the Flynns also have pertinent advice to offer those starting out. Some of their most important tips to remember are to keep an open mind, being creative in imagining the house after you put your own decorative spin on it, and not forgetting that things can be changed. Also, not getting discouraged easily as the house hunting process can seem to take forever. Since people buy houses every day, keeping in mind there is a light at the end of the tunnel is essential, as well as just having fun with the process.