How to Buy Your First Home
Real estate expert Samantha DeBianchi talks hustling hard and investing wisely.
Samantha DeBianchi doesn’t take no for an answer. She earned an MBA and became a major Miami nightlife manager all before she turned 25. She then convinced a skeptical dean at Florida International University's hospitality school to allow her to create a course on nightclub management. In her hands, the class quickly grew to 100 students. Then, she turned her attention to real estate. She got her license while managing nightclubs full-time in 2009, and by 2012, she was the housing market expert for CNBC, Fox News and Fox Business. “I promised myself that I would change the misconception about real estate agents,” says Samantha. “I wasn’t just going to take people to homes and make it seem glamourous. I was going to educate my clients so they could feel comfortable with their decisions." DeBianchi Real Estate became one of the top real estate firms in Florida, serving many notable athletes, entrepreneurs and investors.
In her first three years in the business, she made over $25 million in sales, and today, she oversees 13 employees. After being rejected twice, Samantha sent an elaborate, convincing PowerPoint to the producers of Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing Miami. Ever persistent, she was cast as the show's first female agent. Her latest venture is a site aimed at empowering women to have the same tenacious mentality as she does and gives an honest look at the hard work that goes along with it. “When you watch Million Dollar Listing or see me on Fox or CNBC, you see a beautiful picture of my listings,” she says. “You don’t really see the hustle and the grind, the grit and the rawness of what it really takes. I want to show the realness behind everything and how I don’t just roll out of bed, close a sale and go to the spa. That’s not the reality.” Obviously, we want to soak up every bit of life advice we can from this woman. Here, she shares her advice on purchasing your first home — and earning a return on your investment down the line. Unsurprisingly, her tips involve a mix of know-how and hustle.
1. Know the right time—both in life and in the market
Ask yourself, “How much money do I have saved up? Am I bouncing from job to job or have I been at my position for awhile?” You need to have stability in your life and in your finances. In terms of the market, it’s best to buy when interest rates are low. When it’s under 5%, that’s a pretty good time to get a mortgage. Your monthly payments include the interest rate and base mortgage payment, plus taxes and insurance. Together we call that PITI (principal, interest, taxes, insurance). To keep that low, it's key lock in that lower interest rate.
2. Budget for surprise repairs
Look at what you’re paying in rent and determine if you could an pay that in a monthly payment after making a 20% down payment on a home. Then, see if, after all that, you could still afford repair costs. If your A/C breaks, do you have $1,500 to $2,000 available to fix it? That’s how you know when you’re comfortable.
3. Minimize your risk
I always think of exit strategies — what will you do if you're struggling to make your payments? It's especially pertinent for millennials to plan for the worst-case scenario. Are you in a good neighborhood where you'll be able to sell it quickly, even in a bad market? Will it rent well if necessary? Do you have an extra bedroom that you can rent to a roommate if you need to?
4. Use caution when negotiating
Know other properties that are similar to the property that you want and understand the pros and cons of each. Don’t be in a position where you're lowballing the seller unrealistically. If you do so, you’re not going to win. If the property is $500,000 and you’re offering $350,000, the seller won’t even counter back and take you seriously. If you’re working with a real estate agent, trust them. You wouldn’t go to a doctor and say, “Well, WebMD said x,y and z.”
5. Shop around for mortgages
A lot of people just use the banks they already go to for mortgages. But just because you bank with them doesn’t mean they are going to give you the best rate and deal. Educate yourself, shop for mortgages, talk to different people and make a decision from there.
6. Believe in love at first sight
Sometimes people fall in love with the first home they saw, but still feel the need to see 50 more homes to make a decision. They are scared of making an offer on the first home, even though it was just arbitrarily scheduled for us to see first. The lesson here is to go with your gut — when you feel connected to a home, make an offer, otherwise you risk missing out on the opportunity. You’ll know when it’s the right home.
7. Bring a notepad along
Even if you’re physically visiting homes, sometimes you’re not mentally there. Take notes and, if you’re working with a real estate agent, communicate what you like and don’t like about the house. I share a Google doc with my clients so we outline all the homes we’ve seen, the dates we saw them and the reasons they like or don’t like them. It keeps us organized.
8. Don't judge a home by its ugly photos
At times, photos online don’t do the home justice. When you're scoping out properties online, don't let the photos sway you one way or the other. Instead, look at things like the square footage, the number of bedrooms and baths, whether it has a pool, the lot size, the quality of the yard — whatever is important to you. Don't judge the kitchen based on ugly countertops. It could just be bad lighting.
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Image courtesy of Ivanka Trump Illustration by Jonny Ruzzo