Buyer's Guide

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 I help identify properties you might be interested in, arrange showings, and ultimately handle the offer process, but I also have a knowledge of the market that you don’t possess. I 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.

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

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Step 5: Find the Right Home

This should be the most enjoyable step of the entire process (other than moving in!). I 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.

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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. I 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.

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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. I 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Congratulations!

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. 

Our Testimonials

MIKE B.

MIKE B.

We worked with Scott through the process of selling our old home and buying our new one, and in both cases, he made the experiences exceptional! In representing us as sellers, his incredible attention to detail, expansive knowl...
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LIANNA K.

LIANNA K.

Mark and Stephen were the best. As a young first-time homebuyer, I was nervous, overwhelmed, and honestly uneducated about the whole process. Mark and Stephen listened to what I wanted and even put up with my evening and weeken...
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RICHARD C.

RICHARD C.

I was always afraid of looking into purchasing a home, as it is a large and tedious step to take in one's life, but had I known about The Rutstein Group, I would have done this a long time ago. Everyone on the team is filled wi...
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BUYER

BUYER

Mark and Tom were fantastic every step of the way. As a first-time home buyer, I was nervous about the process and they made everything so easy for me. They took care of so many details which I sincerely appreciated (setting up...
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ELLEN J.

ELLEN J.

I worked with Jordan and The Rutstein Group for about 7 months before buying a condo in Kalorama. As a first-time home-buyer, it was important for me to work with someone who both understood the DC market and could provide step...
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BUYER

BUYER

As a first time home buyer, I was intimidated and overwhelmed by the DC real estate market. But Mark took the time to get to know me, and my needs and wants in a new home. He carefully curated a list of potential properties, an...
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NICHOLAS B.

NICHOLAS B.

Mark did a great job helping us sell our condo and buy our house in 2015 so we went to him when we wanted to dip our toes into the market. Before Covid, we were considering upgrading to a larger place but were in no hurry. Afte...
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NIKIA G.

NIKIA G.

I used Mark Rutstein both for the purchase of my DC row house in 2015 and for the sale of it this year. Mark and his team, Steve Rutgers and Wendy Daywalt, were excellent in every conceivable way. My house was priced at the top...
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ISAAC J.

ISAAC J.

Mark helped my husband and me with both the sale of our DC condo (purchased with Mark’s help several years ago) and the purchase of our new home in VA. Both transactions were highly complex, made even more so by the ongoing pan...
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BUYER

BUYER

Mark was amazing. My fiancee and I started the process with a very vague idea of what we were looking for and where we were looking for it. Mark was patient as we toured a variety of houses that helped us hone in on what we lik...
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AARON B.

AARON B.

During the pandemic, I changed roles and companies requiring me to relocate from Chicago to Northern Virginia. I had reached out to a friend for a recommendation, which is how met Mark and his team. And I'm so grateful for that...
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JAMIE M.

JAMIE M.

As first-time home buyers, my husband I and are so grateful that we found Scott from the Rutstein Group! He was there for us every step of the way and was extremely responsive and knowledgeable about the home buying process. It...
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STEPHANIE S.

STEPHANIE S.

The perfect Realtors®! I cannot praise or recommend the Rutstein Group enough; they were incredibly kind and helpful and a pleasure to work with. Mark and Stephen made the home-buying process as easy and painless as possible, g...
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NIKIA G.

NIKIA G.

I've worked with Mark to buy two different houses and sell one other. He is fantastic and I highly recommend him. First, he's fun, and buying a home should be fun. But second, he knows his stuff. When I first put an offer in on...
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DAVE B.

DAVE B.

Mark and the team are amazing to work with. I relocated here to DC from Philadelphia, they did such a great job. They listened to my laundry list of requirements, and offer some expert advice with suggestions for purchasing a c...
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ANUSHREE B.

ANUSHREE B.

Mark and Stephen were wonderful to work for as we sold our place and purchased a new one. On both transactions, they were knowledgeable, responsive, and excellent advocates. Thanks to them, our first offer was accepted in this ...
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TOMMY P.

TOMMY P.

Mark and Stephen worked with me endlessly to find the perfect home that fits my needs. Even during these competitive times and being in a "seller's market", Mark and Stephen got me a great deal that included closing help from t...
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CHRISTOPHER J.

CHRISTOPHER J.

Mark and Stephen are the best, an absolute pleasure to work with. I would highly recommend working with them to buy or sell a home. They were always available, often at short notice, to show properties or discuss my home search...
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BALDWIN

BALDWIN

Professional, accommodating, knowledgeable, smart, patient, hyper-responsive, and unflappable with fantastic customer service. Cannot think of anything else you could ask of a first-rate Realtor®. Mark anticipated and delivered...
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RACHEL P.

RACHEL P.

We are now first-time homebuyers thanks to Scott with the Rutstein Group! He was amazing to work with and extremely communicative. He answered our questions and addressed our concerns usually within minutes (if not less). Scott...
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