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. Finding the perfect home can be a daunting task, this is where my expertise and wealth of knowledge come into play. Let me show you around some homes that meet your dream home criteria so you can find the one that's right for you.

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.

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I highly recommend Phi-Van for the Asheville area. She knows the area well and provides excellent service to all her clients. She makes everyone she works with feel like they are family.

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As a fellow real estate agent, I have been referring my clients to Phi-Van Cherry. She has been great to work with and very responsive. All my clients have been super happy when I have referred her way!

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Phi Van helped us find a wonderful home. She is patient, and always had time to answer any questions we had. We are so grateful to know such a great agent, and person.

— Sandy Brinson | Asheville, NC 2019

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Phi-Van is provides first class service - beyond and above all others; we HIGHLY recommend forevermore 🌟

— Private Investor | Asheville, NC 2022

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First-class service; HIGHLY recommend! 🌟

— OLio | Asheville, NC 2021

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Phi-Van spent months helping us find the perfect house. Even when covid started she was there for us and made house hunting safe and as easy as possible. She was always at reach immediately and went above and beyond! I can't recommend her enough if you want to find your dream home!

— Heather W. | Mooresboro, NC 2021

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Phi-Van Cherry has been an exceptional referral partner. Professional, responsive, knowledgeable, and caring. I can go on and on. She always amazes me with her thoughtfulness and attention to detail, and she is a phenomenal resource for all things Asheville. I highly recommend working with her!

— Jessica P.

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Phi-Van is amazing! Not only she sold us a beautiful home but here we are 4 months later she is still here for us! Today she spend most part of her day at our home letting in the pest service man since we are in Florida! She could have said no but thats the person she is. We just absolutely love her!

— Mary V. | Mill Spring, NC 2020

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Phi-Van is amazing! She found us a home that had everything we were looking for. She held our hands through every step of the buying process, was always available and enthusiastic to answer my one million questions, was very timely in response, and always made sure to look out for our best interests! I highly recommend her to anyone looking to buy a home.

— Kyla M. | Etowah, NC 2022

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Phi-Van helped us find a home through a cross-country move from Los Angeles. She understood the nature of my family and always recommended a home that would fully address our needs and kept a watch out for potential issues in homes and locations. She made sure the home would not be near a main road because our kids may run into the street or the distance from nearby stores. She looked out for us from the...

— Cuong V. | Rutherfordton, NC 2021

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Phi-Van was absolutely wonderful to work with! She went above and beyond in everything throughout our time working with her. As a first-time home buyer, she helped my husband and me find the perfect place that fit exactly what we were looking for. We literally searched for 5 months and visited over 100 houses. I have never seen real estate agents devote that much time and effort to putting a client in a ...

— Caroline F. | Fletcher, NC 2020

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I highly recommend Phi-Van Cherry whom I met when I joined the Hendersonville Woman’s Club (HWC) a few years ago. In that time I have developed a tremendous admiration for this woman. She has a tremendous drive to create success not just for herself but those around her. When she sets out to do something you’d best get on it with her or get out of the way. Now she is President of the HWC and sees everyth...

— Barbara I.

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What a blessing it was to work with Phi! From the moment we met her, my husband and I knew this was not only the right choice but best one! Phi was professional and always available to answer a question. After struggling to sell our home for a year, she stepped in and sold it in two days! Highly recommend Phi-Van Cherry to make your dreams a reality!

— C Gowing | Barnardsville, NC 2023

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Phi-Van was wonderful to work with. She works tirelessly to find you the perfect home and is extremely knowledgeable about the housing market. She has an eye for detail and will go out of her way to ensure you have a wonderful experience during your home-buying process.

— JW | Simpsonville, SC 2023

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Phi was amazing to work with! She always responds the right way and is communicative about what’s on the market. She looks out for the best interest of your families’ situation and needs and is very patient and caring. She is very knowledgeable about the market. She always made herself available to my schedule being a mom herself.

— So appreciative | Hendersonville, NC 2023

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Couldn’t have asked for a more professional, more personable realtor than Phi-Van. She was helpful from beginning to end, listened to our desires and preferences, and help us secure a home that fit us well. I can’t recommend her highly enough!

— Jack | Asheville, NC 2023

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My husband and I had nothing short of an incredible experience working with Phi! We were first-time home buyers and Phi really helped to navigate us through the process. She is extremely responsive, patient, and has a great sense of humor. Don’t look any further than Phi-Van Cherry for your real estate needs!

— Jenna | Asheville, NC 2022

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We bought AND sold our first home with Phi-Van and it was a pleasure to work with her. She has an amazing work ethic. She commits her time and effort into each client. Her services truly surpasses expectation. She is on top of every issue and task that arises. Her communication/follow up is 10 out of 10. I wish I could’ve taken her with me to help buy our new home where we relocated. Highly recommend!

— Ann | Rutherfordton, NC 2021

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I have known Phi-Van since 2020 as she was the realtor for the land my fiancé and I purchased. And now, she was the realtor that helped us sell the home we built on that land. Buying, building, selling is one of the most stressful events I think someone can go through and Phi-Van has a way of making the process seamless and less stressful. Not only does she have extensive real estate knowledge she also k...

— Erin | Lake Lure, NC 2022

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Phi-Van was a referral from another realtor. We are out of state buyers and had no contacts in the area. The whole process is as about as smooth as you could hope for. We had an initial video meeting to talk about what we wanted and shortly thereafter had a full inbox of potential sites. We worked through those, refined things and settled on a list of roughly 15 sites. Phi-Van gave us a full Friday /Satu...

— Tom | Hendersonville, NC 2022

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Phi-Van is an incredibly hard worker and helped make it possible to get our house on the market right away. Her advice helped us get under contract with the best offer and we were able to sell our home in less than a month! We used Phi-van to buy this home as a first time buyer two years ago and we are so happy to have her help us as first time seller.

— Emi S | Asheville, NC 2022

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Phi-Van was amazing from our first point of contact until the end. My husband and I were more than pleased with all of her hard work and dedication in not only finding us the perfect home for our needs, but also in ensuring that we got more bang for our buck. If you want a realtor who will literally give her all, look no further. She is AMAZING!

— Angie Mason | Arden, NC 2021

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I'd give more than 5 stars if I could! Phi-Van was an exceptional agent to work with. She was focused on my interests in the contract process and very responsive. She went above and beyond to get me into my home. Would absolutely recommend her to anyone wanting to buy or sell.

— Amber C | Columbus, NC 2021

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Phi-Van went way above and beyond for us buying our house. We were buying while living in another state and Phi-Van did video showings for us and gave us plenty of information so we could make an informed decision. We very much appreciated her diligence in helping us get a home in this very competitive market!

— Kathy S | Granite Falls, NC 2021

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Phi-Van was extraordinarily accommodating in every phase of our home search, purchase and move. She went far beyond the call of duty, making certain our needs and wishes were met. We so enjoy our new home and exploring the Asheville area. Phi-Van gave us many recommendations for shopping, sightseeing, and home improvement ideas. She is an absolute top-notch professional and I heartily recommend her to an...

— Shipwreck John | Candler, NC 2020

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An amazing realtor, kept me in the loop each step of the way, assisted me in dealing with an incredibly icy buyers realtor as well as an amazingly inept buyers attorney. I'd recommend Phi-van to anyone who needs a great realtor with unbelievable marketing skills!

— Janet | Hendersonville, NC 2021

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5 stars for Phi Van Cherry as our real estate agent. I reached out to her in August 2020 from out of state and by October 2020 we were closing on our beautiful new home in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Phi Van was efficient and professional in sending us homes to look at online before we came to town and then once in town she showed us homes for 3 straight days. Phi Van also made an inspection on our n...

— Kalee | Hendersonville, NC 2020

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Phi-Van spent months helping us find the perfect house. Even when covid started she was there for us and made house hunting safe and as easy as possible. She was always at reach immediately and went above and beyond! I can't recommend her enough if you want to find your dream home!

— Heather Weinstein | Rutherfordton, NC 2020

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Phi-Van is great! Our realtor in Florida recommended her and she was perfect. We flew in for a weekend and saw every house we could. Phi-Van made sure we saw those plus others. She pointed out all the good, questionable and worthy parts of the home and area. She went out of her way to "show" us a house after we were back home. We put in a bid and from then on, she made sure we were covered in every way p...

— Sandy | Candler, NC 2020

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY

Phi-Van was absolutely wonderful to work with! She went above and beyond in everything throughout our time working with her. As a first-time home buyers, she helped my husband and me find the perfect place that fit exactly what we were looking for. We literally searched for 5 months and visited over 100 houses--I have never seen real estate agents devote that much time and effort to put a client in a hou...

— Caroline Elliott | Fletcher, NC 2020

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We moved up here for a job and did not have any idea of where we wanted to live and no market expertise. Phi was always available (day and late nights) to assist us with finding the right home. She was always prompt, professional, courteous and remains a friend long after closing on our home.

— jmb236 | Asheville, NC 2019

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Normally purchasing property can be so stressful but Phi-Van made this process seem so smooth and exciting for my fiance and I. We were property shopping out of town and were there for only 1 day and our previous realtor was a no show and Phi-Van was contacted by a friend and immediately came to our rescue...on a weekend! She was there every step of way giving us no time to feel any pressure or stress. W...

— Erin | Lake Lure, NC 2019

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We are very lucky to have met Phi-Van early on in August 2018 when we were just starting to look into moving in the area! Not only was she super patient with us being first home buyers, but she went above and beyond to make sure that we would find the best starter home. Her expertise in buying (and selling) helped us make our decisions when it came to putting in our offers. We recommend working with Phi-...

— Joe R. | Asheville, NC 2019

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY

Phi-Van is amazing! She found us a home that had everything we were looking for. She held our hands through every step of the buying process, was always available and enthusiastic to answer my one million questions, very timely in response and always made sure to look out for our best interests! I highly recommend her to anyone looking to buy a home.

— Kayla B | Leicester, NC 2018

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I am very pleased with the service and professionalism that Phi-Van provided for us in our home buy. She constantly looked out for our best interest during our search, from find prospective homes to providing assessments to which homes would suit our needs. She helped with all aspects of the final purchase and we are very pleased with our new home.

— David V | Rutherfordton, NC 2017

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Phi-Van was an excellent realtor. She took the time to show us several properties and was very patient with us when we were indecisive. She then did the research to find us a very good deal on a builders interest rate to allow us to buy a luxury home we would not of otherwise been able to afford. She even got the price of the home down for us on a technicality. Would highly recommend to anyone buying or ...

— Tyler Owen | Fountain Inn, SC 2023

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We were impressed from start to finish with Phi-Van and are grateful for her help in purchasing a home in the Asheville area. She was always cordial and very responsive to our needs and requests. She is very knowledgeable and professional and helped us get an offer in quickly which was important in this environment. She went above and beyond and took a personal interest in helping us find the right home....

— Jack Piquette | Asheville, NC 2023

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