I meet home buyers under all types of circumstances. Some are buying their first home, while others are buying their last. People that have owned a home before, generally have a pretty good understanding of the home buying process. The home buyer who needs guidance, usually The First Time Home Buyer or FTHB, can be the most satisfying to work with, and even the easiest, if you work with them on their home buying plan.
When I first meet the FTHB, it normally goes one of two ways. There's the, "We are buying our first house and we don't know where to start or what to do" people. This group has started their home buying plan; they are meeting with me to get pre-qualified and to see where they stand.
Then there are the "others". The others are usually buying a home based on impulse, wants, or worst case, need, but without any plan or knowledge of the home buying process. They've already fallen in love with a certain home, or their trying to keep up with the "Joneses", or they don't have a place to live now or in the near future. Generally, this group is in over their head and disappointed when I first meet with them, because I have to tell them the bad news. That they can't afford the house they love or houses like their friends or a house at all.
Regardless of the situation, it always starts with a plan. The plan starts with looking where they are and where they realistically can be by looking at some of these factors:
1. Their credit scores, which are based on their credit history. Do they have the credit to qualify?
2. Their assets. How much money have they saved or can they save in a certain period of time?
3. What size home can they realistically afford? Current debt needs to be evaluated, too.
4. What are their goals?
5. Time frame. Depending on their circumstances, it is usually anywhere from 3-12 months.
My advice is to get pre-qualified. Learn where you are at now with your finances, money saved, etc., instead of waiting, and don't get discouraged if you don't hear what you want to hear.
I've been in the mortgage industry for over ten years, I've seen the lows, highs, and lows again, and I've helped many people thru this process. Sometimes it takes a few little tweaks and the home buyer is in their new home in a few months. However, once I worked with someone for 16 months (as I write this I will be closing his second home purchase next week) to get to where he needed to be to close on his first home. Whether it takes a week, a month, or even a year, there is nothing more satisfying than watching someone get the keys to their new home.