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The Essential Beginners Guide to Buying Your Dream Home in NC

Happy Couple New Home

With its stunning landscapes, warm weather, vibrant cities, and quintessential Southern charm, there are plenty of compelling reasons to call North Carolina home. Beyond its natural beauty and rich culture, the Tarheel State is also a haven for aspiring homeowners looking for affordability without compromising a great way of life.

First-time homebuyers in NC will find plenty of opportunities in the state. If you’re embarking on this journey, this guide will take you through the essential steps of buying a home for the first time and provide valuable insights to help you navigate the path to homeownership.


Buying your first home is one of the most exciting experiences you can have in life. But through all the excitement, it’s important to remain objective and avoid making emotional mistakes that can cost you more than you planned for.

Keep these important tips in mind as you go through the thrilling process of home buying.

    1. Differentiate your needs and wants

      The line between what you want and what you need often gets blurred during the homebuying process. Understanding their differences will help you establish a criteria in finding the right home and guide you in making informed decisions while avoiding too many compromises.


      As with any big purchase, the buyer’s needs should always be prioritized. These refer to the features and elements a home should have to meet the buyer’s basic requirements.

      Your needs are the non-negotiable features that can directly impact your everyday living. Some common examples include:

      • Sufficient living space: The square footage and number of bedrooms that can comfortably accommodate all the family members.
      • Safety and Security: A safe neighborhood and a house that’s equipped with proper safety measures such as smoke detectors and sturdy locks.
      • Structural integrity: A well-maintained property with a solid foundation, proper plumbing, and working electrical systems.
      • Accessibility: Features for people with special needs such as wheelchair ramps and elevators.
      • Location: Proximity and ease of access to important destinations such as schools, healthcare facilities, supermarkets, and transportation options.


      “Wants” are the features you’d like to have to maximize the enjoyment of living in the house, but are not essential to your day to day living. They can also change over time as your preferences and lifestyle trends change. Examples of “wants” include:

      • Aesthetics: The architectural style and specific interior design features that enhance the look and ambiance of the property.
      • Finishes: Features such as granite countertops, hardwood flooring, and premium appliances.
      • Additional amenities: These can include swimming pools, home theaters, gyms, bars, libraries, and other luxurious additions.

      Why is this Important?

      Although it might seem trivial, identifying your “needs” and “wants” can make the process tremendously easier for any first-time homebuyer in NC. For one, it can help you set a realistic budget to stick to. In your home search, you can start by looking for homes that meet your “needs” then move on to your “wants”. Doing this will help you see how much more you would be spending on non-essential home features, which you can then compare against your budget. By knowing what you can and can’t afford, you can narrow down your options and avoid overspending.

      Moreover, filtering out properties that don’t meet your criteria in terms of price and features can streamline the process. Instead of checking out random listings, you can focus on the homes that are ideal for you. This makes the process more manageable and increases the chances of finding the right property within a faster timeframe.

    2. Find the ideal location

      North Carolina

      Ask any Realtor or investor what the most important thing in real estate is, and they’ll answer “location, location, location.” Location is a major factor in determining a home’s value, and it’s also one of the few things you can’t change after your purchase. As such, finding a good location should be one of your top priorities when looking for a home.

      While the definition of a good location varies from person to person, some objective factors can help you determine what is right for you.

      • The neighborhood

        There are plenty of neighborhoods to choose from in North Carolina, and the one that will appeal to you the most depends on your preferences. But in general, a good location is one that gives you easy access to essential amenities like shops, supermarkets, and restaurants. Having highly rated schools nearby is also a big plus. Even if you don’t have children, being in a reputable public school district can raise your property’s value over time.

        Accessibility is also a factor to consider. A neighborhood that can provide the necessary transportation options is ideal, or if you’re driving, one with easy access to major thoroughfares. Proximity to highways, airports, and public transportation systems makes going around easy, whether you’re doing daily errands, going to work, or heading somewhere for leisure.

      • Developments in the community

        Keep in mind that it’s not just the current desirability of the area that matters; sustained appeal in the long term is important too. When you’re looking for a home, find out whether there are new public and commercial developments planned in the neighborhood. They may introduce new amenities or services that will align better with your desired lifestyle. For example, the addition of new parks and bike lanes can cater to those who want to stay active.

        Developments also bring in new jobs. Since the pandemic, more companies are starting to move to tax-friendly states like North Carolina. Keep your eye out for these developments if you’re looking for new career opportunities.

        Conversely, it also helps to know about developments that can negatively impact home values. For example, the construction of structures that can mar a great view can make the area less appealing to future buyers.

      • Location within the community

        Consider a property’s placement within its surroundings. Being next to a busy road may seem like a good idea, but it can get a bit too noisy at certain times. Meanwhile, areas beside commercial properties tend to get more traffic. Try to strike the right balance between your preferences and what’s practical.

        The property’s location can determine the ambiance. Are you seeking a tranquil escape, embraced by lush greenery and serene views? Or perhaps a lively environment, teeming with cultural hotspots and a vibrant social scene? Pick an area that caters to your personal interests and the lifestyle you want to have.

    3. Shop for homes the right way

      Open House Sign

      The house hunting process is exciting, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer in NC. However, attending too many open houses can be overwhelming and may cause you to lose sight of what you truly need and want in a home.

      Keep these tips in mind:

      • Focus on your criteria

        Think of your criteria as a compass that consistently points you to your dream home. Stick with it and you’ll save a lot of time and effort. This can help you avoid getting swayed by your emotions when you see beautiful houses that are out of your budget. They might be the most gorgeous properties you’ve seen, but if they don’t align with your needs and priorities, they might only cause you misery in the long run.

      • Manage your time

        Create a schedule that will allow you to visit multiple properties within a specific timeframe. Without this, you could end up rushing from one house to another. If you’re always pressed for time, you may overlook essential details or fail to evaluate homes properly.

      • Keep notes and take pictures

        Make sure to take notes during every visit. Include everything from the architecture and interior design to the overall ambiance of the place and how it made you feel. Was it a nice experience? Can you imagine yourself living there? Write everything down because it’s easy to forget small details when you’re getting so much information. Consider using spreadsheets and real estate apps that let you organize your data in one place.

        With permission, take photos of each property during open houses. Doing this can help highlight notable features that caught your attention and record areas of the property that may need improvements. These visuals can jog your memory and provide context when reviewing your notes later. Make sure to label each photo with the property address for easy reference.

      • Compare properties

        When it gets hard to pick from your options, comparative analysis comes in handy. By stacking up the features of different properties against each other, you can see the differences more clearly. It will allow you to assess each home’s strengths and weaknesses and compare them to your needs, preferences, and budget.

      • Get guidance from your Realtor in making an offer

        Once you know which home is right for you, work with your real estate agent to prepare a compelling offer. Your Realtor may recommend an offer price that’s higher or lower than the listing price, depending on several factors such as market conditions, competition for the property, your budget, the condition of the house, and other details.

        Your agent can also help you determine important contingencies to include with your offer, such as a financing contingency and inspection contingency. The Realtor will then present the offer to the seller or their representative and represent you during the negotiation period.

    4. Order a house inspection


      Some buyers are willing to forego a home inspection in a competitive market, but this may be a risky decision. A home inspection will give you an in-depth assessment of the entire property’s condition. Even if a house looks gorgeous and is cosmetically flawless, it might have some underlying problems. These may lead to significant repair costs if they’re not detected before the sale is closed.

      Uncovering significant structural concerns gives you valuable information that can be used in further negotiations. If substantial repairs or improvements are required, you may be able to negotiate a lower purchase price or request that the seller addresses the issues before you close the deal.

      A house inspection will focus on these areas:

      • Structural Integrity

        The structural integrity of a home is crucial for its stability, safety, and longevity. A thorough inspection covers the foundation, walls, roof, floors, and other structural components to identify any signs of damage, settlement, or deterioration. By assessing these elements, potential safety hazards such as structural failure or collapse can be detected and addressed, ensuring the well-being of the occupants.

      • Plumbing and Electrical Systems

        Plumbing and electrical systems are vital in the function and comfort of a home. A thorough inspection helps identify leaks, rusty pipes, inadequate water pressure, or worn-out electrical wiring. Older properties tend to have these issues, so it’s best to catch them early before they start causing expensive problems.

      • Insulation

        Insulation is important for comfort, but it also affects energy consumption and long-term cost savings. The lack of proper insulation is another common problem with older homes. Some homes may even have asbestos insulation, which presents significant health hazards.

      • Water Damage

        Water damage can lead to structural issues, mold growth, and health hazards. During the process, the inspector will look for visible signs of water damage such as stains, discoloration, or warping on ceilings, walls, and floors, as well as around windows and doors. The inspector will also assess the condition of the roof, gutters, downspouts, and drainage systems to determine if water is effectively diverted away from the property.

      • Pest Infestation

        Water damage and pest infestation are usually related. Water damage attracts pest infestation like termites and carpenter ants, which thrive in damp environments. Telltale signs of pest infestation include droppings, wood damage, and insect activity. Replacing damaged parts won’t easily resolve the issue, so it’s best to consult an exterminator.

    5. Know what to prepare for closing

      Real Estate Agreement

      Closing brings you one step away from becoming a homeowner. Before signing the paperwork to seal the deal, you need to do a few more things to ensure a smooth transition.

      • Conduct a final walkthrough

        This is your last opportunity to ensure that the home is in the agreed-upon condition and that any repairs or negotiated items have been addressed. Check if there are any unexpected changes or damage that may have occurred since your last visit. If you identify any concerns, discuss them with the seller or your real estate agent to determine the best course of action.

      • Prepare the Funds

        It’s important to have a clear understanding of the total amount you need to bring to the closing. Know the fees to pay such as title fees, lender’s origination fees, insurance premiums, and property taxes. The cost will depend largely on the property’s purchase price. In North Carolina, the average closing cost is about 1.1% of the sale price – one of the lowest in the country. The most secure form of payment is via a cashier’s check, but wire transfers and credit cards may also be used.

      • Review the documents

        You’ll need to sign numerous documents during the closing process. This includes mortgage agreements, promissory notes, and various disclosure forms. Before putting pen to paper, review each document carefully with your Realtor and a real estate attorney. Pay close attention to the terms, conditions, and other obligations. If you have questions, ask your agent and lawyer.


Buying your first home is an amazing milestone. We at Dash Carolina will be very happy to help ensure you get the best outcome in what’s probably one of the biggest deals you’ll make in life. We offer our experience, expertise, and network to provide you with the guidance and assistance you need.

We are the #1 5-star reviewed brokerage in the Triangle and #1 Zillow 5-star reviewed team in North Carolina. See what our clients have to say about our dedication in helping them have a successful and smooth real estate experience.

When you work with our team at Dash Carolina, you tap into a decade of real estate success. We specialize in North Carolina’s most desirable properties. From Asheville and Charlotte to the coastal region, we can help you find a property that matches your goals.

Give us a call at 866.696.3274 or send a message here to get started.

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