Buy Your First Home in Tampa

Even if You Don't Know Where to Start!

There's a lot that goes into buying a home. Getting approved for a loan, finding and visiting homes for sale, making an offer, getting a home inspection and appraisal... not to mention signing all that closing paperwork! If you're new to the process it might even seem a little intimidating. But don't worry; we're here to assure you it doesn't have to be complicated or stressful. When you partner with an experienced local real estate team like Inside Tampa Homes, we'll make sure you're taken care of and your questions are answered every step along the way. That way, you'll be sure to find the home of your dreams!

So, just what does buying a home entail? Here's your one-stop guide to buying your first home, from start to close. Still have questions or ready to get started? Contact us at any time!

Part 1: The Mortgage

Unless you've got a sizeable savings account (and let's face it, most of us don't), you'll probably need a mortgage to pay for the bulk of your home purchase. Applying for a loan seems like a pretty intimidating process, but the good news is that it's fairly straightfoward, once you know a bit more about it!

Types of Mortgages

Don't worry if you don't have a 20% down payment or perfect credit; there are dozens and dozens of loan options out there, so it's far from a one-size-fits-all formula! Here are some fairly common types of loans used by first time home buyers in the Tampa area.


When you think of the traditional "mortgage", this is it—20% down, good credit and financial history required, offered by the majority of banks and lenders.

VA Loan

Designed to help active military and veterans buy homes, the VA loan offers lower credit and income requirements and as little as a 0% down payment.

Government Loans

There are a number of government loans available to first time buyers—including the FHA Loan, the USDA Rural Loan, and several Florida Housing loans.

What Do Mortgages Include?

Every month, you'll pay your mortgage, just like you probably pay rent now. But what exactly does that payment include? Hint: it's more than just the repayment of your house. Here's the breakdown.


This is the bulk of your loan, namely, the price of your home, minus whatever you pay for a down payment when you initially buy your home.


This is a payment to the lender for money borrowed. It's calculated as a percentage of the total amount borrowed.


The annual city and county taxes assessed on your property are typically bundled into your mortgage payments.


Most lenders will require you to maintain some kind of homeowners insurance. That way, if something happens to your home, you're financially protected.

Going Loan Shopping & Getting Prequalified

Okay, so you know a little more about your mortgage options. Now what? Home shopping? Not quite. Before you start looking at homes, you'll probably want to sit down and talk with a couple of lenders to get a more solid idea of what your loan options are, what your monthly payments might look like—and whether you'll qualify for a loan at all. Here's how to get started.

Ask for referrals

How do you find a good lender? The best way is to ask around. Check with friends, family, or coworkers, and definitely ask your real estate agent for recommendations.

Start calling

Got some names? Time to start calling. You don't even have to leave home to learn more about your loan options. Lenders will likely want to discuss your goals and get a better overall idea of your finances.

Get options

Based on what you discuss, your lender will likely give you some loan options, and likely break down your estimated monthly payments based on various home prices. This is great for budgeting!

Get prequalified

We highly recommend this step. Not only does it give you a more concrete idea of how much you'll qualify for (and how much it'll cost per month), it's also a great way to show sellers you're serious and qualified.

Part 2: Finding Home

Once you're prequalified, the fun part begins: home shopping! Now's the time to think about just what you want in a home, do a little online searching, and schedule some showings with your friendly neighborhood real estate agent.

Separate wants & needs

It's important to understand that as a first-time buyer, you're likely not going to find the absolutely perfect home; you'll likely have to make a few sacrifices here and there. Decide what you're willing to trade—and what features are absolute dealbreakers.

Be a little choosy

It can be temping to schedule a showing of every home that looks promising, but in reality, this is a good way to get burned out or discouraged. Instead, go back to your wants and needs lists. If a home does not have ALL your NEEDS, it's not worth a visit.

Inspect homes closely

Just as it's important to be a little choosy, it's important to be observant and notice the details—not to get caught up in elegant home staging or fancy decor. Look under the surface to what this home really has to offer, and whether it's right for you.

Part 3: Making an Offer

Once you find a home you absolutely love, it's time to make an offer! You'll want to work closely with your agent for this—a local expert will be able to help you determine a competitive asking price, as well as set protective contingencies for you as a buyer.

Offer, Negotiate & Sign

Got a price? Good. Now you and your agent will craft a Purchase and Sale Agreement, which will have all the details of your sale laid out in writing.

The Purchase & Sale

The Purchase and Sale Agreement is your official offer. It will include details like the offered price, closing date, and any requested contingencies, such as a home inspection and appraisal.


The seller now has three choices: they may accept your offer as it is, they may reject it, or they may present a counteroffer with adjusted terms. You may then accept or alter this counter offer.

The inspection

Once you and the seller reach common ground, you'll set a home inspection. If the inspection reveals any major issues, you may request repairs or credits, or back out of the sale entirely.

Part 4: Closing the Sale

After you and the seller work out all the details, you'll start working closely with your lender to finalize your loan. During this time, the home will likely be appraised, and a closing date will be set by a real estate attorney.

The Final Steps

This is the paperwork process. For you, it means a lot of signing and submitting, and it can be a little tedious, but you'll get through it!

Finalize your loan

Your lender will probably ask you for a lot of financial paperwork at this point—things like tax returns, bank account statements, W2s, job history, and more.

Sign & pay

Once Closing day arrives, you and your agent and attorney will sit down with the seller's representatives to sign the final paperwork. This is when you pay your down payment and other closing costs.

Get those keys!

At last! Congrats... you're (finally) a homeowner!

Ready to Buy Your First Home in Tampa Bay?

It all begins with finding the right real estate team. Want to know more about how Inside Tampa Homes can help you become a successful first time home buyer? Check out our real estate resources, or just give us a call and we'd be happy to chat with you directly.