Questions from a First Time Homebuyer

Your Questions Answered

At Ashlar, I firmly b that an educated home buyer or seller is best equipped to make their own decisions. That’s why I take time out of my day each and every day to answer someone’s real estate question.  And, when I think the answer can be useful to you as well, I share it here.  So without further ado:


Tons of questions from a first time home buyer.

A lot of very common buyer questions which I’ll answer in turn. The one thing to keep in mind though, is there is not hard better or worse in real estate. It is purely what is best* for you*. You should not buy a home based on other people’s preferences because hey, they may love spending two days a week maintaining their 3 acres in the country and they cook every meal themselves but you may want to not worry with mowing and want to be closer to a wide variety of food.

House vs Condo or Townhouse Which is the better option?

You’re the only one that is going to be able to determine this. Some people just don’t want to share a wall with other people. Other folks like the ease of maintenance condos offers as well as the additional amenities you would struggle to get in a house in this price range (pool, workout gym, gates, waterfront).

Is it common for HOA dues to drastically increase? That’s my worry with buying a condo, in 4-5 years the HOA will have increased dramatically.

Depends on the condo or the HOA. Maintaining things take money, even a single family home. Many people budget for known maintenance items like new roofs, air conditioners and paint and set aside money every month for that future expense. Other people don’t and get blindsided by massive bills when water starts pouring in. Condos and HOAs are no different. Some manage and plan well, others do not. You will be able to review those documents prior to completing the purchase and know of any Special Assessments (i.e. getting blindsided) pending or due.

Is condo the better option given how old these homes are in Tampa?

Most condos here are also old, from the 1960s-1980s. The newer ones will be mostly out of budget except for all but the smallest units if you’re looking downtown.

Is it worth venturing outside of Tampa into Brandon, Riverview, Apollo Beach to find cheaper and newer properties?

Again, depends on what you’re looking for. The suburbs do not have the same features of the city. Apollo Beach you would struggle to find a place that serves a decent breakfast ( I know, I tried) , whereas in the city they’re every where. I always recommend evaluating but there’s no “better”, just “better fit for how you want to live”.

Any other areas you would consider for the best deal?

I can tell you one truth. Having a “deal” as your primary criteria to buy a home for you yourself to live in a recipe for disaster. I can almost guarantee you will be miserable, unhappy, and probably dread going home and want to sell the place within 3 years. Why? Because Deals are only deals relative to the neighborhood they are found in, and the trade off is almost always that they are neglected, not updated, and need a ton of work. If you work the construction trade then maybe, but as a first house with no experience renovating? Yeah.

You best bet is to find a house you can afford that needs minimum updates in your optimal location. Deals are usually Disasters (literally).

Should you spend more money for a newer home vs an older one that’s cheaper?

Again, focus on location and how you want to live. Not new vs old. Old homes can be fully renovated and in much better shape than new builds. I’ve seen new homes built and the paint peeling off and the cabinets disintegrating within 12 months of completion. New does not mean necessarily better or higher quality. Again, buy a home you like / love where you like / love to live.

Any luck with the first time homebuyer program in Hillsborough county?

These programs change frequently, but they do help. Many times they try to target specific neighborhoods for improvement especially the Tampa programs, and there is usually time restrictions on how long you will need to live there and some I’ve seen the assistance has to be paid off when you sell it. So they can be helpful but again, I would only recommend utilizing them if they overlap with where you want to live. Not only look at areas that these programs are being offered.

Any locations/neighborhoods you would avoid due to crime?

I can’t comment on this directly (Fair Housing Act violation) however I can say to not pay attention to people’s responses to this question. You will need to do your own driving around and making your own decisions. I recommend not listening to anyone’s opinion on this because they are usually outdated by years if not decades. A healthy thriving city, which Tampa, St Pete, Clearwater are, should be and is always changing. Plus, well, there’s a lot of racists and people happy to repeat things based in racism as fact without any first hand knowledge or experience. Even in this thread there are outdated opinions that were true a few months ago but no longer true, especially for condos. And while everyone touts crime stats and crime maps, those should also be taken with a grain of salt, as they are doctored and manipulated for certain neighborhoods.

If you have any other questions let me know. There’s a wide variety of areas of all price points, so deciding how you want to live will shine the light on where you should live.

Kyle Sasser

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