CHARLOTTE, N.C. — First-time homebuyers continue to face obstacles, like rising mortgage rates and home prices.

Despite these hurdles, Carole Harris and Colt Street just bought their first home. They closed on the Charlotte house in March. They hope to move in and have it ready for a house warming party by August, when their son turns 1.

What You Need To Know

  • First-time homebuyers continue to face obstacles like rising mortgage rates and home prices

  • A N.C. realtor says homes in Charlotte are spending more days on the market with fewer new listings

  • Home prices are up in Charlotte, according to Redfin

Harris and Street can already picture the memories they’ll make in the first home they’ve ever owned.

“There’s a long driveway. We love to play basketball, so lots of family pickup games gonna be had in that driveway,” Harris said.

As first-time homebuyers, they represent a small percentage of people buying houses.

The National Association of Realtors found that last year, first-time homebuyers dropped to a record low thanks to high home prices and rising mortgage rates. 

Within the Queen City, home prices are also higher than they were around this time last year, according to Redfin.

Local realtor Jess Flinn, who worked with Harris and Street, says there’s also less inventory but more people.

The Charlotte Regional Business Alliance says the Charlotte region remains one of the fastest growing areas in the nation, with around 84 people moving here every day. 

Flinn says the low inventory, coupled with the growth, means homes are getting multiple offers.

That’s the situation Harris and Street found themselves in.

"We did have a situation where it was multiple offers, which I know is really common, especially nowadays,” said Harris. “It was definitely more common when we first started looking, but we had to kind of go back and forth on negotiations and initial stages in order to then get our offer accepted, so obviously that adds a layer of stress.”

The couple originally started their search in 2020, but quickly paused.

“It was like the wild west,” said Street. “There were homes getting offers put on them while we were walking through like touring them.”

They restarted their search this past November and found the process went a lot faster.

“We put in the offer in the beginning of March, so just a handful of months, I guess, since we started looking again,” Harris said. "Whereas before, I think we looked at it for a year straight.”

Their realtor, Flinn, says while the housing market continues to change, it’s not going anywhere.

“The picture of recession we hear a lot in the bigger stage of the news, the market is local,” Flinn said. “The Charlotte market is not going anywhere. It’s a highly desirable place to live,” she said.

"As lenders say, you can date the rate but marry the home,” Flinn continued. "So it really shouldn't be something to be scared of right now. Find your home, get into one, and then you can refinance later.”

Harris and Street worked with Mortgage Loan Officer Keena Gehringer.

Gehringer says it’s her mission to help homebuyers after her own first home buying experience.

“The loan officer that we worked with would never answer our phone calls, and he wasn’t excited about the process, and he just wasn’t making the process any easier for us,” she said.

Gehringer had help from long-time friend and Real Estate Broker Kristi Vernon, who then encouraged her to become a loan officer.

Gehringer says she always tells people that there are a lot of tools to help someone buy their first home.

“Especially when it comes to the piece of down payment and closing cost,” she said. “There's programs out there that there that allow first-time homebuyers to put down as little as 3 or 3.5% or sometimes not at all.”

“First-time home buyers don’t know that they can accept gifts from family,” she continued. "They can use 401ks. There's creative ways to go about this process."

She recommends programs like House Charlotte or other state programs.

She also says before you even begin looking for homes, reach out to a loan officer.

They can help you figure out your options.

Harris and Street said relying both on Gehringer and Flinn made a difference for them.

“As first-time homebuyers, I didn’t know anything about it, like what this meant and what that meant, and having Keena and then Jess and the whole team to be able to reach out and ask questions, like what does this mean, and get a response pretty quickly, is you know, that’s huge,” said Street.

“Whenever we had a question or even if it was late at night, we're texting them or calling them and they were, you know, consoling us or telling us you know it’s going to be ok, we got this, it will be fine,” said Harris.

Now that the couple is through the hard part, they’re focused on making their house a home.

“It’s finally nice to be settled,” said Harris.