Home Buyers Guidebook

Home Buyers Guidebook

So, you want to buy a home. Where do you start? The process may seem overwhelming and cluttered. Or maybe you know absolutely nothing about the process at all. This home buyer’s guidebook is here to help! It will walk you through each step from your initial thought of homeownership to unlocking your front door for the very first time. Which by the way, is something you will never forget. So let’s answer the ever so common question. “How do I buy a house?” Let’s get started! 

1. Choose Your Realtor®

I may be biased… but I happen to personally know a great one! (Cough, me, cough) All jokes aside this is a very important step! The entry into Real Estate is easy for lack of a better term. Every agent is going to be different and give you a different experience. We are talking about a personal guide through the biggest financial decision of your life. You want a professional that you feel comfortable around and can lean on in tough times. This process isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. It can get stressful and overwhelming at times. 

This next sentence is extremely important. Even if you personally know a Realtor, DO YOUR RESEARCH and make sure they are the right fit. Don’t ever feel obligated to use someone because your family member told you to use them. Do your due diligence and make sure they will perform to your needs. Especially if this is your first time buying a home, you are going to want a knowledgable agent who has been in your shoes and has helped countless first time home buyers. If you learn anything from this home buyers guidebook I hope it’s that you understand the importance of a good Realtor. 

2. Getting Preapproved 

Just like choosing the right Realtor, choosing the right lender is also very important. A good Realtor will give you a few options of lenders that they have worked with in the past multiple times and had great experiences. Again, a good lender in your corner is also key to a smooth process from pre-qualification to closing. They make sure you are using the right loan program and let you know how much you can afford based on a few things. I won’t get too in-depth on this as it’s not the most exciting part of buying a home but it’s very important. Let’s dive into some of the main components. 

How to buy a home - Lender
Income and employment documents

Such as a W2, 1099, and any other income sources like rental properties for an example. This step will be different for most people depending on what you do for a living. They will also need your two most recent tax returns. 


Most of the time 60 days worth of bank statements for any accounts you are using to get approved for the loan. Also, retirement and brokerage accounts. Including two months of statements from IRA’s, investment accounts, CD’s, and the last quarterly statement from your 401(k). 


Monthly debt payments. Lenders examine your payment obligations to calculate your debt-to-income ratio. List all monthly debt payments, including student loans, auto loans, mortgage, and credit cards. Include each creditor’s name and address, and your account number, loan balance, and minimum payment amount. If you have no credit history, utility bills or records of other regular payments may be used to help you qualify for a mortgage.

Like I mentioned, everyone’s pre-approval process will be different depending on your situation. Things like divorce, bankruptcies, and down payment gifts add a few more steps to the process which is why it is so important to use an experienced lender you feel comfortable with. 

3. The House Hunt

After you are knowledgable about how much you can afford without being house broke, it’s time to start finding your dream home! Like I said earlier, not all Realtors are the same. So I am going to breakdown how I help you find properties when you choose to use my services. 

First things first we need to nail down your criteria. Your must-haves, preferences, and price range. Once we have this down and are on the same page, I will set you up on an auto-search through our local MLS (Multiple Listing Service). This step is important either way, but VERY important in a market like we are in now. Homes sell fast and relying on public websites like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com will simply not work. These public websites are usually about 48 hours behind the MLS. By the time you see one you like and send me the address to see in person, it will most likely already have an accepted offer. You can start a search for fun to see what is out there right here—> Property Search.

When a property hits the market in your criteria, you will immediately get an email letting you know with a link to the listing. I can get you into the property the same day to see if it’s a perfect fit. On average, my buyers go on 10+ showings before finding the perfect one for them. Sometimes it’s the very first home we see! You never really know when the perfect one will hit the market and we want to be quick in a market like this. 

4. Making An Offer

You found the perfect home! You even went on a second showing with some family members or friends to make sure it’s the perfect home! Your Realtor thinks it’s a great buy and your lender tells you it’s within your budget! Now what?? There are multiple aspects to writing a good offer and it will vary depending on your personal situation. I won’t go into crazy details here as I could talk all day about different scenarios and how to win in multiple offer situations. In short, there are many ways to strengthen your offer other than throwing more money on the table and I will educate you on all of these different options when the time comes. Once we have your offer written up and signed, I send it in to the listing agent and there is a bit of a waiting game. 

The best-case scenario is me giving you a call with some great news. Offer accepted! The next step is tackling the contingencies. The sale will be contingent upon a property inspection among other things. You will meet with the inspector at the property and go over a VERY detailed report on the home. This is great for peace of mind and everything is negotiable at this point. Again, I will go into much more detail in a real scenario with you but I am just touching on the most important parts of the home buying process. 

5. Closing

You found a home, offer got accepted, moved past inspection period, and now the property is officially pending! One of the last steps to buying a home is your lender ordering an appraisal for the home. This ensures it is priced right and the market value matches your offer value. Once the lender gets the appraisal back and the home is priced right, your lender will offer a clear to close based on your financing. 

Again, I am keeping this short, as I could go all day explaining this process since everyone’s situation is unique in itself. This is a best-case scenario and doesn’t always happen this perfectly but at the end of the day, we get the job done and make sure you get into your dream home. The last step is sitting at the closing table and signing multiple documents that your title company will explain page by page. Once everything is signed and the money is good to go… You are now a homeowner!! 

Home Ownership

Congratulations! You invested in yourself, in your future, and have something to call your own that you can personalize and update however you want! There is truly something special about that first time you walk into your home and think of all the possibilities. Don’t get me wrong, homeownership is a lot of work, but is always worth it. 

If you have a goal of homeownership, please feel free to reach out to me. Even if it’s a year from now or further. I want to make sure you are planning for success and are ready to go when the time comes. Also, If you don’t live in MN I can still help! Let me do the research for a good agent in your area. Odds are there is a great EXIT agent close by that can help you through the process. At the end of the day this is going to be one of if not the biggest financial decisions you have made in your life to this point. It is SO IMPORTANT to be represented by a team of professionals you can count on. 


TOP FIVE Restaurants in PRIOR LAKE

Quick Introduction: 

Hey! My name is Spencer Pankonin for those who don’t know me. I am a local Realtor here in Prior Lake. I grew up in Lakeville and went to Lakeville South High School where I graduated in 2011. Headed to college in Aberdeen, SD to play division II basketball for Northern State University and get my degree in Marketing and Advertising with a minor in Entrepreneurship. After graduation, I dove right into the world of Real Estate. I am a third-generation Realtor following in my Grandpa and my Dad’s footsteps. I moved to Prior Lake in September and I absolutely love it. I am extremely passionate about food and would absolutely label myself as a “foodie”. I a going to start a blog series and I thought what better way to start than naming my top five restaurants in Prior Lake. Once things get back to normal, make sure you get your reservations at these awesome restaurants. I hope you enjoy it! 

5. The Pointe Bar and Grill

Coming in at number five we have The Pointe Bar and Grill. I am going to be honest; you won’t necessarily be blown away by the food. Although, the entertainment and atmosphere of this bar are hard to beat! They have a stage that is booked with live performances throughout the week. They have A TON of TVs and a large projector screen for the big games. This place is perfect for large group gatherings or a night out. Not to mention their kids special, Sunday-Wednesday kids eat free with the purchase of an adult meal! 

Now let’s talk about food. They have great bar food with a ton of options and a huge menu. My personal favorite is their pork belly Cuban. Braised and seared pork belly on ciabatta with ham, swiss, pickles & mustard. Overall you are going to have a good time when you come to The Pointe and most likely a few beers as well. 

4.) PLate on Main

At number four we have PLate on Main. An American eatery at its roots. Plate brings an Uptown Minneapolis feel to downtown Prior Lake. The aesthetic of the restaurant is modern and chic. PLate is perfect for a business meeting or the first stop for a night out. They have an outstanding menu and went for a more high-end feel with the pricing and options. Its location is very convenient on main street. Allowing you to stop and grab a craft beer at Boathouse Brothers Brewery before dinner. 

Modern and Chic Atmosphere

Like I said, their menu is well thought out and I have yet to order a dish I don’t love! If you like seafood, I would highly recommend their Seven Seas Pasta. This dish includes shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, crab, oysters, portabella mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and linguine in a lobster-red sauce. It will blow you away! Plate is, in a way, ahead of its time as it reflects the “look” and “vibe” of the future Downtown Prior Lake. 

3.) Edelweiss Bakery

This may come as a surprise to some people but at number three we have Edelweiss Bakery. This is an absolute staple to downtown Prior Lake. It is definitely a “before noon” kinda place. Stop in here for a meeting or to just simply relax and have a cup of coffee. They offer donuts, loaves of bread, and a variety of pastries bringing you back to your childhood. The atmosphere is incredibly welcoming and cozy. They want you to feel like family when you walk in the doors and they sure do a great job of that. 

Small Town Feel 
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Established in 2005 after the owners lived in Europe for 14 years. They knew this town needed that small-town bakery and made it happen. Edelweiss also offers custom cakes for weddings, birthdays, and really any event in life. You can walk into Edelweiss and meet new people over a cup of coffee in a welcoming environment. Truly a great addition to the downtown area. 

2.) Perrons Sul Lago

At number two we have Perrons Sul Lago. An elegant Italian eatery with a high-end feel. Located in downtown Prior Lake this is one of the very few options for Prior Lake residents to enjoy a high-end meal in a fancier atmosphere. A lot of reviews labeled this place as a “hidden gem” which I would agree with. It is sort of hidden and you truly wouldn’t expect much as you walk up to the storefront. I promise you will be pleasantly surprised when leaving this place. 

Italian Bistro Setting

They have a huge wine selection which is a favorite for many locals. It’s a great place for a martini or a higher-end cocktail. I have loved every meal I have had here, although, by far my favorite dish was the scallop gnocchi. Sea‎ scallops, bacon, onions, peas, fresh herbs, cream & parmesan, tossed with gnocchi. This dish has it all. Overall, we are very lucky we have this option for that special occasion. 

1.) Charlies on Prior

Last but not least, we have Charlies on Prior. A restaurant and marina located right on the lake. The atmosphere of Charlies is VERY hard to beat. They offer various dining experiences which makes it feel like a new trip every time. They have an indoor upper dining room with a patio and a full menu with awesome selections. They also offer brunch and a bloody mary bar on weekends. Downstairs they have a waterfront bar and a large outdoor patio. Their menu is a little smaller down there offering more appetizers, small bites, and handhelds. The patio area is also “dog on leash” friendly! This is also where a lot of their live music happens during the summer months. 

This place is perfect for large gatherings, parties, drinks, and really anything when the weather is nice! Sitting on the patio in the summer is like going on a vacation in your own town. It’s truly hard to beat the atmosphere and energy of Charlies. 


Now let’s talk about food! Some favorite appetizers are the big buoy pretzel and the fried avocadoes. The pretzel is…I kid you not… the biggest pretzel I have ever seen. It will feed at least four people! The fried avocadoes are a very unique item that doesn’t seem to make sense texturally, but it works! They are beer-battered, dusted with queso fresco and southwest seasoning, and served with a jalapeño ranch. Are you hungry yet!? The rest of the menu has a ton of options whether you are feeling Mexican, seafood, or pit BBQ they will have something you are craving. One of my personal favorites is the Charlies BBQ plate. Beef brisket, pulled pork, hot link, sweet corn cake, and choice of two sides. This one is perfect for sharing and their sweet corn cake with jalapeño bits is to die for! I could go all day about their food and the quality. Yes, the atmosphere is amazing, but they don’t forget to also put amazing food on your plate. 

For me, this was a very easy first place. Charlies on Prior just simply does it right and we are very lucky to have such an awesome spot to spend our Summers together. 


Prior Lake is ever-changing and growing. We still have the small-town feel with places like Edelweiss Bakery but get crowds from all over the Metro area coming into town for a meal at Charlie’s on Prior. It’s such an awesome mix of different dining experiences. With new restaurants popping up almost monthly, I look forward to making an updated list in the coming months. Last but not least, if there is a restaurant on this list you haven’t eaten at yet, reach out to me and I would love to meet you and pay for dinner or lunch! I moved to Prior Lake in September 2019 after living in Lakeville my whole life and would love to get to know more people in the area. 

Everyone stay safe and cheers!