First-time home buyers get creative in a tough housing market

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Instead of waiting for the perfect home to present itself — and the competing offers that come with it — first-time home buyers in the Pittsburgh area are to create the houses they want through purchase and renovation loans.

Lawrenceville Kitchen Overhaul. Photo courtesy of Caryn Carson.

Like much of the nation, Pittsburgh has three challenges that generate the perfect real estate storm: low inventory, rising interest rates and extremely high demand. These are driving up prices and making buying in 2022 (or anytime) less and less likely for first-time home buyers.

“People looking at the market today are intimidated. We see buyers approved for large home loans, but unable to find a place within their price range in the desired neighborhood. When they find a home, there is usually a bidding war with prices that exceed the asking price,” says Jeff Philibin, Pittsburgh Branch Manager, NMLS # 408773, PrimeLending, a PlainsCapital company.

“Most people don’t even realize that you can find a home that needs a little updating and use a purchase and renovation loan to build your dream home.


Pittsburgh is a special place that both breeds and attracts a certain type of character, one that understands things and goes through tough times. The real estate market right now is no exception to this show of courage. With a simple food or bathroom renovation to a full-scale overhaul, voluntary renovators choose an alternative to the turnkey house. Places like Pittsburgh, with older homes, offer many possibilities for renovation.

Sarah and Eric were recently looking to move to Pittsburgh from Texas and were frustrated to find the right house with historic charm. Their real estate agent offers them a renovation to broaden their choices. “We looked everywhere in different neighborhoods, but a renovation loan was the missing key and we just didn’t know it.”

the The Pittsburgh Team has years of renovation experience and can guide you through all the twists and turns of the process. If no renovations are needed, they can also help you with traditional home loans while offering a personal, local touch.

Lawrenceville Lounge Upgrade

Improved Lawrenceville lounge. Photo courtesy of Caryn Carson.

Sarah and Eric share their comments: “We felt like we were in really good hands the whole time. We thought things would be black and white and transactional with our mortgage, we didn’t expect the layer of kindness and warmth we received from the team.

The couple ended up with a beautiful historic home in Bellevue that others had passed on because it needed a major electrical update. They were able to hire a licensed electrician to do the upgrades under their mortgage.

“This house has so much quirky character and felt great. It was really awesome, and we can’t believe it was even possible. Now that we are in the house and making it our own, we realize that without this option we would never have found our home. Homes that had already been updated were out of our budget,” they shared.


The electrician suggested ceiling lighting options, added more outlets to make the house more functional, and improved the way Sarah and Eric live in the space. “The house feels more solid now, everything makes more sense to our modern brains.”

Now they have peace of mind with the security of the new wiring and can focus their resources and energy on further upgrades. “Because the electricity is done upfront, everything else we have to do feels so much more manageable and we’re really energized,” Sarah shares.

Renovation opens many doors for ordinary people to live in the places they want and for families to stay in the neighborhoods they love. With home and renovation costs rolled into one monthly payment, often at a lower rate than a personal loan, renovation loans offer a creative way to access or upgrade ownership.

Penn Hills bathroom update

Penn Hills bathroom update. Photo courtesy of Lori Wright.

Taking out a purchase and renovation loan adds a a few steps from the trip, but in the end, buyers end up with a home they’re excited about. Instead of settling for an outdated kitchen or bathroom, they get the home they’ve always hoped for, from the floors, lights and paint to the countertops.

“Waiting for the market to improve, stocks to come back and rates to come back down is just not realistic. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, why not create it,” shares Jeff. “Renovating is a great way to get into the game creatively.”


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