Buying a house is a goal for most people who prefer an investment over renting. Licensed, experienced real estate agents can provide expertise in all aspects of the transaction - from the joy of shopping to the thrill of receiving the front door key.

Viewing houses can feel overwhelming after seeing several, so taking photos of unique characteristics and taking notes about details can help. Many agents provide Multiple Listing Service listings, which have all the details from price and acreage, to number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

Three local licensed real estate agents shared suggestions for buying a home.

Amy Cochran has been a broker at Coldwell Banker Select Cochran almost 20 years. Value is what she said most home buyers are looking for as they want the best buy for their money.

"I also feel that each buyer has a certain type of taste and likes and dislikes, so it's important to help them find what fits their needs and desires," said Cochran.

Cochran advises buyers to get pre-qualified from a quality lender so they know what price range they're looking in.

"Also, I advise all buyers to have a thorough home inspection done on new and existing purchases," she said. "If school district is important, they need to double check that, as well as utilities available, especially internet service availability, as you cannot assume anything."

With a well-trained agent, it can be a good experience, said Cochran.

"The lending process can sometimes seem invasive and tedious, but you're getting a great deal with secondary market loans, and in my opinion, it is well worth the effort," she said.

Once a buyer chooses a home, they make an offer to the seller, and the buyer and seller negotiate through respective agents on price and terms, until they hopefully come to an agreement, according to Cochran.

Transactions can vary, however. There is typically an inspection period at the front of every contract that allows the buyer to inspect the property to make sure it is as they want it to be, review the property disclosure form, and also continue the loan process, which will include an appraisal and possibly more inspections required by the lender.

"The closing process is effected by many variables as there are a lot of third parties involved, such as home inspector, appraiser, abstractor, surveyor, lender, underwriting, etc.," she said. "Then there may be repairs to negotiate and complete."

There is a lot to the process, she said.

"The paperwork has increased over the years to where I don't know how anyone would complete a transaction without a lot of real estate transaction experience," Cochran said. "But once it's all pulled together, the buyers will be allowed to do a final walk through to make sure the property is the same as it was the day they made their offer. Then the documents are signed, money changes hands, and the keys are handed over."

Angela Tinsley has been in the real estate business for 14 years, and is currently the owner and managing broker of the Tahlequah Re/Max Select. She agrees shoppers are looking for the best value for their money.

"We always want to encourage a buyer to get a home inspection whether the home is new or previously lived in," said Tinsley, "Also, we explain that we may see some wear and tear in a previously owned home verses a new. So, depending on the client's needs, we will assist with either type of home buying experience."

Tinsley encourages shoppers to work with a knowledgeable licensed agent to help them through all of the unknowns and unforseens.

"There is a lot to purchasing a home and, as a Realtor, we know what the buying experience is supposed to look like," she said. "It is our job to guide the buyer, not tell them what to do or what they need. We are the guide."

The buying process can take 30 days or longer depending on the type of loan, and Tinsley recommends having a home inspection before purchase.

"Purchasing and selling a home has several steps and many unforseens. A knowledgeable licensed Realtor is the most valuable asset a home buyer or seller can have on their side," Tinsley said.

Steven Wright, broker and co-owner at Century 21 Wright Real Estate, has been licensed for more than 12 years with the family firm, which has been serving the area for more than four decades. What a buyer looks for really depends on specific wants and needs, according to Wright

"Usually a price range will be the first thing to consider. From there, buyers look for a multitude of things such as location, size, style, features, amenities, and lot/land size," he said.

Pre-existing home sales make up the majority of the local market.

"Buyers can usually find a pre-existing home that fits their needs without having to go through the sometimes stressful process of building," he said. "Buyers should take their time and find 'The One.' Don't settle or rush the process, this is probably the most important purchase you will make."

He said that it can be a tough process.

"Buyers need to make sure they have a Realtor they have confidence in, who understands their wants and needs, who is a good communicator, and who can navigate the complicated process of buying a home," said Wright.

After finding the right home, the offer process begins, and that offer to purchase includes price, financing conditions, inspection period time frame, closing date and more. It is the document which lays out the terms of the entire purchase from beginning to end, and is incredibly important, according to Wright.

"Being in the real estate business for more than four decades, we have come across nearly every scenario. We don't really suggest what to offer, but do offer market statistics and norms to help buyers form an offer," he said. "If the offer is not accepted, we negotiate the details until an agreement is reached by all parties, aka, a meeting of the minds."

Once the offer is accepted, the process moves on to the home inspection, termite inspection, appraisal, title work, abstracting, and completion of the loan process.

"Right now, the average days to close is 47 days," said Wright. "It would be risky to set a closing date with a shorter time frame. If your contract expires, both buyer and seller need to agree on an extension. There are exceptions; vacant properties and cash deals can usually close quicker, but can still run into title issues that slow down closing."

Home inspections are incredibly important, he said.

"We recommend every buyer have a home inspection. An appraisal is not a home inspection, it is a value assessment," he said.

The appraiser will note any issues that may cause the home to not qualify for financing, but will not do an in depth inspection. A home inspector will spend several hours in the home inspecting for plumbing, electrical, structural, and cosmetic defects. They climb in the attic, get under the house, and provide a full report listing defects with photos and recommendations for further inspections.

"If repairs are needed, they can usually be negotiated to be fixed or the price adjusted," Wright said. "The inspection will raise red flags about the house that would have otherwise been unknown and will give the buyer a piece of mind about the property they are purchasing."