A young Wichita couple become first-time homebuyers — by acting fast

Carla Mendez and Jacob Salas bought their first home in only three days, showing how competitive home buying can be in Wichita.

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series looking at housing issues faced by people in Wichita. It is produced by members of the Wichita Journalism Collaborative, a partnership of 11 organizations, including The Wichita Beacon.

by Trace Salzbrenner

Carla Mendez and Jacob Salas spent just three days shopping for their first home. 

It was either that, or miss out on the place the young couple fell in love with.

The open dining room and living room connect to the kitchen that comes with new appliances. And it sports a patio off the living room with built-in seating where a fire pit could go. 

“We can imagine having our family over,” Mendez said. “The space is perfect for that.” 

Mendez and Salas grew up in Wichita and wanted to stay near their families, possibly starting one of their own. The house sits in the right neighborhood and has room for a family to grow. 

They put in an offer the day after they saw the place. Then they bumped up their offer, settling on $190,000, to beat out other potential buyers.

The house — and all of the future holidays and family parties it would host — was theirs. 

“We knew that this was the place we wanted to live,” Salas said. 

Their real estate agent, Jayna Reece, was a little surprised at the pace, but not too shocked. 

“I wouldn’t call this typical, no,” she said. “But we are in a strong seller’s market.” 

Mendez and Salas had to move fast in a housing market  that Wichita State University predicts will see prices continue to rise in 2024 with fewer homes for sale. 

The report shows 2023 ending the year selling 10.4% fewer houses than the previous year, and it predicts the number will continue to fall. 

Stan Longhofer, director of the Wichita State University Center for Real Estate, told The Wichita Eagle that people will need to get comfortable with moving quickly. 

The cost of being a first-time homebuyer in Wichita

The quick pace and higher value of homes can pose tough calls for homebuyers. 

Mendez and Salas, who got engaged just under a year ago, decided a house was more important to them than a wedding right now. 

The two were high school sweethearts. They’ve been together for nine years. 

“The wedding will come,” said Mendez. “We just felt that getting the house first would be the better decision.” 

So they saved their money — not for a wedding, but for a home. 

Reece, who works with many first-time homebuyers, said that’s common. She bought a home with her husband before getting married too. 

How to prepare to buy a home

Mendez and Salas said one of their best decisions in buying a home was getting a real estate agent they could trust. 

“She made the process smooth and took over,” Salas said. “It made it so much easier.” 

Reece recommends talking with a lender before looking at homes. That will help determine your budget and let you make an offer quicker, something that is important in the current fast pace of home buying in Wichita. 

She also said that while Mendez and Salas got the first home they looked at, don’t be afraid to shop around. 

While the market has fewer houses than previous years, buyers still have time to look around to find a house that fits their needs. She said that the average buyer looks at five to 10 houses before making an offer. 

Finally, Reece suggests first-time homebuyers in Wichita start looking now. Even if you are on the fence, looking now will help you determine if you are ready to buy. 

It would also put you ahead of growing housing prices. 

Mendez and Salas say they are happy they took that leap and decided to buy their house. 

“When you first start to look you see how expensive things can be and it can cause doubt,” Salas said. “But in the end it worked out and we got the home we wanted.”

This article was republished here with the permission of: The Beacon