Whether it’s your first or 15th purchase, buying a home is exciting. It represents a beginning, often including a growing family, new friends, or a different environment.
House hunting can be challenging, but not to worry: here are five recommendations to help you take charge of the process. Good luck!
1. Be an educated consumer.
Pinpoint a county, city, or neighborhood that you’d like to live in, and check out what’s on the market. I recommend doing this first, because it’s easier to adjust your expectations than your budget. You can explore your options online, in person, or both.
You’ll quickly get a sense of the types of homes available at various price points—and realistic expectations will pay dividends during your search.
2. Understand your finances.
Please, please, take the time to get an accurate picture of your financial situation. If you’re married or buying with someone else, this is the time to have a frank discussion about dollars and debts. While it might be uncomfortable, it will save you from future surprises that could put pressure on your relationship or even prevent closing on time.
Key areas to review:
– Your credit score and history, including any collections or negative marks—be prepared to review the last couple of years with your lender
– Your income–both gross and net; this will help you think about how much you might get approved for vs. what you can comfortably afford
– How much you have for a down payment and the source of those funds
– Existing debt—revolving or installment
I also strongly recommend taking your financial pulse before contacting a real estate agent. It will make your home search more productive and identify areas you’d like to improve before getting your heart set on a home.
Finally, don’t assume that less-than-perfect credit or a student loan balance will preclude you from getting a mortgage. There’s an option for just about everyone, so find a lender who is willing to work with you to obtain a responsible amount.
3. If you’re serious, get pre-approved.
Financing can be a major source of buyer confusion, and understanding the difference between pre-qualification and pre-approval can save you a lot of gray hair (trust me):
Pre-qualification is a bank’s quick, general estimate of the amount they can loan you. Sometimes, however, further analysis of your income, credit, down payment, or other factors could result in a very different number. You don’t want to get your heart broken because you can’t afford as much as you thought, and you really don’t want to have to delay closing because of financing issues. Understand the pre-qual for what it is—a tool to give you a general sense of your buying budget.
Pre-approval takes a bit longer, but it’s a conditional commitment from your bank that they’re prepared to lend you a specific amount. Once you’re pre-approved by a reputable institution, you can generally expect to close on time and with minimal hassle. Do this if you’re a serious buyer and are ready to pull the trigger on the right property.
4. Find a stellar agent.
You are buying a house. The process can be thrilling, emotional, and nerve-wracking. This is going to be your home, so work with someone who understands that.
Find a person you click with, who knows your market, and who, most importantly, you trust. We’re called “agents” for a reason: because we represent you. Don’t be intimidated into forgetting that.
5. You’ll probably have to compromise a little.
Checking off every item on your wish list might be difficult. You’ll usually have to be flexible with something—price, location, or amenities. If you’re buying with someone else, make sure you understand one another’s goals. Decide what you can work with and what needs to be in perfect order. Homes can always be improved—so compromise, but don’t settle.
Do you have a real estate question, or do you or someone you know need a qualified agent? Contact me anytime at Jordan.Foster@PearsonSmithRealty.com