It’s time. You’ve decided that you are now in a place in life where buying a home is the next step. You’ve saved up money. Your credit score is excellent. You’re ready for the next step. So where do you start? What is the first step to finding the place in which you will more than likely live for the next 10-30+ years?
- Get approved: Don’t just contact any bank or lender, do your research. Connect with a local real estate agent who knows the area and who you can trust. This should be your agent through the journey. They will be able to recommend a lender or bank that will best suit your needs and who is trust worthy.
- What do you really need in a home? It may sound strange, but make a list of things you don’t need and share it with your realtor. For example, sharing that you can live without a pool, or a fully updated kitchen might help in a competitive market. Narrowing down with what you need, what you would like and what you don’t want will help to make the process smoother. It will be far less overwhelming as well. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing home after home that doesn’t meet all the requirements.
- Budget: Just because you’re approved for a certain amount doesn’t mean that number actually fits your budget. Before even thinking about seriously putting an offer on any home, take a look at your monthly financials to determine how much of a mortgage you can really take on.
- Post-purchase money: This is something many people do not think about. If you buy a completely renovated home your post purchase expenses will be far less. If you buy a home that needs slight work or a full redo, make sure you have the funds to do so. It is important to have this money on hand so you can start enjoying your home sooner!!
While You Are House Hunting
- Location, location, location: Love the neighborhood and then fall in love with a house. Buy for the neighborhood, and then the house — where you live is key. It’s better to have the worst house on a great block than the best house on a bad block.
- Clock the miles: Some may have an issue with a long drive to work, even if that meant for going the perfect home at the right price. Do your drive to work, however you commute, from the area in which you are considering purchasing. Sitting in traffic, especially in California, can dampen any spirit!
- Get organized! Keep everything you get from the lender and the real estate agent in a neat and nice folder. While documents like your pre-approval should be stored on an email server, it is still good to keep the hard copy handy.
- Don’t stop looking: Continue to look on Zillow, MLS, and even the Sunday paper on your own, even after you start working with an agent. You might actually find a house your realtor missed, which could be the one! Go to open houses, as many as you can! If you find the one while out and about on a Sunday, be sure to give your agent a call. Let’s get that offer in!
- Write a letter with your offer: In a competitive market place, a sweet and compassionate letter to the sellers can help you gain the edge above other offers. Of course placing an offer that either favors the seller or is above asking price will also help you better your chances of getting your offer accepted.
- More cash down: Consider making an offer with more cash down than you will actually end up using. If you could theoretically pay 35 percent down, put that in your offer letter. But when you work it out with the bank, you might only need to put 20 or 25 percent down, giving you more cash on hand for improvements or as a buffer. The more you put down in the offer, the easier it is to compete with all-cash.
- Look at everything: Don’t be afraid to look at foreclosures and short sales in your price range. It might seem a bit scary, especially when you’re dealing directly with the bank, but that means you don’t have a seller that’s connected to the property. And low-ball bids might actually be accepted — especially if the property has been sitting vacant.
- Close right: Ask about closing costs up front. This way you’ll know how to budget when making an offer.
- Think bigger: Look beyond the seller’s furniture or wall color. Those are all simple changes once you buy the home. Look at the architecture, the wall placement, how big rooms are.. etc. The bigger picture is your investment.