So you’ve decided that this is the right time for you to purchase a home…now what? It’s so easy to be overwhelmed by what you’ve seen in the media, or the experiences and advice your friends and family have shared with you. However, home hunting should be an exciting adventure, and having the right real estate agent by your side will certainly make the difference! Answering these 7 questions will give you a jump start into the home search process and will allow your agent to better assist you in your search.
1. Do I have a home to sell first?
2. Have I gotten a pre-approval for a loan?
3. What is my price range?
4. What is my time frame for this purchase?
5. What features am I looking for in my home?
6. What neighborhoods am I interested in?
7. Do I have realistic expectations?
1. Do I have a home to sell first? The first step is to list the property with your Realtor. If there will be a gap between the sale of your home and the purchase of your next home, have a plan. If you have the option of staying with family, friends, or even finding a month to month rental you will be less stressed and better focused on your home search. It sounds like simple advice, but you’d be surprised how many people are caught last minute trying to find accommodations.
2. Have I gotten a pre-approval for a loan? Besides the sale of an existing home, this is the step that your whole home search will revolve around. The pre-approval process is simple yet extremely important. Once you have that letter from the bank, you can be more confident in your price range and more confident in your mortgage approval when you find your home. ***Remember that your pre-approval is based on your credit and employment information at that time. It’s strongly recommended that you do not open any lines of credit, make a large purchase requiring financing, or change jobs during the time you are home hunting. These issues could ultimately keep you from final approval of your mortgage.***
3. What is my price range? After you’ve received your pre-approval, you can narrow down your price range. Speak with your lender so that you are aware of what your estimated payments will be each month as well as your closing costs and plan accordingly. Find the price range that bests works for your budget. This will save you and your agent from taking up time with properties that aren’t the right fit for you.
4. What is my time frame for this purchase? When are you expecting to move? Depending on the amount of time you have to find your home, there may be restrictions for you on the type of sale you should pursue. If you’ve just sold your home, have a contract on your home, or are relocating with a deadline – you are probably going to want to steer clear of short sales. Today, short sales tend to take 6 months or more. This is important information for your real estate agent so they can present you only with properties that fit your needs. If you are a first time home buyer or looking for a second home, maybe short sales are a viable option for you with an open time frame to purchase your property. Knowing your time frame also helps you set goals along the way to keep you on track in your search.
5. What features am I looking for in my home? Start with the basics of the home. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you prefer? Do you have a preference on the square footage of the home? Is having a garage important? Would you like waterfront property? Do you prefer to have a pool? Make a list of the features you would like your new home to have. When you’ve completed that list, make another list of the features you need your home to have. Keep in mind that it takes a little flexibility and creativity to find the perfect home- walls can be painted, appliances can be replaced, flooring can be redone. Don’t get bogged down with details that can be changed. If you are purchasing the home with someone else, make sure you talk to each other about your wants and needs for the property. Also, talk to your real estate agent about new construction homes. There are fabulous deals out there right now, and you can basically design the home yourself, and often the builder will pay all your closing costs! Your Realtor may be able to negotiate pricing down with a builder as well.
6. What neighborhoods am I interested in? Think about the area where you want to be. Are there certain neighborhoods you prefer? Are you interested in more than one city? Some of the factors that might impact this decision could be distance from work, school districts, or even traffic. Take some time to drive around prospective areas. If you are from out of town, plan a trip to preview some areas of interest. Your real estate agent will be more helpful the more information they have.
7. Do I have realistic expectations? Everyone wants to find the perfect home. The key to finding that perfect home is flexibility. Speak with your real estate agent to make sure that your price range aligns with your wants and needs in the neighborhoods are you interested in. If necessary, work with your agent to revise your criteria. Remember that this should be an exciting time for you, so try to enjoy the process even if little bumps come up along the way.