If you are getting ready to buy a home for the first time or the tenth, there are some basic, important steps you should take to ensure a smooth search and purchase. Follow these five steps to get yourself on the way to finding the next place you will call home.
Find a Real Estate Agent You Trust
When starting your search, it is important to have someone on your team that you can trust. When I bought my first home, a longtime family friend acted as my Realtor and helped me find my home. But we are not all so lucky to know a great real estate agent we can trust.
When looking for a Realtor, but sure to ask them the important questions that will help you find the right match. Find an agent with experience, availability, and the right personality to help you reach your home buying goals.
Decide How Much You Can Afford
Buying a home is likely the biggest purchase you will ever make in your life. I do lots of research when buying smaller items like electronics and cars, so when I am going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on something, I need to know how the financials will work out.
You can use a mortgage calculator to find out what you can afford. If you enter your down payment savings, regular income, home ownership costs, and other expenses, you can quickly find out how much you can really afford. Once you find out what you can afford, make sure you stick to it.
Some people over-extend their purchase and become house poor, where they have to give up other spending to afford their house payment. Make sure to give yourself extra room to cover unexpected costs, cost increases, and retirement savings.
Get Pre-Approved for Financing
Even if your Realtor helps you save thousands of dollars on your purchase, most American home buyers still need a mortgage. Having worked in the mortgage industry, I completely understand how complicated and slow the process seems. To make sure your bid is accepted when the time comes, it is best to be pre-approved for financing from a reputable lender.
Shop around for the best interest rates and fees and pick a bank you like. Then go meet with a loan officer and tell them that you want to be pre-approved for a loan up to the amount you can afford. Doing that gives you an upper limit, but you can always get a smaller loan.
When you are approved, you will get a lender letter to have ready to submit with a bid. The letter explains that you are approved for a loan up to a certain amount subject to finding a property within certain parameters.
Pick a Home Style You Like
Now that you know what you can afford, do a little browsing in your market and pick a type of home you’d like. Do you want a single family home or would you prefer a condo or townhouse? Do you want a 1,200 square foot starter home or a 10,000 square foot sprawling mansion?
You can find available homes in the area with your favorite real estate app or driving around with your agent. I used an app to compare my budget with what was available in my local market to find what I could realistically buy and compare to what I wanted in a home.
Pick an Area You Want to Live
Last but not least, pick a neighborhood or part of town you like. When looking for a place to live in my current city, I spent a few days exploring each neighborhood and limited my search down to two smaller areas in town.
Depending on your situation, make sure to check out local schools, crime statistics, amenities, and drive around the neighborhood to get a feel for the neighbors and the local culture.