Meet with a mortgage broker and find out exactly how much you can afford to pay for a home. While knowing how much you can afford is the first step, sellers will be much more receptive to potential buyers who have been pre-approved. You’ll also avoid being disappointed when going after homes that are out of your price range. With Pre-Approval, the buyer actually applies for a mortgage and receives a commitment in writing from a lender. This way, assuming the home you’re interested in is at or under the amount you are pre-qualified for, the seller knows immediately that you are a serious buyer for that property. Costs for pre-approval are generally nominal and lenders will usually permit you to pay them when you close your loan.
List of Needs & Wants
Make 2 lists. The first should include items you must have (i.e., the number of bedrooms you need for the size of your family, a one-story house if accessibility is a factor, etc.). The second list is your wishes, things you would like to have (pool, den, etc.) but that are not absolutely necessary. Realistically for first-time buyers, you probably will not get everything on your wish list, but it will keep you on track for what you are looking for.
Representation by a Professional
Consider hiring your own real estate agent, one who is working for you, the buyer, not the seller. Typically this service is paid for by the seller and comes at no charge to the buyer!
Focus & Organization
In a convenient location, keep handy the items that will assist you in maximizing your home search efforts. Such items may include:
- A file of the properties that your agent has shown to you, along with ads you have cut out from the newspaper.
- Paper and pen, for taking notes as you search. Are the roof (and the gutters) in good condition? How old is the A/C and Furnace?
- Take lots of pictures and video to help refresh your memory on individual properties, especially if you are attending a series of showings.
- Location: Look at a potential property as if you are the seller. Would a prospective buyer find it attractive based on school district, crime rate, proximity to positive (shopping, parks, freeway access) and negative (abandoned properties, garbage dump, source of noise) features of the area? Visualize the house empty & with your decor in the rooms laid out to fit your needs? Is there enough light?
Instead of thinking with your heart when you find a home, think with your head. Does this home really meet your needs? There are many houses on the market, so don’t make a hurried decision that you may regret later.
A few extra dollars well spent now may save you big expenses in the long run. Don’t forget such essentials as:
- Include inspection & mortgage conditions in your written offer.
- Have the property inspected by a professional inspector.
- Request a second walk-through to take place within 24 hours of closing.
- You want to check to see that no changes have been made that were not agreed on (i.e., a nice chandelier that you assumed came with the sale having been replaced by a cheap ceiling light).