Hey, before you begin this nerve racking fun and worthwhile process – PLEASE be honest with yourself. Don’t swing for the fences and overpay for a house you can’t afford to furnish, maintain, or pay monthly mortgage.
Also, take a shoot from the hip 30% of your total gross income and try to stay near that amount for your total monthly mortgage payment. And don’t forget, your mortgage payment will include the following: principal loan; interest on loan; homeowner’s insurance; property taxes; and possibly some form of mortgage insurance…so don’t get a quote of Principal and Interest (called P&I) from a lender and think that’s all. And be sure to factor monthly expenses such as home maintenance, utilities, and emergency repairs into your budget…DON’T PAY TOO MUCH FOR A HOUSE and get strapped!!!
Step #1: Get familiar with the home buying process. Please review my summary of the Buying Process here. Don’t just think you go out and find a house, then go to a lender to get qualified. You will be way behind the curve. Also, don’t think the mortgage payment will be your only monthly expenditure.
Step #2: Review my summary of the steps of the Mortgage application process. Talk to several mortgage lenders within a 2-4 week period (only counted as one hit to your credit). Just don’t call lenders over several months…Use my questions to Ask Lenders worksheet for a sample of questions to ask each lender to keep track. Also, if you find one who explains things and sounds like you can work with them, great!
Step #3: Get your finances in order and get pre-approved….YES – preapproved, not just pre-qualified. This means to get your financial paperwork into the lender and let them run it through their analysis and underwriting to get approved. This weighs alot during your negotiations – you will be way ahead of the rest who just found the same house but weren’t even talking to lenders…
Step #4: Look online through several real estate websites including realtor.com, zillow.com, trulia.com, redfin.com, etc., to find homes in your price range. Are you finding any that look like possibilities? If so, that’s great….and you shouldn’t have difficulty finding a home to buy. If not, you may need to adjust something like price or desired features. You can always add features and updates once purchased.
Step #5: Talk to several real estate agents and select one. Don’t pick one because he’s cute (like me), or one of the HOT busy agents at the time since they will have little time for you. Ask questions of his/her past experience and how would they approach your buying situation.
Step #6: Once your agent knows the features, price range, and area you are looking to purchase, the agent can setup a portal of listings mailed to you daily and from all you have found interesting, can setup appointments for you to visit with your agent. They can also research features, details, and other information about the properties. Once you have a date and time to visit properties – go visit with your agent. Or, perhaps you want to perform a drive by to see what the house and area actually look like. Sometimes pictures lie and the house and area aren’t exactly what you wanted. You can visit open houses with or without the agent to see styles and layouts. But if you have already selected an agent, be sure they know you are visiting open houses and mention to the listing agent you are working with an agent and mention their name. It’s possible the open house agent will try to prevent you to use a Buyer’s Agent in some ways.
Step #7: Once the right house comes across your interest, you and your agent can sit down to draft a contract offer and start the buying process. Be sure you understand your responsibilities and your ability to exit the contract and not get stuck with the house. Normally there will be a period of time to perform inspections, negotiate any repairs, and if necessary, terminate the contract and still get your earnest money back. Also, don’t forget to negotiate the appraisal and financing contingencies of your offer.
- There’s always another house if the deal goes south. It may not have “been the one”.
- See at least 10-15 houses before making any decisions. The number isn’t as important as getting to see the inside of houses and helps you to evaluate the pros and cons of the features and layouts as a basis of comparison for your decision to purchase.
- Evaluate each home after seeing it that day and try to pick the pros and cons of each. That way you’ll know what features to expect in your price range and once you see a home that pops, then it might “be the one”.
- Try to minimize the number of homes to more than 10 and less than 50. Be honest after the first round of showings of what features you are of primary importance and which you are willing to reject. This will keep things fresh and not let the process drag on and both (1) discourage you and (2) lose out on better homes when you spend time on losers.
References to articles, sources, products, or services are not a specific endorsement and not guaranteed to be true or accurate, but the user must perform their due diligence and investigate whether the information provided is valid, or the product or service is right for them. I welcome any or all comments that would help others. Be careful – if it sounds too good, it probably is!