Sooner or later we all get to a point where buying a house just makes sense. It can be that rent is crazy and you think investing on your own property is a better way to spend your money; maybe your family is growing and you need a bigger place; perhaps you finally adopted that pet you've always wanted and now a backyard will be ideal; it can really be any reason but whatever got you here let me say this...CONGRATULATIONS!...now, here are five things you should consider before you go driving around to check out open houses.
1. Reach out to a Realtor®, I know, I know, it might sound that I'm just saying that because I'm one of them but give me a minute to explain. When I first decided I was ready to buy a house, my rent was crazy high and the mortgages interest rates "were at a time low" and my employer at the time offer some extra benefits so everything sounded great. It should be easy, just get pre-approved, then run around town and find that house I've always pictured in my dreams within that price, right? Well, I found out, not really...there are contracts and writing an offer (which I later discovered was to write is a full contract) then all the things I didn't even know were important like appraisals, inspections, additions, changes and so on. Thankfully, after going out to a couple of open houses I found a great, and let me repeat that, a great Realtor® that was patient, kind, available, resourceful and knowledgeable who made my experience so pleasant. He took care of all of the contracts, explained every step of the transaction, always made a point for me to be clear on what was happening and set my expectations correctly so much so that it took about 30 days to close on it and it felt like a week. So that was my experience and also the reason why I say, #1 get a GREAT REALTOR® that you feel comfortable with, someone that tends to your incessant questions (I ask a lot of them!) and doesn't take it personally when you forget some details so like with anything else, shop around, interview a few agents and find the perfect fit...think about it this way, you *might* only buy a house once! #YOBHO
2. Get your finance game on! So finance is not the easiest topic to discuss with relatives and friends, let alone a complete stranger you have now hired to help you with your transaction. Here is the great news, real estate agents are tools full of resources that can guide you when it comes to contacts that are knowledgeable to get you the financing that works for you at whatever walk of life you are in so no big deal and do share so they can point you in the right direction. A few things I can tell you any person should do whether they are ready to buy a house or not, just for good sense is to check your credit reports at least once a year and every time you move as well as right before you are getting ready to make a big purchase. Sure, you can get your credit score for free anywhere now, some credit cards offer it for free, some banks, some other apps but is good to see what is really generating that score and we all get a free report once a year so why not? Check your debt to income ratio, basically, do you make more money per month that you spend? This is something that your lender will look at and something you can google to find a calculator so you get an idea but that is the basic concept. If you can, put some money aside for down payment, closing costs and other things but don't worry if it's a small amount, there are so many programs that help you buy a house nowadays but do make sure you ask your lender for guidance on finding assistance with these costs. Finally, try to get preapproved.
3. Make a list (Must have, will be nice to have, and that will be awesome!) It is always easy when you have a game plan in place so coming up with your list of important things like must haves or non-negotiables items, it helps your Realtor® trim down the list of houses you need to visit. Even if this is the only thing you write down, it will be a great investment of time because it will help you narrow down what's really important for you and your family. During the process, you or your family might realize there are things that are not a deal breaker and they fall more into the will be nice to have category and this might open your options a bit more so spend some time going over this list. Once you have a final list, provide this to your Realtor® and he/she'll get to work with it!
4. Be patient and take breaks. Sometimes it takes time to find the one house you want within that loan amount you for prequalified but believe when I say, it's out there is all about timing. A piece of advice I give my relatives and friends, don't fall in love with something you can't afford! This is a 30 years commitment, you can refinance within a couple of years, you might say...sure, but if you are barely making the payment on top of your daily expenses, a couple of years is an eternity of miserable...think about it. So this is the reason I say, look around, if nothing is within your range, it's ok, chill for a minute then try again, the house of your dreams (that will allow you to keep on dreaming) is out there just be patient.
5. Save the stress for closing time. So you found the home of your dreams and you are under contract now...YAY!!! You've made it this far and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Well, yeah, it is close but not quite, now you have a few days for the appraisal to happen. In order for the bank to actually pay that amount out for the property, it has to be worth the price the seller says it's worth...so nail biting for a bit but again, be patient, you don't want to overpay for something that is not really worth the listing price. You also have time to find any issues that might need to get fixed by the seller, some things you can decide you accept as is or anything else that might be negotiable. Use this time wisely and rely on your Realtor® for advice and his/her contacts for inspections, fixes and other things. Remember, your Realtor® is an investment and we all come armed with a wealth of resources and a huge network to get you what you need when you need it so KEEP CALM AND RELY ON YOUR REALTOR®
Finally, once you sign all documents, get your keys and start moving in then you start planning your housewarming, a couple of pieces of advice: 1) Invite your awesome Realtor®, you can now say y'all go way back given all the history there; 2) Make sure to speak of the great things your Realtor® did for you and send him/her your referrals, if your experience was awesome, wouldn't you want your family and friends to have just as awesome experience? Also, make sure you keep your Realtor®'s contact information handy, again, they are a wealth of knowledge and have a great network so they can always point you in the right direction when it comes to dealing with your brand new property.