Buying a new home, as we all know, is a crazy, hectic process. Not only do you spend endless hours searching online through listings, but you eventually have to start physically looking at houses you’ve picked out. You go from this house to that house to a thousand more (not literally but it feels like it) only to be let down as reality isn’t anything like what the pictures have showcased. Maybe the house isn’t as nice as you thought it’d be. Maybe the layout is downright awful. The yard is too small. The neighborhood isn’t want you wanted. The list goes on. Having just purchased a home myself, let’s look at ways to take the stress out of buying your first home (or any home for that matter).
Choosing your realtor is everything. This, hands down, in my book, is one of the most crucial factors and lessons I’ve recently learned in the whole process. You need to find a realtor that suits you, that is compatible with your style, and listens to you and your growing list of wants and needs. Sitting down with a handful and having a mini interview of sorts may sound silly, but you can save yourself tons of headache in just this first step. Not everyone understands this simple task but take it from someone who didn’t do this and ultimately was stuck in a contract having their spouse inundated with millions of emails, calls, and texts.
Get pre-approved. Get pre-approved before you start looking. Let me repeat this. Get pre-approved before you start looking. This step will save so much time. Not only will it allow you to know what you can afford, many listing agents require you to have this letter with you before showing you a house if you are not currently working with a realtor.
Know what you can afford. Sure, you received the official pre-approval letter stating you are approved for x amount of dollars, but can you really afford the monthly note that comes along with it? Sit down and comb through your finances multiple times to account for every bill you have and remember to factor in all potential new expenses from having a new home (house insurance, property taxes, mortgage insurance, repairs, etc.) Do not push your limits because you will have unexpected expenses. There is not a way around that. Many people are running out to purchase homes only to realize after they’ve been locked in that they cannot afford the note and end up in bankruptcy. You do not want that.
Make a list of wants and needs. Make a list to give to your realtor. This helps give them guidelines on what you’re looking for. Key word: guidelines. Be open to a few options as it can open up several more potential homes to add to the mix. (Instead of: must be updated. Try: preferably updated but willing to take on projects for the right house).
Do your own research. Not everyone will agree with this one but it can often times be helpful to browse through listings to not only get an idea of what you like but also to save some time and hassle of your realtor sending a huge list your way to go through or having to go look at the ones on that long list. I don’t know about you, but I sure do not want to be dragging the streets in the evenings looking at countless homes that just aren’t for me. Instead, try getting together a few homes you are truly interested in to send to your realtor and go from there.
Know the market. In doing your research, you’ll begin to find trends in the marketplace. Your realtor may also send you reports of the area. Be smart to avoid overpaying for a home that may be decreasing in value.
Don’t overpay. Though this is mentioned above, it is a big point that deserves its own slot. In some areas, particularly larger cities, the homes are flying off the market in as little as a day or two after being listed. The competition is so fierce that people are rushing in, quickly deciding on the home (whether or not they are in love with it) and offering thousands of dollars over list price. Not only is this driving up home prices further, but it is often decreasing the equity of the home.
Place your offer. Your realtor will draw up an offer letter – more like packet – that you will have to sign in order to put in your bid. If the seller accepts it, more paperwork will follow giving you deadlines of everything to come.
Get the appraisal. When the time comes, you’ll need to get the appraisal for the home. I’m not sure if the appraisal is the same in every state, but we went with the required general appraisal, as well as tacked on getting the sewage scoped and radon levels tested. It is highly recommended to get all of them if offered. It can spare you moving forward into a potentially bad deal (at least it did for us).
Close. You will sign a lot of papers. A lot. But it will be worth it at the end.
That’s it guys. The light at the end of this long drawn out home battle. Ultimately, just be patient. The more you stress, the more frantic the process becomes. But if you can find humor in it all and just breathe, the right home at the right price will come along making you officially, a home owner.
Chelsea is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click here.