Make a Checklist
Before you even start searching, decide what you’re looking for. Is there a specific area that’s appealing? Are you looking for a house or a condominium? Is there a layout you prefer? Is there a school district you’d prefer to be in? Consider these questions and make a list of the things you want in a new home. Include everything from location to interior/exterior features, and divide the list into two sections: negotiable and non-negotiable. Having this list will help you narrow down your property search, and help guide your decision-making process.
Get Your Finances in Order
Getting your finances in order is another important time-saving step in the home buying process. First, get a free credit report. Doing your homework by looking into your credit report will give you a chance to clean it up and dispute any errors. If you have monthly debt obligations, pay down those balances and get yourself moving in the right direction toward a higher credit score. Then, examine home financing options. The right home loan will give you a sense of confidence, along with reliability and affordability. Once you’ve reviewed your loan options, decide how much you can afford for a down payment. It’s important to remember that the larger your down payment, the lower your monthly mortgage payment. For help determining down payment and mortgage payment information, take advantage of an easy to use mortgage calculator.
Hire a Realtor
Ask for recommendations from friends and acquaintances who have recently sold or bought a house. Create a list from these suggestions, and determine which Realtor has the most experience with the property type you’re interested in purchasing. Although the internet is packed with real estate websites, an agent will have first-hand, local knowledge that will greatly simplify and facilitate your search. An experienced agent will have an understanding of the housing market and can help you through the negotiation process so you avoid overpaying.
Time is one of our most valuable commodities, and it’s important to narrow your real estate search to maximize your effectiveness. Before taking time to visit a property, see if there’s a virtual tour online. If not, ask your Realtor to do a preliminary walk-through. Also, don’t waste time looking at homes you can’t afford. By aiming for affordability, you’ll set yourself up for greater success in the long run.
Making an Offer & Negotiating
While buying a home isn’t quite the same as buying a car, there is a similar process for negotiation.
- Don’t offer full price unless it’s the best deal you’ve ever seen, or you are facing competitive offers from other buyers in a rising market.
- If the house needs work, take into consideration the cost of renovations. If not already reflected in the asking price, deduct the cost of repairs before making an offer.
- Don’t be discouraged by counter offers. The fact that the seller is engaging you means they’re taking you seriously. Don’t automatically accept their counter offer; determine how much more you’re comfortable paying, and consider submitting your own counter offer.
Before you close on your house, make sure to get a home inspection. Examine what is covered by a home inspection, and print out a list for reference. Hire an accredited home inspector, and accompany them as they inspect your potential new home. Keep your list handy to be sure their inspection covers all the pertinent areas. Make sure you’ve been made aware of all material facts. Although regulations vary by state, homeowners are required to disclose the presence of lead-based paint and any major defects. Prior to closing, always do a final walk-through, inspecting the property to ensure it’s in the same condition as when you agreed to purchase it.
When you’ve made the decision to buy, there are a few things that need to be in place before you can close on your purchase:
- A title search is required by mortgage lenders to ensure that the buyers have clear title to the home and it doesn’t have any liens placed against it.
- Decide how you want to hold title to the property (the legal name(s) and type of relationship between owners). Because the various options have different estate planning and tax implications, you may want to consult an accountant or attorney.
- Title insurance is another way to guarantee that the owner is handing over a clean title.
- When closing on your home, you’ll need to bring a paid receipt for homeowner’s insurance, which covers your house in the event of fire, damage, etc. Your agent or mortgage lender can help you obtain quotes and find the best match for your needs.