It’s time to go house hunting! But where do you start? Countless home buyers, especially new home buyers, have told me they feel intimidated on just where to start the home search process. And it can be a daunting process. Here are a few tips on getting started!
1. Your Pre-approval Letter
You’ve done everything right so far. You’ve paid off bills, lived frugally, saved some money, improved your credit score. You’ve been to the loan officer and have a pre-approval letter! Yay! Already you are off to a good start. Your pre-approval letter gives you the budget for your home and the price range you should be shopping in. It also will provide you with the loan product you are approved for. It may make a difference in the properties you are able to buy.
2. Accept The Things You Cannot Change
There will be things that cannot be changed about a house. For example, the neighborhood the house is in or the style of the house. Think about your priorities for these things that can’t be changed. Do you need a single floor home or a 2-story? Do you need a specific school zone? Do you prefer neighborhoods without a Homeowners Association? You should shop your priorities first when it comes to things that cannot be changed.
Buyers should also do their own due diligence in researching the properties. It is against federal law for realtors to discuss details of a neighborhood related to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, disability, and familial status. This translates to offering information regarding crime, schools, ethnicity, etc. However, your realtor can provide you links to websites for you to do your own research.
Be sure to talk to your real estate agent about the school zone you’ve chosen, or the neighborhoods that you are interested in, and the house style you need. They will be able to search for homes using those parameters to begin your search.
3. Courage To Change The Things You Can
Make a list of those characteristics you absolutely NEED to have in your home. It might be nice to have granite counters in the kitchen, but do you need it to live happily in the home? What about carpet? Is it in the house and you don’t like it? Many things about a property can be changed to suit your tastes and to update an outdated property. “Lipstick” items such as paint color, carpet/flooring, counters, faucets, light fixtures, etc. can be changed relatively easily and for a few dollars. Even better, these things can be changed over time and don’t prevent you from living in and enjoying your home now.
Make note of the things that are on your “must-have” list and then think about those things that can be done later. If you “must have” something right off the bat, then that helps to narrows your search.
4. Make Notes
You will be shown a number of homes in different locations. Each one will have qualities you like and qualities you don’t like. Rank the homes at the end of each day. Which did you like the best? Which was next? Make notes on the homes and talk about your thoughts with your agent. This helps them better select homes to see in person next.
5. Be Open-Minded
You may have a preset image of what your dream home is and that’s great. But be open to suggestions that your real estate agent may have. I had a client who wanted a ranch home, all hardwood floors, 2-car garage, half-acre lot, new construction, 3000 square feet. Well, that wasn’t going on in my area with new construction. I showed all the new construction homes that were available. None were right. On a whim, I showed a mid-century home that ticked all the boxes for my client except two – it had a 2-car carport instead of a garage, and it wasn’t new construction. But it was love at first sight! And my client made an offer that day.
Another client wanted a home in a neighborhood with a pool, tennis courts, walking trails and the house had to have a 3-car garage. The home they eventually purchased was in a neighborhood with no amenities and it had a 2-car garage. What sold them on the home? It had a bedroom with ensuite on the first floor as well as a primary bedroom upstairs. Great for their elderly parents to visit, and for them to grow old in. They added a pool and a parking pad to their property after they moved in to fulfill their needs.
So, make a list of your priorities and must-haves and remember to stay within budget. Consult with your real estate agent and listen to their ideas and suggestions. And remember to do your due diligence and check out the neighborhoods. You will find your home sooner than you think and will be on the road to building wealth and enjoying the independence of homeownership. Contact me if you’d like more information!