Practical Resolutions: Preparing to Buy (Part III)
If you are ready to make the move towards purchasing your first home or upgrading to a new home, there are some considerations you should keep in mind to make the process easier. The housing inventory is up in some markets with the start of the new year, giving you more options. Whether you are just starting to save for your future home or you are ready to start searching, here are some tips you may find useful:
Assess your financial situation: If you have just started thinking about purchasing a home, now is a good time to do some research to see how close you are to accomplishing this dream. Check your credit score, assess your debt, and make a plan for paying down your credit cards and loans. Look at homes in your area of interest to gauge the general market value of those with features you want, and use a mortgage calculator to estimate what the down payment, monthly mortgage payment and property taxes will be. Now that you know where you are starting from, you can begin (or continue) the process.
Ready, set, save: With your estimated home costs in hand, you can determine what amount you need to save before you can make a purchase. There are some great online and mobile tools to help you create and track your monthly budget so you can maximize your savings every month; mint.com is a great option. If you already have enough savings for a down payment, make sure your monthly income can support your future mortgage payments by saving the difference in expenses for a period of time.
Create a plan: Before you start shopping for your home, be sure to have a plan. You probably already have an idea of what you are looking for, but you can make your search easier by creating a list of what features are necessary and desired for your home. We all have priorities for our homes, be it location, size, style, number of rooms, amenities or countless other features, so make sure you know what you are looking for and what you can’t live without. If you have a deadline for moving, keep it front-of-mind as you go through the process.
Find an agent: Once you (and your partner and your children) know what you are looking for in your home, find a real estate agent that can help you find the right place for you. Selecting an agent is a personal process, as well as financial relationship. If you have friends or family that have worked with an agent for their own real estate needs, ask for referrals. If you don’t know an agent yet, you can find an office local to the area where you are interested in buying, and interview brokers. Keep in mind you will be spending a lot of time with your agent, so you need to feel confident he or she understands your needs; the deal-breakers, wish list, budget and timeline. A good agent will work with you in refining these to reflect the reality of the market, and guide you through the entire process from pre-approval, home searching, closing and resources, to get you into your new home.
Pre-approval: If you already have a real estate agent, they can help you find a lending officer. You can also work with your bank of choice to find a loan that works for your financial situation and start the approval process. The amount the bank is willing to loan you will determine the top-cost of the home you can purchase.
Purchasing Process: Your agent will be able to guide you through the purchasing process, from pre-approval, to purchase and sale agreement, to inspection, financing and closing. If this is your first home, keep in mind there are some factors that affect the purchase of your home. If you are looking at a short sale, a foreclosure or bank owned home, the process will take longer than a traditional home sale from the owner or developer of the property. Be prepared to work with your broker heavily during closing, as the negotiating process is a critical aspect of getting the home you want for the best price. Your agent can also offer you tips to avoid hiccups during your financing process, such as avoiding any major purchases until after your home has closed; even furniture purchases for your new home can create financing issues. To learn more information about the home-purchasing process, go here.
Setting up a home: Once you have closed on your home purchase and are ready to start making your new home yours, create another checklist to make your transition as easy as possible. Your agent will likely have some useful resources for you, from moving companies, to local utilities and near-by amenities, that can help make the process smooth and efficient. If you are moving with small children, here are some tips to help you through the process and give your kids the best transition possible. Once you are moved and settled, you can start the process of creating the dwelling of your dreams.