Before you actually begin the process of looking at homes, you should complete the following:
Unless you are able to pay cash for your home, most buyers will need to go through the process of applying for a mortgage. By contacting a mortgage loan specialist before you begin your search, you are able to determine the amount of loan for which you qualify. Typically, a borrower is pre-qualified for a loan that amounts to 28%, or less, of their gross monthly income. In addition, if you know the amount of the monthly payment you would be comfortable paying, a mortgage specialist can calculate the price range for your home search. Getting pre-qualified for a loan also increases your chances of your offer being accepted. A seller is more likely to accept an offer from a buyer who already has funding versus one who still needs to get a loan.
Prior to getting pre-qualified, you should obtain a copy of your credit report so that there are not any negative surprises when you are ready to apply for your loan. Correct any errors that you may discover on your credit report. Also, you will want to reduce your consumer debt as much as possible by paying down credit card balances.
By going through the pre-qualification process, your mortgage specialist can provide you with an estimate of how much cash you will need for the sales transaction. Cash is needed for the down payment, earnest money, and closing costs of the transaction.
Make an Amenities List
Decide what features are most important to you in a home. By establishing your criteria, you will save time shopping for homes that do not meet your needs. Also, consider what locations you are interested in. When making an amenities list, determine which criteria you absolutely cannot live without and which ones you are willing to budge on.
Some typical criteria may include:
- Price range
- Neighborhood or subdivision
- School districts
- Proximity to work
- Proximity to shopping, restaurants, hospitals, etc.
- Number of Bedrooms
- Number of Bathrooms
- Storage space
- Lot sizes
Choose An Agent
Once you have decided on the price range and the features you are interested in, your next step will be to decide whether you will search on your own or use the services of a real estate agent. If you choose to use an agent, make sure you enter into a Buyer’s Agency Agreement. This ensures that the agent will represent you, as the buyer, in the selling process, and not represent the interests of the sellers.
Talk to friends and family for their referrals of agents they have worked with. Once you have some names, interview several agents before making a final decision. Select a REALTOR® that you trust and with whom you feel comfortable working.
Remember, there are no out-of-pocket fees that you pay to the buyer’s agent. These costs are incurred by the seller. Your agent will research property listings for potential matches to your criteria and schedule showings for you at a convenient time. In addition, they will provide guidance to you during the contract negotiation phase of the selling process. Many times, they will also coordinate and schedule the home inspection, appraisal, and closing for you, as well as provide you with referrals for mortgage lenders.
Got things in order? You are now ready to begin a home search!