There is a lot of excitement surrounding the home buying process. But many make the mistake of letting this excitement get the better of them. Buying a home for many is the costliest investment that will be made throughout a lifetime. It’s very easy to take a few tours and start thinking about all the changes you will make to transform it into your dream home. But first things first, we need to do our homework (no pun intended).

1.      Assess Financial Standing

Budgets exist for a reason, to pull us back to reality. Shopping for homes out of your price range is a waste of time, so it is important to know what you can realistically afford. The tried and true method to determine this is the 28/36 rule.

The 28 in this rule means that total housing expenses should not exceed 28% of gross monthly income. While 36 refers to total debt services including housing and other debts such as car loans which should not exceed 36% of gross monthly income. Bending these numbers by a small margin is acceptable of course but push too much and your budget will be difficult to sustain if not unsustainable. To find out what your mortgage payments will look like the best action is to get preapproved for a loan

2.      Get Preapproved For a Loan

By allowing a lender to review your finances it will determine first and foremost if you qualify for a loan and secondly how much you qualify to borrow. With this information at your disposal options are now limited to what you can afford, so you don’t waste times viewing homes out of budget.

With your budget and qualified loan amount, you now have the necessary information to start hunting.

3.      Know the Area

It goes without saying, but every market is different. Best way to find out about the local real estate market is to search online. In this day and age, a staggering 51% of homes are found online, we’ve come a long way from relying on word of mouth and newspaper advertisements. With the shift to online searching many advancements have been made that accommodate buyers choosing this route.

To read our current standing and real estate market insight reports click here

4.      Search Online

There is a wide selection of online resources to provide you all the information you will need to know about local markets. The most helpful from personal opinion are Zillow and Realtor.com if you are on the hunt for a home. However, if you are looking to rent then rent.com is the way to go. Although both Zillow and Realtor offer search services for rental properties, rent.com specializes in them.

Beyond the usual information such as price, square footage, and house features these services can answer nearly any question about the local area.

5.      Ask the Right Questions

When searching you need to know the right information to gather about the area. Here is a simple guide to follow:

-Determine selling price of similarly sized homes in the area

It’s surprising how many people overvalue their homes. Comparing similar homes in the area and their final price to the target house will arm buyers with knowledge needed for preparing a bid.

-Distance from schools, shopping, and other daily needs.

Often overlooked are details such as this about the area. Seemingly not as important as features within the home, location is a big deal! The hassles surrounding daily commuting can be eased if your home is centrally located to places traveled to most. Typically, these would be school, work, and grocery stores.

-Demographics

When buying a home, you want to feel welcome and comfortable around your neighbors. No one wants to live by the commonly portrayed next door rival. Find an area with people of similar interests and lifestyles as you. For example a young active couple likely would not mesh well with a retiring age demographic.

-Taxes and Crime

This is the uglier side of house hunting yet very vital to decision-making. No one wants to unknowingly place their family in an area where they wouldn’t feel safe sleeping every night. Crimemapping.com is a great resource for this task.

Neither would anyone want to be unpleasantly surprised by local taxes and fees. Retirement Living hosts a wealth of information on state and local taxes for you to examine.

6.      Hire a Real Estate Agent

This will save more time and a lot more effort than you know. Just as one would trust their vehicle with a car mechanic over their own repair efforts. So should a real estate agent be brought in for their expertise in a matter as intricate as buying a home.

A good real estate agent will provide a multitude of benefits. These can include searching through the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) for homes meeting your interests and price range then organize in-person tours from the compiled list. Based on sales of similar homes they will help assess the asking price and write up an offer. If this offer does not close the deal, with your best interests AND budget in mind negotiate on your behalf.

In the U.S. there are 1,303,762 registered realtors working at 1,165 registered local associations. Wherever you desire to live, there is a real estate agent who knows the market like the back of their hand. The key is to find them, which does not serve much of a challenge as they are looking to be found.

Many local realtor associations create lists of their top selling agents. Agents at the top of this list have proven to sell listings effectively and know the ins and out of the market which come with experience. Research backgrounds of their top 5 to not only find someone with knowledge of the area but just as important someone you would feel comfortable working with. Other methods can work just as effectively such as referrals which can be difficult to get if you are new to the area. Or you can access realtor databases such as the naeba.

7.      Thin Out the Herd

Your realtor has arranged some showings so now it’s time to start eliminating. Create a list of must-haves along with extra features you would like and see how the homes stack up! Having a list will give you an idea of what you absolutely need and what can be compromised on. Keep this list in hand when touring in person and check things off as you go. Print one and fill it out on each visit so you can begin comparing and eliminating choices.

It is best to take more than one round of tours. The goal of the first round is to narrow down selections to just a few, and by the second round take a closer look and really begin picturing what home is the best for you. Do your best to select the home that comes closest to providing your must-haves but be willing to compromise if your list does not match with what your budget can afford you.

8.      Make a Bid

Once you have narrowed down your list take your time with the decision. The current housing market is fast-paced, but do not allow this to push you into making a decision you will regret. Sleep on it, if you have a spouse take time to discuss until the option is found that makes both parties happy.

Now that you have the home you want in mind contact your realtor. Working with your budget they will write up a bid that they feel will give you the best chance to win. This bid should be a little below your maximum price to give wiggle room for a common occurrence in today’s market…the bidding war.

The question is no longer if other buyers interested, it’s more like how many. Be prepared for a bidding war. Inform your realtor of your maximum allowable price and they will negotiate on your behalf.

Our team hopes these tips are able to help you through the wild journey that is the home buying process. On our blog you will be able to find a multitude of resources at your disposal anytime free of cost. Good luck on the journey and feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns.