By Mary Jo Winter, Realtor
Buying your first home can be the biggest and most important purchase of your life, but it doesn’t have to be painful. Knowing the process and being prepared for each step can prevent many headaches – and save you money. Buy a home because you want to be a homeowner. Buy a home because you’re settling down and need a place to live for at least five years. And only buy a home if you’re financially ready.
Let’s look at the steps that will make this process an exciting adventure and a successful story to tell.
#1. Money. Save for a down payment. Nearly all mortgage loans and lenders require some amount of cash as a down payment. The amount you’ve set aside for this will determine the kind of mortgage you qualify for. It will also impact how much you can afford to borrow for a home. This will be important when you begin to shop for your home.
#2. Work with a lender to get pre-qualified. This is where the lender will look over work history, credit, debt, etc. to help find a program that works for your situation. This is also the person that will give you a pre-qualification letter indicating you can afford a mortgage. This will be important when you make an offer on a home.
#3. Hire a Realtor. There are many ways to find houses online and it can be very confusing. Realtors represent you and will work hard on your behalf to find the right house for your situation.
Ask for recommendations and interview them. It is essential that you find someone you get along with well and are comfortable communicating with. The right buyer’s agent should be highly skilled, motivated and knowledgeable about the area you are looking in for a home. The Realtor can help find homes in your price range and that will work with the mortgage program that you qualify for.
#4. The fun part! Deciding where you want to live and what kind of home.
Location. Know what you want and don’t want in a neighborhood. How close do you want to be to parks, shopping, schools and entertainment? Determine how much of a commute you’re willing to endure twice each day. If close to amenities or schools, how do you feel about traffic and busy neighborhood streets and parking problems at various times and days?
Style. Know what kind of houses you like and don’t like – townhomes, condos, two-stories, one-level homes. Eliminate those that you don’t want from consideration, and decide what aspects you can compromise on for the ones you prefer. Based upon your qualified price range, there may or may not be several styles to choose from.
Age. Know if the age of the home is something that matters to you. Older buildings, while having lots of charm, may also require more money to update than you want or can afford to spend.
Space. Know how much space you need versus how much you want or can get. How many rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, storage areas? Four small bedrooms versus three large ones? Walk-in or traditional closets? Basements or no?
Features. Know what you want and don’t want in a property. How much distance would you like to have from neighbors? Do you prefer your land to be treed? Flat? Hilly? Prefer an eat-in kitchen versus formal dining space? Garage? Driveway size? Air-conditioning? View? While this may seem overwhelming it will help give you clarity when you are looking for homes in your price range.
#5. Go shopping! Have fun and find the right home for you.
Mary Jo Winter, Realtor with RE/Max Advantage Plus, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.