The Spring home market is almost here. Are you planning on buying a home this year? Then you need to check off these 7 steps before house hunting.
After all, the process is fun, scary, exhilarating, hectic, stressful, heartwarming, occasionally disgusting, and so much more. It can be a roller coaster of emotions mixed with a whirlwind schedule. And we want you to be ready.
Recently we presented “Six Questions to Answer Before House Hunting.” Today we’re adding Seven steps to that list.
#1 Secure a Real Estate Agent
We feel it’s absolutely necessary. Even if we weren’t agents we’d suggest this. Go through the process once and you’ll know why. Agents help in so many different ways.
They can help connect you with a good mortgage specialist – See #3 below – and other vetted professionals. Home inspectors, contractors, and other local agents; a local Realtor will know people.
They can help narrow down your search, and give you insight into the local area. This is particularly helpful if you’re moving to another city, state or country.
Having a local represent your interests is critical. They can also provide you with details about the neighborhood, schools and house prices in the area.
When it comes to financing, a local mortgage officer is always preferred to some internet loan. The short answer why is that they know what it takes to get funds to local title companies.
An internet loan sounds great until you’re sitting at settlement and don’t know if or when your funds will show up from across the county
#2 Know Your Budget
This is the first thing you should do when considering the purchase of a new home. Be realistic and practical.
If you’re moving to another city or country, consider creating a new household budget that will take account of your new wage and the cost of living in your new town.
Consider how much you can afford on a mortgage, insurance, taxes and utilities. You should also include the cost of the move and any other relocation fees. This should all be put into a new budget.
Also think about how much your current home will sell for and whether you can afford to take on a larger mortgage. Make sure you also set the maximum price you could afford which will give you some room to negotiate should you find the right home.
#3 Secure a Mortgage
This might be common sense, but some people are in such a hurry to look at properties that they forget that a mortgage can take time to be approved.
If you gain pre-approval, not only do you know your budget, but you can make an offer, knowing it’s approved and possibly beat out other offers.
And there’s that small detail that you might not be able to afford what you think you can afford. Forget budget and income, your loan is based off a banks’ mortgage requirements.
If budgeting wasn’t so important, we’d move this up our list to number 2.
#4 Make a List of Desired Features
Everyone in the household should make a list of their ideal home, keeping in mind the reality of what you can afford.
If you have children or teens, tell them what size of house you can afford and have them work within the size limit. After everyone makes their list of ideal features, have each person rank their priorities.
What would you be willing to sacrifice to get something else? This is a great exercise to do whenever you’re thinking of moving to a new space.
Not only will it give you a better idea of your needs, but by having children provide their input, they’ll feel like a part of the move and decision-making process.
After everyone makes their list and priorities, discuss the list until you can come to a consensus of what’s important for the family as a whole.
Keep this list with you whenever you look at a house, whether online or in person. Give the list to your real estate agent, too. It’ll help them find the perfect space for you.
And be realistic, know what you can be flexible on and which items are “red lines.”
For example, we had clients who wanted 3 bedrooms, and 2 full baths upstairs in a townhome. When shopping in their price range we found that was almost impossible.
We had a hard conversation and concluded that having 3 bedrooms (and 1 bath) upstairs was more important than having 2 bathrooms.
#5 Know (Your New) Neighborhood
Once you know you’re budget, now you should start looking at possible neighborhoods, checking out the real estate prices in each area. Know the local market. This will help you decide if you can afford a specific area.
Choose a few neighborhoods that are within your price range. Check out the local schools and make sure each area will work for you.
You may find yourself having to compromise on some things. That’s okay. At this point, you should remain as flexible as possible while still keeping in mind your ideal location and home.
If you have an idea on your desired neighborhood, go drive it. Visit it during rush hour and at peak times to see what the traffic is like. Get a feel for the neighbors and the vibe during the day and night.
#6 Create a List of House Hunting Questions
Before checking out properties, make a list of key questions you need answers to, in particular key features such as type of heating, age of furnace, type and age of roofing, etc…
Know that in our Central Maryland home market you can find the cost of utilities for specific houses by simply calling up the utility company.
Your agent can help with your questions. But don’t forget to consider your lifestyle needs and any questions related to those.
What will your commute be like? Is the garden big enough? Are there other kids in the neighborhood? Is the street busy or quiet? Only you know what you need. Make sure the new home is right for you
#7 Take Your Time – If You Can!
If you have the time, take it. Don’t rush into a purchase because you feel pressured to buy. Make sure you like the neighborhood. Check out the schools, the grocery stores, the restaurants and the parks.
Ask to see the home more than once. Talk to neighbors if possible.
But there’s a caveat here. Don’t take too much time. This is expected to be one of the hottest spring markets in recent memory. The increased demand and low inventory mean homes are going to go fast.
I like to say home shopping is like antiquing. The more you do it, the better you get. You may find a lot of homes that you dislike or can disqualify. But you’ll also know a bargain and a winner when you see it – and can act fast.
The professionals at Wissel Homes know the Central Maryland market because it’s our home too. We live and breathe the local neighborhoods in Howard County, Carroll County, Baltimore County, Anne Arundel County and more. We understand what it takes to get the job done right. Contact us today to set up an appointment to list your home or to start the home buying process. Let our experience help move you into your dream home.