Buy a house can be one of the most exciting times of your life, but it's important to ask yourself a few questions and figure out how to balance your wants and needs with your budget before diving in. We've put together a complete home hunting guide to help you find the right home at a price you can afford.
How to start house hunting
Here, the process of finding a home is broken down into five easy-to-follow steps to help you find the perfect home.
Step 1: Determine your budget and get pre-approved
Before looking at houses, determine how much house you can afford. Use an online budget calculator to figure out the mortgage payment you can afford each month. Note that your mortgage payments are not the only cost you, the homeowner, have each month. Also consider the following in your budget:
Maintenance and upkeep of the house
Homeowners Association (HOA) fees
Utilities (gas, electricity, water)
Unexpected expenses (medical emergencies and home repairs)
Use a calculator for home affordability to estimate your monthly payments based on factors such as annual income, down payment, monthly debt, and interest rate. Make sure you get a pre-approval letter for the mortgage different from a pre-qualification Letter. Let's take a look at why.
Prequalification letter: If a lender says you are prequalified for a certain amount, oral confirmation of your income and creditworthiness will give you a rough estimate of what you can afford.
Pre-approval letter: A Pre-approval letter from a mortgage lender indicates the mortgage loan amount for which you qualify. It carries more weight than a pre-qualification as lenders calculate it based on official documents including your bank statements, W-2 and Credit report.
Even with a pre-qualification letter, many real estate agents won't work with you until you've received pre-approval. Additionally, sellers tend to take a buyer more seriously with a pre-approval letter.
Step 2: Enter a printable checklist of must-haves and nice-to-haves
To make sure you start on the right foot, shopping for a home may require some priorities. We recommend first listing each room you want your home to have. Then go room by room and write down the functions each is supposed to have. You can divide these features into three categories: must-haves, nice-to-haves, and deal-breakers. When you're done room by room, consider must-haves and nice-to-haves for the entire home.
When something is a must have, you just can't live in your house without it and it's one of the things that you do to sort out houses that just don't work. For example, you may need three bedrooms to accommodate your family, a well-lit space for your remote home office, or lots of garage space for the classic car you've restored.
A list of must-haves can help you browse property listings more efficiently. You may have found the perfect home in every way, but it has no back yard and is miles from the nearest school. If you have a large family with young children and a dog, outdoor space and proximity to a school are must-see locations.
If a home isn't currently one of your must-haves but has plenty of space or room for renovation, it might be a good idea to keep the home on your list as a viable option.
Having something nice is a desire, not an essential one. They are features in your home that you would like to have, but that are not necessarily high on your priority list. You might want your new home to have a backyard pool, updated equipment, a spiral staircase, or a fire pit, but by and large, those requirements are unlikely to be groundbreaking requirements.
The beauty of a list of nice-to-haves is that once you've narrowed down your list of homes, they can help you decide between your final candidates.
Step 3: check out the housing search websites and apps
Browse available homes online to get a feel for your local housing market. You might also want to try a House hunting app. Housing search websites can help you see exactly how much the average home is selling in your area and get a more realistic idea of what type of home you can afford. If you are looking for home ownership online, you can do some research too potential neighborhoods for schools, shopping, crime rates, and anything else you might consider. Apps can help you streamline your process and provide organized access to entries.
Compare prices for what you see in the market against your budget. Then write down some addresses and contact your real estate agent or the real estate companies that have listed the houses you are interested in.
Step 4: Connect with a real estate agent or REALTOR®
A reliable real estate agent or REALTOR® is an expert in your local market who can make home shopping easier and less stressful. They can help you narrow down your search, give you a better idea of how to get the most from your budget, and show you more apartments than you can see yourself. A good real estate agent or REALTOR® They will also carefully consider your individual needs as they will suggest homes for you to show off instead of just trying to push you into the biggest sale and commission.
What is the difference between a real estate agent and a REALTOR?®?
A Real estate agent is a professional who has passed the license exams required to do business in your state.
REAL GATES® are real estate agents who are members of the National Association of REALTORS®. You must have a valid real estate license, be active in the market, adhere to a strict code of ethics, and have a clean record of professional conduct.
Both of these can be of great help when looking for an apartment. Work with a real estate professional who is certified as Accredited buyer representative (ABR) or Certified buyer representative (CBR). You might also consider a professional who has a real estate agent license, which means that they have promoted their real estate education.
Ask for testimonials from previous home buyers and interview a few candidates before you commit. Since you spend a lot of time together, choose an agent whose personality goes well with yours and make your expectations and needs clear beforehand.
Step 5: see houses in person
Many sellers have open houses for their properties that anyone can go inside and tour the house. You can also arrange personal viewings with your real estate professional of your choice. When looking at a house, don't be afraid to be a little curious. Test electrical outlets, showers, toilets, and kitchen appliances to make sure they are working. If you decide to buy the home, think about repairs or replacements that you may want the seller to do.
Don't limit your hunt just to the house, either. Where you buy a house is just as important as which house you buy. Your real estate agent can help you explore neighborhoods and properties. Drive through areas you think you might like and compare local amenities and features to your budget. As you tour more homes and explore each neighborhood, you will get a better idea of the right home and community for you.
House Hunting Pro Tips
Still struggling to find the perfect home? Here are some more top tips.
Consider short sales and foreclosures
If you come up empty-handed in your search, it may be time to think outside the box. Why not look inside? Short sales, Foreclosures or other types of properties?
Short Selling: A short sale is a real estate transaction in which a property is sold for less than the owner owes on the mortgage. Short sales are usually initiated by the homeowner through the lender to avoid foreclosure. As a home buyer, you can expect lower prices and highly motivated sellers.
Foreclosures: Foreclosures are triggered by a lender when a homeowner stops making monthly payments. In many cases, the home has been abandoned or abandoned by the owner. In a foreclosure, the lender tries to get the money owed back by forcing the home to be sold.
Both short sales and foreclosed homes can be cheaper than regularly listed homes, but you may need to dig a little more to find them. You may need to search banking websites, look up government deals, visit county offices, or pay for a foreclosure service. You should also expect a more laborious and lengthy process than a normal sale. A skilled real estate agent can do a lot for you if you are looking to explore these alternatives.
Look in Starter Homes
If you have a First time buyerThen you might want a starter house that is often smaller and more economical for price-conscious customers. Remember, opting for a smaller home doesn't mean you will have to live there forever. You can upgrade at any time. When you're ready, your real estate agent can point you in your budget for starter houses.
Leave your options open
While looking for a place to live, you may find that your wants and needs do not match your budget. Maybe your heart is on a four bedroom home, but they are all out of your price range. It's time to make tough decisions or get creative. Can you add a bedroom in a basement? Can you turn an office into a bedroom? A home that may not be eligible could potentially be back on your list.
If you're still struggling to find the right home, you may need to tweak your list of must-haves and nice-to-haves. If there is something on your list that is preventing you from deciding on a home within your budget, get rid of it.
Ready to start your house hunt?
Finding the right home can take time. First, get pre-approved by your mortgage lender and set a budget. Then take a look at your local housing market, both online and with a real estate professional. Decide what your ideal home needs to have and narrow your search. Once you have decided on a few properties that interest you, plan your visits and attend an open house.
Originally published by Rocket Mortgage
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