What might seem an elementary question for those of us who have bought and sold several homes, “What is the process for buying a house?” is a tough one for the first time homebuyer. This is for all those first time homebuyers out there who need a guide.
So you’ve decided to buy your first house, congratulations! I hope to give you some sound advice and easy steps to help make the process as seemless as possible. First consider these questions carefully:
- Where do I want to live?
- What type of home will fit my needs?
- How much can I spend?
- Who will help me to find what I want?
1.The first step of the process for buying a house? Start with where you want to live. If you already have a community picked out great, if not, ask yourself what areas make the most sense given your top priorities for moving. Most people consider the following criteria: Commute to work, school system, proximity to stores, hospitals or recreation, community lifestyle, family ties and cost of living. Create a list of your top 10 possibilities and visit each one if possible and spend some time there. When you have decided on your top 3, you have begun your adventure.
2. The second step of the process for buying a house? What type of home will fit your needs? I always ask my clients to begin their search by making a “wish list”. It’s fun to fantasize and start a discussion with yourself, your partner or spouse by organizing a vision of your future home. Put your list in priority order. If you are not buying a house alone, do separate lists to see what each of you find most important and cannot live without and what you can compromise on. Some things to include: number of bedrooms and baths, style, amount of acreage or setting, garage capacity, approximate square feet of heated living space and age of the home. Also include amenities such as: fireplace, pool, extra building or studio/workspace, water features, views and proximity to neighbors. Last ask yourself if you want a home that is in move in condition or, are you willing to renovate or restore. Now put that list aside for a moment.
3. The third step of the process for buying a house? How much can you spend? The old saying “don’t bite off more than you can chew” is especially important in purchasing a home. I have always counseled my clients to be conservative and not to end up “house poor”. The last thing you should do is work only to pay your mortgage . Giving up all the pleasures and leisure time activities you love for a house is never good. To get a clear idea of what you can afford call a local bank or lending institution, ask for a pre-approval or pre-qualification. Do not apply for a mortgage yet. This exercise is for realistic guidelines, so you will only consider properties you can afford and keep within that budget when making an offer on a home you like. The process of getting pre-approved is simple. A mortgage officer will ask if you have available cash for a down-payment and closing costs plus verification of your income and expenses . A credit report will be ordered by the lender to see if there are any concerns with repaying debt. Based on your credit score (which is like a report card for how you handle money) the loan officer will tell you what you can afford and if there are any particular programs that would most suit you as a first time home buyer. It’s critical at this point to review your personal budget carefully and to be honest with yourself. If you are not willing to give up your vacations in Tahiti or your expensive Brooks Brothers shopping sprees then re-adjust your budget to include those lifestyle choices and reduce your mortgage amount to allow for the additional expenditures. You will get a certificate from the lender that you are now pre-approved for a mortgage up to a certine limit. This is a huge advantage when making an offer to purchase a home to the seller because they know you are serious and can afford what you are offering. Now you are ready to pull out your “wish list”.
4. The fourth step of the process for buying a house? How do I find my dream home? My guess is that you like most buyers will start looking for properties on-line. It’s easy enough to put in your parameters of price range, areas of interest and to insert your needs and wants. It’s quite satisfying to search, eliminate and review all the available homes. It’s entertaining to look at all the pretty pictures and even ask for more information. BUT you should not choose an agent to assist you in your search based upon the looks of a property they are presenting on a website. First ask friends and family if they can recommend a full-time professional who works in the area you want to explore, if you get glowing reports then call that person, if the report is just so so, move on. If you have no one in mind then find a company with a proven reputation and national name recognition or ask in your prospective community for a reputable company. When you hear the same names mentioned over and over you should contact the principal broker of one of those agencies and ask them to match you with one of their agents. As the principal broker of a large firm I often get calls from buyers asking if I would recommend an agent based on the agents expertise for a specific type of property, price range or area they primarily service. I find myself matching a buyer with an agent who I know is knowledgable and able to meet the client’s needs. Another option is to conduct your own investigation by searching on-line for agents’ websites, blogs and agent profiles which give you an idea of the individual behind the picture and some insight into their business style. I would contact the agents and eliminate anyone who does not get back to you within 24 hours. When interviewing an agent ask for areas they serve and how many properties they have listed or sold where you want to be. Personally, I suggest you ask the agent send you 5-10 of the best properties that are on the market based on your description and see if they send you what you’ve asked for. If you like what you see, make the appointment and after your first day of viewing homes, ask yourself if you feel a connection with the agent and was it an enjoyable experience. It’s fine to sign a buyers contract now when you have identified the Realtor that you want to represent you. A buyer contract is a higher level of committment from the agent to you (as opposed to the sellers of the properties you ae viewing) which clearly describes what service they will provide in exchange for loyalty.
Now you have all the pieces of the process of buying a house in place. Where you want to buy, what type of home, how much you can spend and the Realtor who will guide and advise you. Buying a house should be a wonderful and memorable experience so now it’s your adventure. If you have any more questions about the process for buying a house or wan’t to begin your search in the Hudson Valley/Catskill area don’t hesitate to contact me by visiting my website www.villagegreenrealty.com. Happy Househunting!