Lisa Westerman's Blog
Before you launch a home search, it helps to prepare for the property buying journey as much as possible. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to get ready to find your dream house.
Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you prep for a home search.
1. Establish Homebuying Criteria
If you know you want to buy a home, it generally is a good idea to define your ideal residence as well. That way, you can streamline your house search.
Consider where you want to reside. For example, if you work in the city, you may want to focus on houses in or near the city itself. On the other hand, if you plan to return to school, you may want to search for a home near top colleges and universities.
Think about what features you want in your ideal home, too. If you have always wanted to own a home that boasts a luxurious outdoor swimming pool, for instance, you can map out your home search accordingly. Or, if you want to purchase a residence that features a state-of-the-art kitchen, you can search for a home that offers this amenity.
2. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage
A mortgage typically is a must-have, regardless of where and when you search for a home. And if you enter the housing market with a mortgage at your disposal, you will know precisely how much you can spend on a residence.
Getting pre-approved for a mortgage can be simple. If you meet with banks and credit unions in your area, you can review your options and select a mortgage that complements your finances.
If you have concerns about home financing, don't hesitate to ask questions. Banks and credit unions employ courteous, diligent mortgage specialists who can respond to your home financing queries. As such, you can work with these specialists to gain the home financing insights you need to make the best-possible mortgage decision.
3. Hire a Real Estate Agent
As you get set to conduct a home search, there is no need to work alone. If you hire a real estate agent, you can collaborate with a homebuying expert who can take the guesswork out of finding and purchasing a house.
A real estate agent is happy to provide guidance throughout the homebuying journey. He or she can offer tips and recommendations to ensure you can find a terrific home at a price that matches your budget. Plus, a real estate agent will simplify the process of setting up home showings. Perhaps best of all, if you are uncertain about whether to submit an offer to purchase a home, a real estate agent is ready to provide insights to help you analyze all of your options.
Dedicate time and resources to prepare for the homebuying journey. By doing so, you can enter the housing market with the insights you need to succeed.
As a homebuyer, you'll want to do everything possible to guarantee a quick, seamless homebuying journey. Because if you're not careful, you may be forced to deal with a nightmare homebuying experience.
Ultimately, there are many ways to ensure that you can avoid a nightmare homebuying experience, such as:
1. Narrow Your Home Search
Although you know that you want to buy a home, it pays to consider exactly what you'd like to find in your ideal residence. By doing so, you can narrow your home search and avoid the homebuying nightmare of pursuing residences that fail to meet your expectations.
Think about which features are must-haves for your new home, as well as which features you can afford to live without.
For example, if you require a home that is close to your office, you can search for houses near your workplace. On the other hand, if you want to live in a small town, you can remove city residences from your home search.
Establish priorities as you search for your dream house – you'll be glad you did. If you separate your home must-haves from your wants, you can simplify your home search and move one step closer to finding your ideal residence.
2. Get Your Finances in Order
How much can you afford to spend on a house? Create a homebuying budget, and you can avoid the risk of browsing available residences that fall outside your price range.
To determine how much money you have available for a home purchase, it often helps to meet with local banks and credit unions. These financial institutions can provide details about a variety of mortgage options and help you select a mortgage that corresponds to your finances.
Also, you should check your credit report before you buy a home. You are entitled to a free annual copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Take advantage of this perk, and you can learn your credit score and take steps to improve it prior to purchasing a house.
3. Hire an Experienced Real Estate Agent
An experienced real estate agent understands both the homebuyer's and home seller's perspectives. As such, this housing market professional can help you analyze a home seller's point of view and negotiate the best price on any home, at any time.
Typically, an experienced real estate agent will meet with you and learn about your homebuying goals. This housing market professional then will map out a homebuying journey, one that helps you streamline the process of acquiring your ideal house.
Let's not forget about the assistance that an experienced real estate agent can deliver throughout the homebuying journey, either. A real estate agent can provide expert insights into the housing market and help you make informed decisions, thereby reducing the risk of a nightmare homebuying experience.
Take the guesswork out of buying a home – use the aforementioned tips, and you can minimize the risk of a nightmare homebuying experience.
Do you ever wish that they taught a class in high school called, “Things You’ll Actually Need to Know In Life?” You’d learn how to prepare your taxes, what investing is, and how to buy a home.
Unfortunately, all of these important life lessons tend to be self-taught; you pick them up along the way and learn from your mistakes.
However, it needn’t be that way. Our goal today is to give you an accurate idea of what to expect when you’re buying your first home. We’ll go over a typically home buying timeline and discuss how long each step can take. This will give you a better idea of how long it will take to close on your first home.
Step 1: Build credit and save for a down payment
Estimated time: 2+ years
The first step of buying a home is to make sure you’re financially secure enough to do so. While there are ways to purchase a home with low or no down payments (See FHA, USDA, and VA loans), generally it’s wiser to wait until you have a sizable down payment saved. This will save you money in interest and mortgage insurance in the long run.
Next, you’ll need to start working on your credit. If your credit score took some hits due to late payments when you were younger, now is the time to start fixing those mistakes by making on-time payments and paying off outstanding balances.
Step 2: Have a plan for the next phase of your life
Estimated time 6+ months
One of the most important, and least talked about, parts of buying a home is understanding what it means to own a home. If you have a spouse, partner, or family, you’ll need to be in agreement that you’re prepared to stay in one place for the next 5 or more years.
Buying a home is expensive and you won’t want to go through the process of closing on a home if you aren’t sure you’ll stay. This means making sure your career won’t bring you elsewhere in the near future.
Step 3: Get prequalified and preapproved
Estimated time 1-3 days (depending on how much initiative you take)
Getting prequalified for a mortgage takes minutes. You simply fill out an online form and the lender will give you an idea of the type and size loan you could qualify for. Be forewarned: they’ll also use this information to call and bother you about getting a mortgage from them.
Once you’re prequalified, it’s just a matter of working with the lender to provide the correct documentation for pre-approval.
Getting preapproved takes a bit longer (1-3 days), since it requires a credit check and some work on your part--namely, gathering and sending income verification.
Once you’re preapproved, you can safely start shopping for homes without worrying that you’re wasting time looking at homes that are overbudget.
Step 4: House Hunting
Estimated time: 30+ days
It’s a seller’s market. So, if you’re buying a home right now there is competition out there. You’ll need to dedicate a substantial amount of time to researching homes online, contacting sellers’ agents, and following up on calls. Like before, the amount of effort you put into this process determines how quickly and smoothly you’ll get through it.
Step 5: Making an offer and closing
Estimated time: ~50 days
Average closing times for buying a home has grown to 50 days according to a recent study. However, by securing financing ahead of time and acting quickly, you can drastically cut down the time of these process to as little as two weeks.
If you intend to buy a house, you probably will check out a lot of home listings over the next few days and weeks. However, it is important to note that not all home listings are created equal, and how you analyze home listings may dictate your homebuying success.
Ultimately, there are several factors that homebuyers need to consider as they assess home listings, and these factors include:
The price of a home is one of the key factors – if not the most important factor – that a homebuyer needs to consider in a home listing. Because if you ignore a home's price, you risk wasting precious time and resources as you pursue a home that falls outside your price range.
When it comes to buying a home, it pays to develop a budget ahead of time. That way, you'll know how much you can spend on a residence and can tailor your home search to fit your budget.
You may want to get pre-approved for a mortgage prior to looking at home listings as well. By doing so, you can enter the housing market with a budget in hand and explore available residences that won't force you to spend beyond your means.
Are you looking for a fixer-upper or a brand-new residence? Take a look at a home's condition, and you can determine whether a particular residence is right for you.
Oftentimes, a decades-old residence may require myriad upgrades. This means you may need to allocate significant time and resources to enhance the condition of an old house after you finalize your home purchase.
On the other hand, it is essential to remember that a new house may prove to be more expensive than an old residence. And if you're on the lookout for a bargain, you may want to shy away from listings for brand-new houses.
Creating a list of must-have home features is ideal, as this will enable you to narrow your search for your dream residence.
For instance, if you want a home that has a big swimming pool, you can browse home listings accordingly. Or, if you would like to buy a house that is located near some of the nation's best schools, you can focus on home listings in cities and towns that feature top-rated schools.
If you want to streamline your home search, it usually helps to look beyond home listings. Fortunately, real estate agents are available to help you accelerate your search for the perfect residence.
A real estate agent understands the ins and outs of the housing market. He or she will learn about your homebuying goals and provide you with the latest home listings. Then, a real estate agent will work with you to simplify your home search and ensure that you can discover a terrific residence at an unbeatable price.
Take the guesswork out of reviewing home listings – use the aforementioned tips, and you can quickly evaluate a wide range of home listings and find your dream house.
Open houses can be a great way to get to know a home and the neighborhood it sits in. Sure, the seller will be trying to put their best foot forward on the big day. But, you’ll still be able to get a chance to tour the home relatively uninterrupted.
But what should you look for in particular when attending an open house?
There are a number of things you can learn at an open house. Many prospective buyers spend the time looking at things like paint color and cosmetic touches that can easily be changed, and very little time considering important factors that should go into their home buying decision.
So, in today’s post, I’m going to cover some of the lesser known things you should be looking out for when you attend an open house. That way, you’ll know which houses are worth considering further and which ones should be left behind.
Not enough storage space
If you find yourself constantly running out of storage space (and who doesn’t?), you’ll want to make sure the home has ample space to store your belongings. If it doesn’t, see if you can find ways to repurpose areas for storage, such as spare bedrooms or garage space.
Overly scented areas
It’s perfectly normal for a seller’s agent to place one or two choice candles in the home during an open house.
However, if you notice some rooms have an overpowering smell of candles or air fresheners, there’s a good chance it’s there to mask offensive and hard to remove smells. Pet and cigarette odors are among the worst culprits.
The windows, doors, and cabinets should work like a dream
When attending an open house, take note of how well the doors open and close. If appropriate, ask the seller’s agent if you can try out the windows and cabinets as well.
Problems with these items can be signs of poor craftsmanship, cheap materials, or neglect.
Traffic and neighbors
If you’ve found what you think is the perfect home, it can be easy to see the world through rose-colored lenses.
However, it’s important to take them off when looking around the yard. Take note of the traffic level, and the amount of privacy the home receives. If you like the home, it’s also a good idea to stop by the neighborhood during rush house to gauge how traffic would affect your commute.
Air flow issues
Improper ventilation can lead to mold growth, especially in bathrooms and kitchens. Make sure bathroom vents and fans work properly, and check windows for condensation.
In rooms with sinks, check around the base of the sink and counter for signs of water damage or mold.
Large cracks in foundations or ceilings
While small, hairline cracks in the foundation of a home are completely normal, large ones can be dangerous.
They can allow water and pests to enter the home, causing all types of costly damages.
Keep those six tips in mind when you attend the open house, and be sure to bring a list of any other questions you might have for the seller’s agent.