There’s just something special about the firsts in life, whether it’s a first kiss, first love, first car… or your first home.
Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, said, “The first car I bought was the most beautiful car I've ever seen. It was secondhand, but I parked it outside of my hotel the day I got it. I sat up all night, just lookin' at it.”
Life is unpredictable. We may stay with our firsts forever, or we may in time move on to newer and better kissers, lovers, cars or homes. And yet the heart and mind will always reserve a special place for romantic memories of our firsts.
Following are some tips to help you start your search successfully if you’re ready to experience the thrill of becoming a first time home owner.
Smart buyers prioritize getting pre-approved for financing before taking any other steps.
Granted, completing mortgage paperwork is not as fun and gratifying as searching for homes online, touring properties and attending open houses.
But your new home should be your refuge from the stresses of life, not the source of your stress. Pre-approval will help you establish a realistic buying budget that considers all of your housing expenses including taxes and, if applicable, association fees. Being budget wise will help you shop smart and minimize financial stress in the long run by keeping your monthly housing expenses within reach.
Pre-approval can also accelerate and focus your house hunting, and minimize the stress of the search. For example, searching after —r ather than before — pre-approval will help you avoid the discouragement of falling in love with a home that later turns out to be above what you can be approved for.
Pre-approval is also important because attractive homes and good values can sell very quickly here in the Lakes Region, and it can be absolutely heartbreaking to miss out on a home that you really want, simply because another buyer is pre-approved and you’re not. Sellers take pre-approved buyers more seriously and other offers can be rapidly submitted and accepted while unprepared buyers await financing approval.
Finally, the pre-approval process will also help you determine four very important things: what type of financing is available to you, how much interest it will cost, how much money you’ll have to put down, and how long it will take to “close” (legally transfer property ownership from seller to buyer) once the seller has accepted your offer.
For example, FHA loans, which are mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration, offer competitive interest rates and more flexible qualification requirements to homebuyers, but they may require a higher down payment and can add days to your closing schedule.
Once you’re pre-approved, shop smarter, not harder.
Once you’ve got your housing budget determined and financing pre-approved, it’s important to shop effectively because attractive properties can go off the market before you’ve even seen them!
Leverage technology to make your search more quick and effective. Start by viewing MLS listings and saving searches on a quality real estate search tool, such as the one at rocherealty.com.
Focus your search on properties that have the features you need and are within your pre-approved price range. A good site will allow you to target very specific areas—like streets or certain communities — will accurately list only currently-available properties, and will offer you the option of automated email updates.
Next, meet with licensed real estate professionals and establish “buyer representation” with one with whom you are comfortable. This will commit the REALTOR to the fiduciary responsibilities of confidentiality, loyalty, full disclosure of any knowledge that might benefit you, lawful obedience, and protecting and promoting your interests as a buyer, first and foremost.
Like a matchmaker, your real estate professional will bring professional power to the search and help you find homes you may not have been able to find on your own. Sometimes they know of possible properties before they’re even listed!
Further, they can help you obtain valuable information on the home’s condition, location and site, provide advice on market conditions, current prices and issues that may impact later resale values, and they can help you negotiate the best price when you do place an offer.
And it shouldn’t cost you anything to avail yourself of their services as a buyer — a real estate agent’s commission is usually paid by the seller.
Becoming a first time home owner can change your life dramatically, like falling in love for the first time. Find a matchmaker who will help you find a first home you’ll love, and good luck!