In my last column I discussed the first step in the home buying process: getting pre-approved with a lender. Once you have been pre-approved you will know what price range to focus your home search in and what type of loan you have been approved for. If you are getting a government backed loan product(FHA, VA or USDA Rural Development to name a few) your
home search should be focused on properties that meet the criteria for that type of loan. Typically, foreclosure properties will not meet the standards that these loans require their properties to meet, so keep that in mind when doing your home search. Your lender can tell you what types of issues you need to stay away from but typically they are health & safety concerns. Peeling paint, broken windows, mold, un-safe wiring and in-operative furnaces are some examples of items that would affect your ability to obtain a mortgage on that property.
Now that you have been pre-approved for a loan and know your price range, where do you start to find a home? According to the National Association of Realtors 90% of todayís homebuyers start their home search on the internet. With the popularity of such real estate websites as Realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow, home buyers can search a specific price range and location and immediately see what is available for sale from the comfort of their living room. These websites are useful tools for getting a market overview and a feel for what is available in your price range, but they are no substitute for touring a home in person.
Before you start looking at homes you need to answer a few questions about the type of home that will best suit your needs. What criteria must your new home meet? How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? Do you need a basement and/ or garage? Do you want a ranch or a 2 story? Big lot or small yard? Is school district important? Do you want to live in a city or in the country? Knowing what is important to you in a new home will help you focus in on properties that suit your needs best and keep you from feeling overwhelmed at the choices out there. Keep in mind that although your wish list is important you may need to be flexible. There is no such thing as the ìperfectî home. Prioritize your needs and wants and be open to compromise.
Now that you are pre-approved and have your ìwish listî you will want to get a Realtor to help you find your new home. Your Realtor will assist you in your home search, help you make an offer and negotiate when you find a home and guide you through the closing of your property. Referrals are a great source when looking for a Realtor to represent you. Ask family and friends if they have used a Realtor that they would recommend. You may also want to visit several open houses and meet the Realtors hosting them to see if you would be interested in working with one of them. Working with just one Realtor is the best way to have a successful home buying experience. Your Realtor will help you find potential homes to view and will have access to the most immediate listings information. Realtors are experts in their local markets and have the knowledge to help you filter through the properties on the market and find the one that best suits your needs. Your Realtor will work on your behalf to keep you informed of any new listings on the market as soon as they become available. If you donít have a Realtor working for you, you may miss out on your ìperfectî home because it was sold before you knew it was on the market. They can help you focus your time on properties that meet your needs, rather than you trying to find them on your own. Realtors can also help you avoid some common pitfalls of home buying that unrepresented buyers may fall prey to. Your Realtor will know the market value of properties you are considering and will help you get the best value for your home buying dollar.
During your home search, your Realtor will focus your time on viewing properties in your price range that have the potential to satisfy your wish list. Remember that most people spend an average of 5 to 7 years in a home so make sure the house will not only meet your needs now but has the potential to grow with you to meet your needs in the future. A 2 bedroom home may be adequate for now if you are a young couple with no children, but if you plan to have children in the future you could outgrow that home quickly. A home out in the country may sound perfect to you now, but will it still be perfect when you have 3 children that are involved in activities that require multiple trips into town everyday? Or, if you have always dreamed of retiring to the country, keep in mind that if your health starts to decline living in the middle of nowhere may not be the best idea. These are things your Realtor can guide you through so you can make the best choice for your needs now and in the future. In my next column, I will discuss how to make an offer now that you have found The One. Happy Hunting!