Before you embark on one of the biggest journeys of your life – buying your first home – here are some tips that may make the passage smoother.
#1 Get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage.
If you know how much house you can afford to buy, you won’t waste your time looking at properties that are out of your price range. Also, if you have been pre-approved for a mortgage, you will have more credibility as a buyer.
#2 Ask yourself where you want to live long-term.
Owning a home is a more serious commitment than renting, so be sure that the house, neighborhood and town are where you really want to be now and possibly in the future.
#3 Consider your commute.
That cute little fixer-upper in the retreat setting may seem like a great deal, but if you have to travel 20 miles to get to the nearest highway, it won’t seem as endearing later on. Before you buy, think about the availability of public transportation and proximity to major routes.
#4 Decide how much you want to spend.
You may qualify for a sizable mortgage, but check your budget to see how much you and/or your co-buyer will have left to live on after you make your monthly mortgage payment. If a less expensive house might allow you cash for things like vacations and dinners out, maybe less is better. But if owning a nicer home and staying in and enjoying it is your thing, then go for it.
#5 Determine what kind of home you want.
Antique houses have charm, but are you willing to take on the responsibility of replacing older electric, heating, and roofing on a circa 1776 home if that work hasn’t already been done? Do you want one-floor living, a big backyard or nothing to mow? Are you looking for a home that’s picture perfect or one that needs more than a little “TLC?” If you’re willing and able to put some sweat equity into your property, you might consider distressed properties, such as foreclosures or short sales.
#6 If you have kids, check out the schools.
You can obtain public school reports and assessment test results for every town or city in the state by going on to the state education department website for your area. Your Realtor can also obtain these reports for you.
#7 Contact a Buyer’s Agent.
A real estate agent working on your behalf will show you all properties in the Multiple Listing Services that are in your price range and email you new listings as they arrive on the market. When you find a home you want, he or she will write up and present your offer to purchase, attend all inspections, and negotiate with the seller in your best interest.
#8 Keep a list of what you like and don’t like about the homes you tour.
If you end up looking at a lot of houses with your agent, it may be hard to remember your thoughts on each one. Write down pluses and minuses about each property as you tour it and then compare the results to others you’re considering.
#9 Hire a lawyer to look over your purchase and sale agreement.
When your offer is accepted, you are now about to enter into a binding agreement with the sellers to buy their home. It’s a good idea to have an attorney review all the terms and conditions contained in the P&S agreement before you sign on the dotted line.
#10 Understand the terms of your mortgage.
Contact an experienced mortgage consultant to advise you on the loan that will best lead you into home-ownership. Find out the details of fixed rate and variable mortgages as well as government loan programs requiring lower down payments and less stringent requirements, geared especially toward the first-time buyer.
Interest rates are at historic lows. Inventory is plentiful and sellers are listening. There may never be a better time to buy your first home.