Q: I’d really like to buy a home in the next few months. What can I do now to get ready?
A: Work on these four basic steps, and you’ll be well-prepared you to shop for a home with confidence.
Is buying a home is one of your goals in the next few months? If so, this is a great time to begin laying the groundwork. Here are four things you can work on right away to become primed for success when you’re ready to buy – whether it’s in a few months or a year or more from now.
1) Find a Realtor
Your Realtor will work with you on what is probably the biggest purchase of your life! Buying a home is exciting, but it can be overwhelming and very emotional. It’s important to a knowledgeable, experienced, and trustworthy Realtor to guide you through the process. Make sure your agent is approachable and open to answering your questions, but also willing to negotiate aggressively on your behalf. Ask neighbors, friends, and family for recommendations.
Hannah Fenderson, Realtor at The Trinity Group with HER, suggests making appointments to meet with a few different agents before you start shopping for homes. “We want you to you to have an opportunity to get to know us, ” she says. “It’s important to feel comfortable with your Realtor, so we encourage you to shop around to find the right agent for you.” She adds that meeting with a Realtor creates no obligation to work together, and you shouldn’t feel pressured. “Of course, I’d love to be your partner in the home-buying process. But only if it’s a good fit.”
2) Find a lender
Before you start looking for homes, it’s important to understand if you are financially ready. You don’t want to fall in love with a house, only to find that it is way out of your budget or that you need a few more months to be ready to buy. If you look online, you’ll find a million articles and websites with calculators to help you determine what you can afford. Instead of punching numbers into some nameless, faceless web widget, we recommend sitting down with a real, live, reputable lender. “A mortgage is a huge commitment,” says Michael Walker of First Ohio Home Finance. “It’s important to find a lender who inspires your trust and who will take the time to understand your goals and make sure you’re positioned to achieve them.”
3) Make sense of the dollars and cents
Once you’ve selected a lender, you can find out if you’re ready to buy a home, and if not, what you can do to become ready. “It’s never too early to talk to a lender,” Walker says. “Getting ready to buy means something different for everyone. Some need to focus on saving for a down payment, while others work on paying down debt or improving credit. Sometimes, the best approach is a nuanced solution that combines all three.” A trustworthy lender can guide you to take smart steps to be ready. They will also help you understand the ins and outs of a mortgage, from interest rates and closing costs to mortgage insurance and points.
4) Get pre-approved
OK, so you’ve found the realtor and lender you’d like to work with. You’ve taken steps to be financially prepared to buy a home. Now what? It’s time to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Your lender will pull a credit report and ask you to provide financial documents. You’ll need to gather things like your pay stubs, bank statements, and tax documents. The lender uses this information to evaluate your financial history and issue a pre-approval letter that indicates how much mortgage you are likely to qualify for. Don’t skip this step!
Securing pre-approval will save you time and potential heartbreak by helping you determine a realistic price range for your home search. When you’ve found your home and you and your Realtor submit an offer, sellers will know you are a serious buyer with the ability to go through with the sale. This makes your offer more attractive and gives you a distinct advantage over other potential buyers.
It’s time to look!
With these four steps checked off your list, you’ll be ready to start looking for your home with confidence. When you find THE ONE, you can make a serious and competitive offer. Before you know it, you’ll be a homeowner!