Q: What are the most important things I need prior to looking for a new home?
A: Patience, excitement, and a sense of humor.
Q: No, really?
A: Yes, really, but before you start your home search, you also need other things – a mortgage pre-approval, a down-payment and a list of your requirements.
The mortgage pre-approval is critical for several reasons. First, it enables you to focus your search only on the homes you can really buy. Finding a home you absolutely love, and then finding out it is beyond your financial reach, can be incredibly disappointing. Second, an offer cannot be submitted unless it is accompanied by a valid pre-approval. Sellers aren’t going to be willing to take their home off the market if they don’t know for sure that you will be able to purchase it. So having the pre-approval ready before you start looking for your future home is a requirement.
Having some sort of liquid account is also critical. Even if you are not going to be putting down a lot of money, you’ll need to be able to cover your down payment, as well an inspection, attorney fees, closing costs, and you’ll want some money on hand for when you move in. Purchasing a new home and leaving yourself with no emergency funds at all (or home improvement funds!) is not a great idea for your future. But if you don’t have a lot of money on hand, don’t give up on your desire to purchase a home. Talking to a skilled mortgage professional is a great place to start.
Also, before you start home shopping, you need an idea of what you want. The list of “must-haves” may change as you start looking, but at a minimum, you should have an idea of the following: geographic area and/or school district, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, amount of property, garage or no garage, basement or no, type of kitchen, and anything specific you either HAVE to have or simply won’t accept. For example, you only want to look at Victorian homes built in the late 1800s, or you must have a stream for fishing, or a full-wall stone fireplace, or you absolutely won’t live anywhere without a yard. In addition to your financial ceiling, knowing what you would really like will help you focus your search only on those houses that have a chance of becoming your home.
Q: Do I really need my own real estate agent?
A: Yes, you should definitely interview and then hire your own real estate agent. First and foremost, you don’t pay for your real estate agent out of your pocket. It comes from the seller’s side of the transaction, so when you are working with a buyer agent, you don’t have to worry about spending money out of pocket for the services. Second, having your own agent means you have a professional who represents you, someone who has specific responsibilities to you, like undivided loyalty, confidentiality, full disclosure and more. Your agent will be able to provide you with comprehensive market data, help you put together a great offer when you find the home you want, negotiate on your behalf, and help you through the potentially difficult steps required to get from an accepted offer through contract and inspections and appraisals and mortgage process to closing and even beyond.
Q: What else do I need to know?
A: There is a lot involved in a real estate transaction; believe it or not, the easiest part of the transaction is finding the right home. Your real estate agent can help you navigate through the entire process and can provide all the other information you might need to know.
If your search takes you to the Monroe NY or surrounding areas, I’d be happy to help!