Updated: Mar 9, 2020
It's a bright and sunny Saturday around noon. You put your car in park alongside the curb among half a dozen other cars that all share a common interest: a beautiful white Colonial sitting perched on the top of a small hill, with its chimney seemingly reaching the blue sky. You're excited, you're nervous, and when you walk through the front door and see the exact same wooden banister that guided the stairs of your childhood home you have to have it. So how do you get the ball rolling to make it yours? Buying your first home can be both exciting and overwhelming all at the same time. Understanding what you need to have in order before submitting an offer can help put your mind at ease and allow you to game plan.
Get your finances in order. Yes, do this before you start venturing out and looking at homes. It is important to know where you stand and how much you can truly afford before starting your search. From experience, sellers will either not consider or push back on an offer submitted without some sort of proof of financing. Obtaining a mortgage pre-approval letter can take time, so it is important to have this ready before you start your search.
Check your credit score. Do this the moment that you begin considering the possibility of home ownership, even if you feel like you are still a few months or even a year off from being truly ready. Your credit score demonstrates your timeliness and ability to pay back your debts. If your credit score is in good shape, awesome -- keep it up! If your credit score needs improvement, then this will allow you some time to get it to where it needs to be. Many credit card companies provide credit score services for free. Don't have a credit card? It's time to get one and build credit! There are plenty of options out there with perks ranging from zero annual fees to early concert ticket access.
Get pre-approved. Before you start looking for a home, it is important to know what you can realistically afford. Talking with a loan officer or mortgage broker can help you navigate your unique financial situation. It is important to note that you can either (i) pre-qualify for a loan, or (ii) you can be pre-approved for a loan. A pre-qualification determines the approximate amount of a loan that you may be eligible for based upon an overview of your savings and investments. A loan pre-approval goes a step further and takes into consideration your personal financial documents (W-2 statements, paycheck stubs, bank statements, other investments, etc.) in order to verify financial status and credit history for a specific mortgage amount. Loan pre-approvals are typically good anywhere from 60-90 days and hold more weight than a pre-qualification when submitting an offer.
Assemble your team and define your goals. Knowing where to start can be overwhelming, it's not every day that you make such a large investment! Luckily, Real Estate professionals know the ins and outs of the home buying process and can help you feel secure and confident in your decision-making.
Find a Realtor®. Realtors® are partners and trusted advisors, held to the highest standard of integrity and are there to provide you with market insights and aid in the negotiation process. The best part? As a buyer, using a Realtor® doesn't cost you any money at all! Their compensation comes from the commission paid by the seller of the home. They handle comparative market analysis, the paperwork, and the negotiation -- at no expense to you.
Decide what you want and why you want it. Discuss important aspects of your search criteria with your Realtor®. Where do you want to live? How many bedrooms are you looking for? Is the size of the lot important to you? What you want is very important, but also make sure you communicate to your Realtor® why these items are on your checklist. Using their experience and market expertise, your Realtor® can take a why and introduce you to a what that you may have never considered!
Start your home search. With your goals outlined and your pre-approval letter in hand, you are now ready to start looking! This is the exciting part. Use your Realtor® as a guide throughout the process, they are there to help you navigate both the logistical and sentimental aspects of home buying.
Get out there. While looking at homes online can be informative and a good first step, nothing beats experiencing a home in person. Your Realtor® can accompany you to open houses or set up private showings. Keep a running list of your top three favorite properties along with their positive and negative attributes throughout the experience -- any more can be information overload and lead to analysis paralysis.
Be okay with imperfection. I'll lay it out there for you right now: there is no such thing as the perfect home. It is very rare that a home will meet every single item on your list, and throughout your search you may realize that some of your 'whys' are more important than others. Remember, quality over quantity. Checking off three items that are more significant and hold more weight on your list is better than checking off five items that you feel less passionate about.
Knowing what to have lined up before you reach the point where you want to submit an offer on a property is important during your first-time home buying experience. Being prepared allows you to game plan and manage expectations throughout each stage of the process. It also makes you a more informed decision-maker and allows you to team with the best people in the industry. If you're ready to get started, reach out to me today and I can connect you with the right professionals that will help make this experience as seamless as possible.
Realtor®, License #9556847
Waterfield Sotheby's International Realty
48 Mount Vernon Street, Suite One
Winchester, MA 01890