Congratulations! You are about to purchase a place to build memories, pursue dreams and grow roots. There is no greater excitement than sliding the key to your first home in the deadbolt and stepping foot into the entryway of your very own. For lots of first time homebuyers, myself included, we go into the home buying process with a House Hunters narrative in mind. Shockingly we don’t find ourselves sipping tea on the pier when our faithful agent tells us the spectacular news, but instead stressed and exhausted at the end of what felt like an overwhelming roller coaster ride. While a blast at an amusement park, not really what you envision for your first home search. Don’t fret! With the help of a devoted real estate agent and a good understanding of what to expect when you’re purchasing a home, you will go through the process like a champ ready to personalize your new abode. This milestone is the biggest purchase of your life so follow these helpful steps to make it a smooth and enjoyable one!
Step 1: Know your credit score and sit down to talk with a local lender as early as six months before you plan to buy your home.
Your credit score helps lenders determine if you are reliable enough to pay off your home in the time allowed and on a monthly basis. Your lender can give you great tips on how to raise your credit score in order to better improve your chances of getting the pre-approval you are hoping for. Your debt-to-income ratio is important as well. So, talk with your lender about the best way to pay off debts prior to getting pre-approved. Local lenders have a lot more clout when you submit an offer to a listing agent than a large credit union or online lending service. Local lenders are readily available and are personally invested in your home purchase. There is also a large chance that the listing agent on the home you fall in love with will have already gone through a smooth transaction with a local lender which will help solidify your offer. Helpful hint, ask your lender for their personal cell phone number so you can reach them anytime because you probably won’t find your dream home during “office hours.” Being aware of your finances is always helpful when going into the home buying process but make sure not to call it quits if you think you can’t buy. Talk to a local lender and you may be pleasantly surprised at how much you can afford. Getting pre-approved before your home hunt is crucial! Waiting until after you find the perfect home could mean it goes under contract with a different buyer before you can get the approval. Being approved before your home search will also ensure that you can afford the home of your practical dreams.
Step 2: Find a trusted real estate agent who will go above and beyond to get you your dream home.
Just like with your lender, your real estate agent should give you their personal cell phone number and an e-mail address for you to contact them with at any time. If the perfect house hits the market, you will need to see it quickly in order to not miss the opportunity to buy. While the market is constantly changing, it is almost always true that your dream home is someone else’s dream home too. Putting in a strong offer before the competition is critical to you retaining your dream home. Your agent is a wealth of information and knowledge, utilize and trust them! Your agent should do all they can to get you exactly what you need in a home. Getting an agent you respect and trust involved as soon as you can will give you someone diligently searching for your first home, reaching out to their community resources to find you un-listed gems and searching For Sale By Owner, foreclosure and short-sale properties too.
Step 3: Research the market and know what your budget will realistically buy you.
One of the hardest parts of being a first time home buyer is knowing what your price range will warrant you to buy. Look at tons of homes in your budget and make an attainable wish list from the homes you have found. Going into the process knowing what you can comfortably afford and what homes will be like at that price point will help you feel confident in your purchase!
Step 4: Give your agent your wish list and know what is most important to you in your future home.
This is one of the most important steps in this process, make sure your agent is aware of your needs. No client is the same as the one before them, so it is imperative that you know what you want and what you need and let your agent know too! If you give your agent a wish list, they will work hard to get you what you need and want. Your agent should be aware of what makes a home perfect for you. However, most homes won’t be the full package. If you found a home that is an 8/10, that is a pretty great rating! Being willing to add some of your desires to a home later will make it easier to figure out what are necessities now.
Step 5: Search an MLS supported website, like gentryteam.com, for accurate listing details.
In this market, homes are selling quicker than most sites on the internet can keep up with. This means there is a large chance that a home you see on most internet home search sites can be under contract, at a lower price point, or already sold. The best way to make sure you aren’t wasting your time, or your hopes, is to search for homes on a website that pulls directly from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) website. The MLS is a website that only licensed real estate agents can access. All properties for sale in the Tri-Cities are listed on the Pacific Multiple Listing Service (PACMLS). Properties are updated immediately by listing agents with all changes. Price Reductions, Pending Inspection, Pending Appraisal, Sold and Back on Market are all recorded on this site and updated as necessary. For example, gentryteam.com shows all of the listed properties, both active and pending, in our market. This way you are assured that you can schedule private showings, write any offers and potentially purchase the active homes on our site. Additionally, whenever a new listing becomes active on the market it is simultaneously added to gentryteam.com. This is also true with any other status changes, pending, sold, back on market and price changes. Being aware of what homes are active and attainable will allow for much less heartache and stress.
Pro-tip: Search craigslist and Zillow for For Sale By Owner properties. Give your agent a call if you find any For Sale By Owners you like and let them negotiate for you!
Step 6: Know the terminology and the process.
Going through the home buying process maintains a fairly standard procedure. Your agent will walk you through the process in detail but knowing the terminology and having a brief concept of the process will help you be prepared before you actually sit down and write up a contract with your agent.
Here is a brief overview of the home buying process.
o Draw up and submit an offer with your agent.
o Once an offer is mutually accepted, deposit your earnest money.
o Hire a home inspector.
o Review your inspection report with your agent. If any major repairs are needed, your agent will help you negotiate a remedy with the sellers.
o After your inspection period, your lender will send an appraiser to the home to assess if the purchase price is equivalent to the home’s value.
o Meanwhile, the lender will be collecting any additional documents needed to submit your loan to underwriting for final approval.
o Once you have final approval, you will set up your signing appointment with the closing attorney to finalize all legal documents.
o As soon as the closing attorney records the deed in your name, you will receive the keys to your new home!
For more information regarding the home buying process, visit www.gentryteam.com/buying.
Step 7: Have fun!
You only buy your first home once. Enjoy the process and trust the professionals working for you; your agent, your lender and the title company all have your best interests in mind!
This is not an all-inclusive list because the home buying process isn’t predictable. There are going to be things that come up that no one can foresee but you can count on your agent and your lender to walk you through the unexpected. With a basic understanding of the process, a flexible attitude and trusting the team of professionals you’ve hired, we assure you that you will end up with a smile on your face and a cozy place to call home!