1. What is your budget/talk with a lender: Talk to several lenders. What are your loan options, what are the closings cost, etc.? Don’t just talk to one lender, talk to two or three, you want to make sure you are getting the best rates and loan options as well as the best service. Getting pre approval from a mortgage lender shows that you are serious and financially able to make an offer on a home.
2. Location, Location, Location: Think about where you want to live. Is the location close to work, family, and activities? Does the location fit your life style now and in the future? Do you want to live in a city, rural or suburban area? Do you want to be within walking distance to shops or mass transit?
3. HOA and Amenities: If you are buying within a community that has a HOA pay attention to the fees. HOA fees can be high and when factored into your budget may put you over the amount you want to spend. Also look at the amenities and what those fees pay for.
4. What type of home do you want? Once you know where you want to live the next question is what type of home do you want to live in? Do you want a single family home, townhome, condo, etc.? How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? Do you envision having a large yard? Are you willing to do home repairs or remodeling, or do you want a home that is move in ready? What items on your list are “must haves” and what items can you live without?
5. Don’t forget about the other expenses: If you are a first time home buyer don’t forget there is more to home ownership than paying the mortgage. As a homeowner there are many financial responsibilities, some are basic such as utilities, homeowner insurance, and property taxes, but some can spring upon you without any notice such as a leaky roof that needs to be replaced or a broken HVAC unit. Whatever the case may be it is important to be prepared for these “surprise” issues.
6. Parking: If the homes you are looking at do not have a garage or driveway does the home have street parking, assigned parking, etc. How many vehicles do you have and will they all fit at your new home?
7. Gardens and Yards: Everyone LOVES the idea of a beautiful yard with green grass, trees and flowers BUT they can be a lot of work, especially in the spring, summer, and fall months. Be sure you can manage the work or afford to have someone help you.
8. Use your head, not your heart: Remember this is probably one of the biggest financial investments you will make so don’t be afraid to walk away if the deal is going bad or sour. There will be other properties. Remember no matter how much you may love a home, if it does not fit into your financial budget, let it go…no one wants to be house poor.
9. Keep an open mind: When touring homes keep an open mind, try to look past paint colors and the 1970’s wallpaper. Image the home with your furnishings and your special touch. Look past all the decorations to the things that cannot be changed or easily fixed such as the size of a room, the highway right behind the home, or structural problems.
10. Work with experienced professionals: In the end if you hire an experienced professional to help you with the home buying process you can’t go wrong. Sit down with your potential loan officer and real estate agent. Interview them and ask questions. Find an agent that you trust, communicates well, and is there to protect your interest.