Buying a home is one of the most thrilling experiences you can have: a mixture of anxiety and excitement, especially for first-time home buyers.
It’s a big deal – this is where you sleep at night, where you have dinner with your family, and where you’ll have your friends over for a bbq or to watch the game.
Your home is your castle (even if it doesn’t look like one); it’s where you get to set the rules without anyone telling you what to do… except maybe your spouse.
Here’s our advice: enjoy every second of the home buying experience and don’t let the mortgage process – which can sometimes be overwhelming – ruin it for you.
To help out, we’ve put together a short list of tips to help you maximize your house-hunting experience – a “house-hunting essentials” if you may.
House Hunting Tip #1: Determine how much you can you afford
Always start the process by asking yourself how much home you can afford.
It’s amazing how many people start the home buying process having no clue what price range they should aim for. Cruising around fancy neighborhoods looking at beautiful homes is fun, but you have to be realistic and disciplined about this or you’ll end up wasting a lot of your own time and that of others who are helping you along the way.
Plus, if you want to be taken seriously by sellers and real estate agents, you’ll want to get pre-approved for a mortgage loan by a mortgage professional.
There are lots of tools out there to help you determine how much home you can afford. Check out our blog post that helps you calculate how much home you can afford based on several factors: How Much Home Can I Afford?
House Hunting Tip #2: Narrow down your home search
Knowing how much home you can afford will help you narrow down your search, but asking yourself some other useful questions will help focus your search even more:
How many bedrooms and bathrooms do I need?
What type of property best fits me (e.g. detached, townhouse, condo, etc.)? If it’s a condo, for example, are you looking for certain amenities?
Do you have kids? Are you planning on having kids soon? How much do you care about living in a quiet, residential neighborhood with good schools and nice parks?
Or do you want to be in the hustle and bustle of the big city, where you’re in walking distance to a nice restaurant, the dry cleaners, the theater, etc?
You probably already have an idea of what you want, but the more you narrow down your search, the more time you’ll save looking at properties. Prepare this wish-list ahead of time, and make sure to plan with whomever you’ll be living with.
Your real estate agent will also thank you for this, which brings us to our next tip.
House Hunting Tip #3: Work with a good real estate agent
A good real estate agent will add a lot of value to your home buying experience.
They tend to know their city (or at least the areas where they do most of their business) better than almost anyone out there and can recommend neighborhoods and even specific streets that would be a good fit for you.
When the time comes to make an offer, they can help you negotiate with the seller.
Finally, as a buyer, you don’t have to pay a real estate agent out of pocket; they get a commission from the seller. Schwing!
House Hunting Tip #4: Keep track of the homes you visit
With all the amazing technology we have on hand (literally), it’s very easy to keep a simple journal of all the properties you visit.
Take pictures of the homes and take notes as you visit them. Record your first impression of every property: how did you feel when you first walked in?
Combine this journal with a quick checklist: In-unit washer/dryer? Check. Parking garage? Check.
Don’t rely on your memory. You’ll likely be seeing lots of homes, and it’s very easy to get them confused.
House Hunting Tip #5: Visit the property multiple times before making an offer
This doesn’t have to be a long process, but make sure to visit a property multiple times and at different times of the day. A property can seem very different during the day than at night, or even very different during the week than during the weekend.
At night, a house may be very well lit (by artificial lighting that is), but what about during the day? Will you have to keep those lights on too? Is there no natural light?
Noise levels can also be very different during the day than at night. You don’t want to find out your home rumbles all day because of the day train if you only visited the property at night leading up to the purchase.
Doing a bit of research and prep ahead of time can make the house hunting experience much smoother and easier!
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