Buying a home can and should be both exciting and frightening at the same time – buying your first home should be downright exhilarating and simultaneously terrifying. Like so many things we prepare ourselves for in life, taking the plunge and doing it for the first time can leave the hairs on the back of your neck standing up straight while the butterflies are fluttering in your stomach. Like many things in life, once you’ve done it, you’ll feel incredibly proud and awesome.
The key to a successful real estate transaction is, of course, research. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be. Real estate research takes many forms and all resources should be utilized to help you make the right decision.
Through the course of your research it’s common to change directions and seek something that was completely off the radar when you first started. When starting out you may be thinking that you want a certain style home and end up with something completely different, for one reason or another. You may end up living in a zip code you had never considered…it happens all the time, for any number of reasons.
Wants and needs
The process should start very simply with the decision makers creating a wants and needs list. The concept is simple, but the task can be very daunting. This actually can become a living document, one that continues to evolve as additional research unfolds and reveals nuances not before considered.
Start with the basics. How many bedrooms are required? Bathrooms? Garages? Now is the time to figure out absolute minimum standards for a home that you’ll end up buying. These are items that have zero room to compromise – the lack of any one is a deal breaker. There is no sense looking at a perfect two bedroom home if you have to have space for three children!
Next is your wants. Here is where you get to dream and create a list of every little thing that you would like to find in your new home. Chances of finding them all are slim to none, so here is where you realize that there will be compromise. Don’t depress yourself thinking you are settling if your new home doesn’t have stainless steel appliances and granite countertops.
Research, research and research
The three most important words in real estate – research, research and research! Today, homebuyers have the world at their fingertips, via the Internet. Use this valuable resource, research neighborhoods and school districts online. Investigate how cities are run. Understand your property taxes and special assessments for different areas and see how different they can be.
Research goes beyond our laptops and cell phones – get out into the real world and drive the neighborhoods at different times of the week and different times of the day. Sure a neighborhood looks peaceful at 11 a.m. when looking at homes with your real estate agent but do you really think it will be the same at 9 p.m. on a Friday night?
When considering a neighborhood, look at the commuter routes you’ll be expected to travel. How easy is it to get on and off the freeway? What about the local stores where you’ll buy your groceries every week…have you walked the aisles?
Little details may not be a deal breaker, but a lot of little negatives can add up to an unpleasant buying experience for years to come. There is much to know so take the time to figure it out.
Are your finances in order?
Ideally, you’ll take the time, six months to a year, before you plan on buying and sit down with a trusted mortgage lender – be it a broker or a loan officer from a bank. Understand what the requirements are for different types of loans. Sure, loan programs change, but the basics are the same. You’ll need a down payment, closing costs, reserves, a good credit score and lots of documentation.
If you know what you’ll need, it’s so much easier to develop a package in preparation for the actual buying process than it is to scramble and try and pull everything together in the last 30 days.
The objective is to be pre-approved for a loan when you’re ready to shop for your new home. You’ll know what your upper limits are and what your monthly payments will be, as well as understanding the tax implications of owning your own home will be.
Find a good Realtor®
Good is a tricky word. Sure, you want them to be professionally competent and involved in the real estate industry. Professional competence is often displayed by the credentials your real estate agent has. A real estate agent who takes the time and spends the money to achieve these credentials is one who is continuing to up their game and stay on top of their industry and chosen niches. Don’t dismiss the alphabet soup at the end of a real estate agent’s name – rather ask about it.
A good real estate agent should also be actively involved in the local real estate community. When an agent is active and visible, chances are better that they’ll be able to negotiate the best deal for you. Chances are even better that they may know of properties that have not yet come on the open market – so find out how well your agent is respected by other agents.
Like a good mortgage lender, a good real estate agent will embrace the opportunity to work with you several months before you are ready to pull the trigger and purchase your first home. An extremely valuable service that doesn’t cost a real estate agent anything other than a few minutes to set up is a ‘drip’ notification of homes in the area you think you want to live in. If you want three bedroom two bath homes in a zip code for under $300K, the drip system can send you an email every time a new one comes on the market as well as when one actually sells.
This is so valuable for anyone trying to understand and track market trends. You’ll realistically learn what your money can be expected to buy and you’ll be able to recognize trends in the marketplace, if you study it long enough.
Use this information to finding and enjoying your first home and you’ll be enjoying the lifestyle of a homeowner before you know it!
Call us today and get the information you need to make the right decision. The info is free, call now! (951) 296-8887.
Questions regarding available inventory and/or other real estate matters please contact me, [email protected] Mike Mason, Broker/Owner of MASON Real Estate Cal. BRE: 01483044, Board of Director of your Southwest Riverside County Association of Realtors® (SRCAR), Traveling State Director, California Association of Realtors® (C.A.R.).