The New Year has arrived bringing with it blistery cold weather and great anticipation for all that will happen in the days and months that lie ahead.
Your 2018 resolutions may take you to the gym more often, give you the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends or set the stage for a long-awaited home sale. If the latter is on your list, now is the perfect time to begin your real estate journey; here's how:
Figure Out Your Finances
You'll need to get your financial affairs in order before buying a home—think about your credit score, income, and savings.
Start by checking your credit to see where you stand. Are there any errors or negative information on your credit reports? If so, start fixing them now to raise your credit score before you begin hunting for a home. The higher your credit score, the more likely you are to qualify for a lower interest rate on your mortgage loan.
Determine what you can afford based on your current income and savings. Do you have enough money to purchase the home you desire? If not, are you able to revise your budget to cut spending and increase your cash reserves? You will need to demonstrate to lenders that you can afford monthly mortgage payments as well as a down payment ranging from 5 to 10 percent of the loan.
If you already know that you are well positioned financially to buy a home, do yourself a favor and get pre-approved for a mortgage. A pre-approval is a written statement from a lending institution in which the lender tentatively commits to lend a borrower, upon underwriting review, a fixed loan amount. This formal letter offers assurance to sellers that you are in good financial standing and truly able to purchase their home.
Do Due Diligence
Before you start your house hunt, research the areas and neighborhoods that interest you. In short, do your due diligence.
Log on to HPW.com to take a look at the homes for sale in the communities, zip codes or school districts you've identified. Gather information about homes that have recently sold in the areas you like to get an idea of pricing for the type of home you want.
You should also begin driving around the neighborhoods you'd like to consider to get a feel for what they are like day and night. Take note of the traffic on area streets, find out how the local schools are rated, and familiarize yourself with the various conveniences in the area. A new home is what you seek, but you'll want to know all about its surroundings before you commit to buying it.
Hire a Trusted Real Estate Agent
You may be tempted to seek out a home on your own, but it will serve you well to hire a professional real estate agent.
A local real estate agent will know about the communities that interest you and help you find the home you seek. They often hear about listings before they hit the market and may be able to ensure you are one of the first buyers through the door.
Your agent will be able to help you make a stronger, more compelling offer, by providing insight into what sellers are seeking. It is also a real estate agent's job to protect you during the home buying process by keeping your best interests in mind and ensuring the transaction and all paperwork are handled appropriately.