Home ownership is one of the cornerstones of the “Great American Dream,” but first-time home buyers are often overwhelmed by the actual buying process. Here are a few tips on what to do when you are buying your first family home.
Determine Your Budget
Before you go out house hunting and fall in love with a specific property, you should first determine how much home you can actually afford. One easy way to find out your price range is to get pre-approved for one of the first time buyer mortgages. Your lender will need to look at your gross income, amount of debt, credit history and the funds you have available for a down payment in order to help you set a budget.
Make a Wish List
Once you’ve qualified for one of the first time buyer mortgages, sit down with your spouse and make a detailed list of what each of you really want and need in a home. Making a joint list could save you many hours of shopping and arguing, so it’s well worth the time you spend compiling it. Start with what you both like and dislike about your current house and branch out from there.
Define Your Search Parameters
Decide on potential neighborhoods before you talk to a real estate agent. Bear in mind that if you have a family or are thinking about starting one, you want to find a neighborhood within a great school district.
Narrow down your search area by researching properties online. You can look through numerous property listings, take virtual tours of potential homes, view aerial photos of the neighborhoods and find out information on the area’s schools without setting foot outside of your door.
Don’t Set a Limit on How Many Homes You Will View
Although home buyers view 15 houses on average before purchasing one, there really isn’t a set number of homes you should look at before deciding to make an offer. It might take just one; it might take a hundred. You should visit as many houses as it takes to find the one that meets your family’s needs. You might be able to shorten your search by clearly communicating your wants, needs, likes and dislikes to your agent.
Keep Track of Potential Properties
Touring a lot of homes can get a bit confusing. Rather than relying solely on your memory, keep track of the homes by taking detailed notes. Bring along your checklist and note which essential elements the house has or is lacking. Write down any features or design elements that really stand out for you. Make notes about the surrounding neighborhood as well. Bring along a digital camera and take pictures of the house. Rate each property on a scale of 1 to 10 immediately after you leave it.
View Your Top Choices Again
Make a list of your favorite properties and ask your real estate agent to take you back for another tour. Pay even closer attention to detail this time and make copious notes about what you and your spouse really like and dislike about the home.
Grab It When You See It
If you find a home within your price range that has everything you need and want, put in an offer immediately. Don’t waste your time looking for something better. Another house hunter might put in an offer and swoop your dream home right out from under your nose. Act decisively when you find the home that is clearly right for you and your family.