If you’re looking to buy a house this Spring, you might feel overwhelmed by the competition and all the decisions that go into buying your dream house. Spring is generally recognized as the best time to buy a home, but it’s also the busiest season in real estate. Here are some suggestions for making your homebuying experience a little easier.
Make a Budget
In order to make a budget, you have to know how much you can spend. Add up your monthly incomes and figure out what your expenses are each month. Once you’ve done that you can figure out the cost of owning a home. Experts suggest keeping your mortgage payment to no more than 25% of your monthly take-home pay. Home ownership isn’t limited to your mortgage. Keep in mind that owning a house means additional expenses like HOA fees, maintenance and repair, furniture and décor, and lawn care in their budget. You’ll also see an increase in utilities due to the increased square footage and transportation costs due to longer commutes.
Make a List of Must-Haves
Before you start shopping for a house, do some research online to figure out the type of house you want. The more you can narrow down the kind of home you’ll be comfortable in, the faster you can find the one you want and put an offer in on it. Consider all the features inside and out to make sure you know what you like and don’t like. Make sure to list your absolute essentials and what you can live without. In the highly competitive Spring market, you should be prepared to compromise on some features, but not on the most important ones. You may not find a home with all the features you want, but you should get as close as you can.
Narrow Down Locations to Live
You’ve figured out your budget and you know the kind of house you want, so now it’s time to figure out where you want to live. Make a list of potential neighborhoods and districts, and where you can afford to buy. Research locations on the internet to find out more about them then drive through the neighborhoods you’ve selected at different times of the day and week to get a feel for the area. Test out your commute during rush hour, and check out the local shops, restaurants and schools if you have children. Consider chatting with locals when you visit their neighborhoods to get further insight.
Hire a Real Estate Professional
In the competitive Spring market, you’ll want to partner with someone who has the expertise and connections to help you find your new home. Real estate professionals can offer you information not available via property listings. Hire someone who specializes in the neighborhood or neighborhoods you’ve selected to get a leg up on the competition. Your agent can alert you to listings that coming on the market in the next month that meet your requirements and set up days and times for you to look at potential homes.
Get Your Finances in Order
Once you find the house you want this Spring, you’ll want to put in an offer right away. To do that, you need to have all of your financing in order. Make sure your credit is in good standing, and that you can set aside money for a 10-20% down payment as well as for closing costs, which can total up to 5% of your home’s value.
Get Preapproved by a Local Lender
Buyers who are prequalified or preapproved for a mortgage will be more attractive to sellers, so meet with lenders as soon as you can. Preapproval means you meet all the lender’s requirements and you have a green light for a set loan amount, so having a preapproval letter will likely put your offer at the top of the stack. To get a loan, make sure you gather the right documents for the application. You’ll need:
- Driver’s license
- A copy of your most recent bank statements for savings, checking, etc.
- Proof and balance of any retirement accounts (401k, IRA, etc.), mutual funds and stocks
- Most recent W-2
- Most recent paystub from your employer
Be Prepared to Negotiate
Some buyers can get caught up in the asking price instead of how much the home is worth. Ask your real estate agent to help you determine the actual value. If a home is listed at a good price and you can afford it, paying a $1,000 or $2,000 won’t make a lot of difference. Instead, negotiate other terms contained in a purchase offer. Instead of waiving certain rights, consider giving sellers something other buyers might not, like extra time to move out. Your agent can offer you suggestions for you that can help with negotiations.