Beginning a home search can be a disconcerting task, especially for first-time buyers. Perhaps the biggest question is how and where to begin the process. Some people begin by looking at real estate listing websites, while others call real estate agents right off the bat. The process varies.
So, what is the best way to begin your quest for a new home? In truth, any way you begin the process is a good way, because the most important thing is to get started. You will learn a lot as you go along, so the idea at this stage is just to get moving.
Here are some things to keep in mind at this early stage:
Do the Proper Research
Buying real estate can be an overwhelming experience for the first-time buyer. But you can make the process much easier simply by understanding it. Start with the lingo. By learning the terminology associated with home buying and mortgage, you will make smarter decisions along the way.
Next, start learning the differences (and pros and cons) of the different types of home loans. This includes the key differences between fixed and adjustable-rate mortgages, as well as government-backed versus conventional loans.
Your third area of research is the local housing market. What are home prices doing in your area? What is the supply and demand situation? Are you in a buyers’ market, a sellers’ market, or somewhere in between?
Set Your Budget
Early in the home buying process, you should sit down and work out a monthly budget for your mortgage payment and other housing-related costs. Remember, there is a difference between the loan amount you can be approved for by the lender, and the amount you can actually afford. In the end, only you can determine your housing budget.
Establishing a budget will help “frame” your home search so you are only looking at homes within your budget range. Many first-time buyers fail to take this step and therefore waste time and energy looking at homes that are well above their budget.
You can find plenty of websites that offer mortgage calculators, and these tools are a good place to start when determining your budget. Just keep in mind that the one variable you can never predict in advance is the interest rate. Only by speaking to a lender can you get a full mortgage quote that includes the interest rate (based on your credit history and other factors).
Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage
Pre-approval is when the lender reviews your financial situation to determine how much of a loan they are willing to give you. After completing this process, you’ll be able to show the seller your pre-approval letter. This gives them the confidence that you can buy their home, which is especially important when more than one buyer makes an offer.
Do not confuse pre-qualification with pre-approval. Pre-qual is an informal process in which the lender tells you how much of a mortgage you might qualify for. Pre-approval, on the other hand, is a more detailed review of your finances and is likely to reflect the actual loan amount the lender extends to you. In other words, the person selling the home will pay more attention to the pre-approval letter.
There are different ways to begin the home buying process. The list of steps offered above is a good place to start.