Advice for First Time Home Buyers
Pre-Qualification: First, meet with a Mortgage Broker and find out how much you can afford to pay for a home. Once the Broker reviews your creditworthiness, debt to income ratio and how much you can afford, the Broker will issue a pre-qualification letter. Most Real Estate Brokers will need to see the pre-qualification letter so they will know what homes are affordable that they can show you. Keep in mind, the pre-qualification letter does not fully qualify you for the mortgage. It is a preliminary step toward the loan approval process.
Pre-Approval: While knowing how much you can afford is the first step, Sellers will be much more receptive to potential buyers who have been pre-approved for the amount in their offer. You’ll also avoid being disappointed if you look at homes you like that are out of your price range. With Pre-Approval, you formally apply for the mortgage and upon approval, you will receive a commitment in writing from a lender. With Pre-Approval, the Seller knows you are a serious Buyer for that property. Costs for Pre-Approval are nominal and lenders will usually permit you to pay them when you close your loan. With a Pre-Approval, your offer to purchase a home is much stronger.
Make a List of Needs & Wants: After the pre-approval process you will need to determine exactly what you want in a home. You should make two lists. The first should include items you must have (i.e., the number of bedrooms you need for the size of your family, a one-story house for accessibility is a factor, etc.). The second list is your wishes, things you would like to have (pool, den, etc.) but that are not necessary. Realistically, for first-time buyers, you probably will not get everything on your wish list, but it will keep you on track.
Focus & Organization:
In a convenient location, keep handy the items that will assist you in maximizing your home search efforts. Such topics may include:
- One or more detailed maps with your areas of interest highlighted.
- A file of the properties that your agent has shown to you, along with ads you have cut out from the newspaper.
- Paper and pen, for taking notes as you search.
- Instant or video camera to help refresh your memory on individual properties, especially if you are attending a series of showings.
Location: Look at a potential property as if you are the Seller. Would a prospective Buyer find it attractive based on school district, crime rate, proximity to positive (shopping, parks, freeway access) and negative (abandoned properties, garbage dump, the source of noise) features of the area?
Visualize the House Both Empty & With Your Decor: Are the rooms laid out to fit your needs? Is there enough light?
Be Objective: Instead of thinking with your heart when you find a home, think with your head. Does this home meet your needs? There are many homes on the market so don’t make a quick decision that you may regret later.
Be Thorough: A few extra dollars well spent now may save you significant expenses in the long run. Don’t forget such essentials as:
- Include inspection & mortgage contingencies in your written offer.
- Have the property inspected by a professional inspector.
- Request a second walk-through to take place within 24 hours of closing.
- Check to see that no changes are made that were not agreed to (i.e., a lovely chandelier that you assumed came is a standard ceiling light that was replaced at the time of sale, new appliances exchanges to older ones).