Part I- Planning for buying your first home.
Thinking about buying your first home?
For many, this can be an exhilarating time. Thinking about claiming your own space, decorating without fear of losing your deposit, getting rid of those nosey neighbors.
This all sounds great, but the process for many home-buying newbies can be full of questions and anxiety about the process.
Big decisions require thoughtful planning
Purchasing a home may be one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll make. And, if you don’t have a lot of experience in this area, it can be even more daunting. After all, you’ve been told it’s a lengthy process and a lot is riding on the actions you take. Most experts agree home buyers should plan on living in a home at least 5-7 years to get the most financial benefit. Whoa…. talk about commitment!
So, what can you do to ensure your home-buying process is smooth and has the desired outcome? Like most big decisions, preparation and thoughtful planning are the keys to confidence. So, here’s a simple checklist to help you get started for your first home-buying experience.
The ‘No-Fear’ checklist
Start investigating real estate agents
Just browsing and think it’s too soon to get a realtor involved? It’s not! Finding a trusted, experienced real estate agent early in the process can save you a lot of time, money and frustration.
Finding and communicating with a real estate agent early in the process doesn’t lock you into a contract or obligate you in any way.
Even before the buying process begins, a trusted and experienced real estate agent can help set you up for success. They can help you organize your finances and get ready to pre-qualify, as well as help you think about neighborhoods that might fit your lifestyle goals and financial situation.
When it’s time to put your plan into action, an experienced real estate will guide you through the process and be there every step of the way. From finding the right neighborhood and home to negotiating on your behalf, to getting approved.
So, how do you find such a trusted and experienced real estate agent? Start by asking friends and family for their referrals. Personal referrals are the most trusted source and you’ll have an inside track on what to expect. You can also check out D Magazine’s Best Realtors in Dallas list for top rated realtors in the Frisco, Plano, and Dallas areas.
Know where you stand financially
Much of the fear in buying a home comes from the long-term financial commitment aspect. How much can you afford? What if you over commit? What if something happens to your job?
This is common for new home buyers and repeat buyers as well. Don’t panic! Understanding your true financial situation will help you manage this anxiety. A financial plan will also help build confidence and set you up for success.
The first step in knowing where you stand financially is checking your credit. Your credit score plays a very important role in qualifying for a mortgage. Even if you think you may have blemishes on your credit, it’s much better to know early so you can manage the process for improving your score if necessary.
Your credit score also affects the rate on your mortgage so it’s a good idea to get a handle on this early. It is also important to talk with your realtor before checking your credit. Inquiries on your credit report can impact your credit score. In fact, up to 10% of your credit score is established based on your request for credit, or inquiries. Your real estate agent can help you find your credit score without negatively impacting your score. For more information on your credit score and how it is reported, visit www.myfico.com or www.annualcreditreport.com.
The next step in your financial process is to start paying down your debt. Mortgage companies look at your debt-to-income ratio so get those credit cards paid off as quickly as possible. This will also free up cash for your down payment and other homeowner expenses you’ll have later.
Next, start saving! Even if you don’t know how much house you can afford yet, get a plan in place to set aside money each month for savings. Look at expenses you can cut out of your budget. Even small things can really add up over time when you are diligent and intentional in your savings activities.
You can always adjust your savings plan as you get deeper in the process, but don’t wait to start saving. It’s a great habit to form so you’ll be ready when it’s time to make your purchase.
Think about where you want to live
Life has a way of changing rapidly these days. This makes the home buying process a little tough. For many would-be homebuyers in their twenty’s or thirty’s, variables such as evolving career paths and building families make it even more difficult.
You may love the area you live in now, but don’t rule out other possibilities. Check out other cities and neighborhoods to get a feel for your comfort level. Do you want to be in a quiet neighborhood or one that is closer to the excitement? Do you need easy access to major highways or airports? Also, think about the demographics of the area and consider who your neighbors might be.
Work with your realtor to find potential neighborhoods and open houses to visit. This will give you an idea of the ‘vibe’ of the neighborhood as well as provide opportunities to scope out home amenities that might be important to you.
Checking out the social scene is usually a priority for many new homeowners. Available dining, shopping, and recreational activities can be a big factor to how ‘at home’ you feel after you’ve moved in. For those with families or thinking about starting families, check out the schools and family culture of the area.
Hospitals, medical facilities, and local businesses can vary dramatically by city and neighborhood. Add these to your checklist when browsing also.
Consider what you want in a home and prioritize the list
Maybe you’ve had a picture in your mind since childhood, but now it’s time to get that list ready and start prioritizing. Do you want a bigger backyard, kitchen for entertaining, or maybe even closets big enough for all your stuff?
If you are buying a home as a couple, it’s even more important to start having this conversation early as many couples don’t always agree 100% on things. No kidding, right? For a smoother ride, know your must-have items and which ones you might be willing to trade off to help find a home that you both can live with…and in.
As you start to visit homes, this list may change so don’t worry too much about carving everything in stone just yet. The important thing is to understand what value you place on certain home features or amenities and start the discussion and list-making early on to save time and frustrations later in the process.
Ready to take the next step?
Read Part II of the series about how to qualify for your new home, or give us a call at 214-597-2985. We’re ready to answer any questions or help you make your big move when you are ready.
About The Judi Wright Team
Judi Wright/The Judi Wright Team is a real estate group specializing in the suburbs of Frisco, Plano, and surrounding areas. Named the “Best Realtor in Dallas,” by D Magazine ten times and a Five Star Realtor with Texas Monthly, Judi is also a Company-Wide Top performer with Ebby Halliday and the #1 Individual Agent for Ebby Halliday Frisco.