Where to Start
You are ready to buy a home – congratulations! That is an exciting and life-changing decision! You have your wish list and non-negotiable features in mind to begin your home search. You know the area you want; you have a good idea of your budget. But what’s the process? What steps should you take to get started?
Buying a home can be an intimidating process, but knowledge is power. And I want to arm you with actionable steps that can help move the home-buying process along in a meaningful way.
Here are my must-knows before you start looking for a home.
1. Get Organized
Much of the process is dependent on individual timelines. However, there is one that impacts you directly – securing your loan. When you go to secure your loan, the mortgage lender will do a deep dive into your personal finances. They’ll look at your bank statements, outstanding loans, investments, debt-to-income ratio, and credit scores (to name a few). Save yourself time on the front end of the process by getting all of these documents organized in one place (including any gift letters for a down payment or closing costs). That way, you won’t hold up the lender by searching for necessary documents.
2. Get Pre-Approved
Getting pre-approved for a loan is crucial for a smooth home-buying process. It means that a lender has looked into your financials (see above) and is willing to give you a reliable estimate of how much you can offer on the home you’d like to purchase. These days, you can’t write a competitve offer on a home without attaching a pre-approval letter, so make sure to get this letter soon!
3. Avoid Big Life Changes
So much of your control in the escrow timeline relies on your financial decisions, past, present, and future. Big life changes and decisions that can impact your ability to secure a loan include things like marriage, divorce, a change in careers, big purchases, and new debts (like that new car you’ve been eyeing or the vacation you’ll pay off later). These can put a financial strain on you or negatively impact your credit score, slowing the closing on a home.
4. Work with a Trusted Real Estate Agent
You need someone who will care about your home-buying experience as much as you do. Having a trusted expert in your corner will help this process run smoothly. The best real estate agents understand what they’re looking at when they tour homes and know how to advocate on your behalf not only to the selling agent – but to you too. Great agents want to make sure you’re confident in your purchase. They will often be able to recommend appraisers, inspectors, and lenders. Still, you should know they are separate from all of these individuals. Your agent’s goal should be facilitating a smooth closing and offering their knowledge as a responsive, honest, and enthusiastic expert – this is a huge deal, after all.
You need to feel confident in your next big investment. When there are hiccups in the process, it’s easy to feel like you have no control in moving the ball forward – but you do. Ensuring you begin the process organized and patiently is the best way to mitigate the stress of the different timelines. The 30-45 day range is the goal to aim for but having a trusted team of professionals guiding your decisions is worth the wait to get you into your dream home.