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Is 2020 the year you’re planning to buy a home?
But maybe you’ve had a few monkey wrenches thrown into the plans.
Whether the COVID-19 pandemic has altered your plans, you’ve fallen short on saving enough for the down payment, or you just want to wait another month, there’s no reason not to plan ahead and take critical steps forward to ensure you become a homeowner this year.
There are many action items involved in buying a home. And there is no better time than now to start checking off some of these must-dos. By completing some of these tasks, you’ll find yourself in a much better position to act quickly once you’re ready to buy.
Meet with a Lender
Sounds scary, doesn’t it? But this first step of meeting with a lender will clear the air on your financial standing and ultimately how much of a home you’ll be able to afford. Most lenders are operating remotely so you can easily discuss your situation via phone and upload your documents online.
Your credit report will be run and you’ll have to provide a bevy of documents and paperwork that establish net worth. This includes an ID, tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements including checking and savings accounts, brokerage statements, 401K, IRAs, etc. It’s critical to show all sources of income as well as financial obligations such as student and car loans, child support, and maintenance. Assuming all the documents are in order, the pre-approval process goes pretty quickly and best of all will help you determine your down payment and what your monthly payments will look like.
Don’t be afraid to check with several lenders. Products vary dramatically and you shouldn’t accept what one lender offers at face value. It pays to check around. You may want to start with your existing bank or financial institution and ask for suggestions.
It’s important to get pre-approved before you even start looking to buy. Once you find a home you like and go under contract, you don’t want the loan holding up the closing.
Compile a List of Wants and Needs
There are many objective criteria that prospective homebuyers can use to figure out what kind of home will fit their lifestyle. It’s handy to set the parameters of a home search; otherwise, the search can be overwhelming. When homebuyers carefully evaluate these features for each home being considered, they will have a better idea of whether the property is appropriate or not. Here are some tips to keep in mind when searching for a new home:
- Location — Proximity to work/good schools, services.
- Size — How much room do you need now vs. what you may need in the future.
- Style/Layout — Design and aesthetics shouldn’t be considered frivolous; this criterium adds value and appeal. Your home should make you happy!
- Price — Avoid tapping out your budget. Make sure you can properly maintain the home.
- Property/Area Amenities — Does the home/property/neighborhood adequately fill your needs?
- Overall Condition — Is it move-in ready or will it require fixing up? If so, do you have the funds?
- Resale Value — You should be confident the property will appreciate over time.
- Associated Costs — Is there an HOA? What are the projected maintenance/utility/carrying costs?
Additionally, be thinking about these specifics and whether they meet your expectations or can be easily remedied:
- Exterior condition: patio, balcony, deck, siding, roof, landscaping, lighting, yard, patio, driveway
- Interior condition: floor plan, HVAC, hot water heater, flooring, windows, lighting, fireplace
- Laundry room
- Kitchen appliances
- Bathrooms: fixtures, shower, tub, vanity, tile
- Bedrooms: Size, closets
- Master bedroom/bathroom
This is where the fun begins! Through advanced technology, you can now be treated to high-quality photos and virtual tours of homes. It’s almost as good as being inside the home. Most importantly, by using these tools you can make the home buying experience much more efficient. You’re able to eliminate homes that don’t fit your criteria and focus on the ones that do.
Also, it’s helpful to have a list of top 5 neighborhoods or at the very least, an area of town that appeals to you. Home prices vary depending on the neighborhood and the style of home you like (single-family, condo, town home, etc). Your money will go farther in certain areas — it’s always good to have Plan A, B & C!
Over time, the home features you once desired may change. It’s advantageous to be flexible. Perhaps you had your heart set on having 3 bedrooms instead of two, but maybe a flex space could serve as both a bedroom and office. Once you start looking at properties, you’ll have a better sense of what’s really important to you and what things you can let slide. Your broker should be asking you lots of questions and be pointing out specific qualities/drawbacks of each house you visit. This interaction will help you narrow down the parameters and focus on your needs.
Usaj Realty is ready to help you buy your dream home. It’s important to have an experienced, and trustworthy real estate agent by your side when you’re getting ready to make what will most likely be the biggest purchase of your life. The knowledge they possess of the local market and their ability to zero in on the properties that will be best suited for you is worth the time and effort you’ll save yourself. Their commission comes from the sale price of the home so you pay nothing and get all the benefits.
While homebuyers can read about an area online, it’s not the same as getting knowledge and advice from a local realtor. Also, an agent can suggest neighborhoods and properties you might not have considered that might meet your needs.
Thanks to their personal relationships with brokers and sellers who are looking for buyers, a Usaj Realty agent may know of a house that’s perfect for you but isn’t yet on the market. Buyers who rely solely on online listings will miss those opportunities.
Good luck in your home search and Usaj Realty looks forward to serving you.
Posted by Pat O'Connor
Pat O’Connor has dual citizenship in both Wisconsin and Colorado, having been born and raised in Wisconsin Dells, but later adopted by the Centennial State. A graduate of the University of Colorado (B.S. Journalism, 1980), O’Connor began her career as a sportswriter at the Boulder Daily Camera under the tutelage of the venerable Dan Creedon. Her experience also includes stints in public relations at Aspen Highlands Ski Area, the Colorado Trial Lawyers and the Colorado Division of Wildlife. When she isn’t piecing together sentences, the self-proclaimed “Cheesehead” enjoys traveling, running, playing golf, hiking 14ers, horseback riding and skiing. During football season, she can be found cheering for the Buffs and "whooping it up" when the Packers win. She loves talking sports and giving recommendations on cheese curds.Facebook LinkedIn Twitter