House hunting is a complicated process. From finding the right home to locking down a mortgage rate you can afford, it is a process that requires attention to detail and a well-thought-out plan. Below are seven steps to take as you begin house hunting to stay focused and on budget.
1. Establish your goal. Are you searching for your dream house? Upgrading your current digs or looking to downsize? Whatever the goal is behind your impending home purchase, be sure you understand it clearly before beginning your house hunt. This will eliminate wasted time viewing homes that don’t meet your top priority.
2. Create a wish list. Once your primary objective is in place, it’s time to list all of the additional features and amenities you expect from the property you eventually buy. Do you want a pool in the backyard, a balcony off your main bedroom, or crown molding throughout? Brainstorming must-haves and also-nice-to-haves helps to narrow down your search field further.
3. Hire a real estate agent. No one understands the intricacies of a local housing market like a real estate agent with years of experience helping others buy and sell the property within it. Save yourself time and headache and hire a highly rated agent to see you through the process.
4. Get pre-approved. Knowing exactly how much you can afford to spend ahead of time helps the house hunting process goes much smoother, not to mention eliminates the disappointment of learning you don’t have enough saved for the home you’ve had your eye on all this time. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage will set your budget straight off.
5. Ask questions and take notes. This is probably the biggest purchase you’ll ever make, so don’t hold back if you have questions or concerns. Ensure you have no lingering questions about the property, mortgage financing terms, or anything else that could lead to regret. And don’t forget to write down important notes as you view house after house — things that seem important at the moment are quickly forgotten after five open houses.
6. Do some recon work. Spend time hanging around the house you have your eye on and during different times of the day. Does it get noisy? Is the traffic a nightmare? What are the neighbors up to? The worst thing would be to lock into your mortgage, only to find that while you love your house, you hate the neighborhood around it.