Your First 5 Steps to Buying a Home
1. Interview & hire a Buyer’s Agent to get expert advice about whether, how, & when you should buy a home.
Hiring an agent directly protects your interests and confidential information because you become a client, not a customer. (See Working With Real Estate Agents Brochure for clarification.)
After signing the NC Exclusive Buyer Agency Agreement, you will be treated differently because that agent has a fiduciary responsibility to you as your advocate and adviser. At that point, your agent should be working in your best interests. So even if you don’t wind up buying, your information is still protected and remains confidential.
Really good agents spend their time and effort on ready, willing, and able clients - not uncommitted, unqualified customers. This is the most professional way to run a profitable, serious real estate business.
2. Meet immediately with a local mortgage broker your Agent trusts
Unless you have the cash to buy a property outright, you will need to qualify for a mortgage before you can buy a house. Trust your Agent to help you choose the best lender for you.
A great mortgage broker helps you determine both what youcanafford to buy as well as how much youcan expectto spend each month in a total mortgage payment. This is a key person on your transaction team so choose carefully.
You should also discuss the amount of money you’ll need to go through the process of buying so that you have enough cash reserves ready from the start. The figures will specifically direct and guide your home search process.
You will need to be pre-approved (not just pre-qualified) by a local lender before you can go see homes.
3. Really distinguish between what you need & what you want
Be realistic with yourself and your agent about your
needs, abilities, interests, and limitations. Why are you buying a house now instead of later? What deadlines might we need to meet? Are you going to stay in this property for a long time
or is this just a place to live for the next 5 years? Can you realistically handle a fixer-upper? Is price, location, timeframe, or style most important to you?
Discuss these ideas in depth with your agent. Then she can help determine if the kind of property you want exists on the market for the kind of price you are willing to pay. The goal is to get your wants and needs goals as close as possible, knowing you will probably have to compromise on something in your home search. Knowing this upfront will narrow your search focus and help you understand what to expect from your property search and transaction process.
4. Location trumps individual houses – know your neighborhoods
There is a good reason the three most important features in a house search are location, location, and location. You can always change how a house looks and performs – you can’t change the dirt it’s sitting on. The neighborhood and surrounding areas greatly affect your living experience and resale potential.
Determine if certain locations are better than others in terms of convenience, privacy, or access. Drive through at different times of the day and night, during the week, and on weekends. Is this where you see yourself living? Is it convenient for your lifestyle? Knowing the parameters of where you want to be will help narrow your search so you aren’t wasting time seeing beautiful homes in undesirable locations.
So drive by the houses you like
your agent to show them to you. Rarely, if ever, can a great individual house compensate for a bad location or troubled neighborhood.
5. Determine if you truly Ready, Willing, and Able*
Ready, willing, and able buyers are financially and legally capable of completing a real estate transaction in the immediate or near future (usually less than 6 months). Sellers only want to show their homes to ready, willing, and able buyers – in fact, agents are only supposed to show properties to buyers who are ready, willing, and able.
Hiring an agent, becoming pre-approved with a local lender, and really clarifying your wants / needs prepare you for a serious property search. Talk openly to your agent about what to expect in terms of upfront spending and contract timelines, so you are fully prepared to make an offer once you find that perfect house. Understanding “what will happen next” and how quickly things will go makes the process less stressful once it starts to happen.
A really good agent will carefully interview you about
your goals so she can help you find the home you want quickly, without wasting your time and energy on listings you're not going to buy. After all, finding the house is just the beginning of the
transaction – it’s getting to closing that is the exciting journey!
*NOTE: Many buyers find that they are NOT ready, willing, and/or able to buy right now after seriously and honestly discussing their goals and limitations with a lender and their agent. This is quite normal.
Many buyers find they need to wait 6-12 months to be able to achieve their housing and budgetary goals. I find it is better to know this up front than to find this out much later, when there could be negative consequences involved. I continue to work with these clients during this waiting and preparing period, so that they are ready, willing, and able when the time is right.