Buying real estate for the first time, or anytime, can be overwhelming. Usually, it’s the biggest financial commitment one will make in a lifetime, and it could also potentially be the place you’ll live in for many years. That’s why it’s never a decision to take lightly. One miscalculation could cause the whole deal to fall through or you might end up having big regrets after closing.
With so much hanging in the balance, it’s important to be prepared by being aware of all the steps to buy a house, including the dos and don’ts of real estate shopping.
Do: Check Your Credit First
Before you start shopping you’ll want to check your credit to be sure there are no errors dragging your score down. If you find one, it could prevent you from getting a home loan or cost you thousands of dollars due to a higher interest rate – even one point can make a difference in some cases.
It’s worth the time to get any errors corrected to raise your score before applying for a mortgage. If you haven’t checked lately, you can get your credit report free from AnnualCreditReport.com.
Don’t: Make Big Purchases or Big Changes
When applying for a home loan, you’ll want to have as little debt as possible as a high debt-to-income ratio will have a negative impact on your credit score which jeopardizes your approval or can result in a higher interest rate. Don’t buy a new car or make any other large purchases on credit.
It’s also important not to change jobs and particularly not careers at this time if at all possible – lenders are looking for stability. They’ll also be using your income as a qualification so it could kill the entire deal.
Do: Get PreApproved
Getting preapproved for a mortgage will ensure that you’re searching for a home that’s within a price range you can afford and will qualify for. Plus, it can speed up the process.
Sellers who know a potential buyer is already pre-approved will be more likely to accept an offer, plus federal regulations restrict what a lender can send to an applicant that hasn’t been qualified which can delay the process.
Don’t: Try to Do It All On Your Own
Having a buyer’s agent is one of the best things you can do when real estate shopping. No matter what your experience, there are almost always unpredictable variables. With a real estate professional that has experience in the area you’re searching in, you’ll have someone to provide valuable advice with an in-depth knowledge of the market.
That includes things like local schools, potential neighborhood issues, walkability, and much more. Plus, standard practice is that the seller pays the commissions for both the listing agent and the buyer’s agent so there’s really no reason not to have one.
Do: Research the Neighborhood and Look at Multiple Houses
While you’ll likely get plenty of input from your agent, it’s still important to research neighborhoods as location is one of the most important considerations when buying real estate. Make a list of your requirements, such as a community with good schools and little crime within a few miles of where you work, and then start playing detective.
Don’t just read about them online, if you can, you should drive through various neighborhoods to get a good feel of the area. Buying the first house you tour isn’t the best idea either. You’ll want to compare multiple homes before buying. Otherwise, you might miss out on the perfect place, or end up overpaying.