Beginning your house-hunting journey can be very exciting but it may also conjure up feelings of uncertainty. Creating a well thought-out checklist will help you to set realistic expectations both financially and personally and help to make the process go as smoothly as possible. Consider using these tips to add to your own house-hunting checklist.
Obtain a preapproval letter
The first step to the homebuying search is obtaining a preapproval from your mortgage company to determine what you can reasonably afford. This helps to narrow the playing field as you search for homes in your price range. Note: The preapproval letter is usually required to make an offer to purchase.
Investigate loan options
Being educated on the various mortgage options should be at the top of your house-hunting checklist. Conventional, Federal Housing Authority (FHA), and Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) loans are some of the options that may be available to you. In addition, be sure to investigate the various types of interest rate programs, such as an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), a fixed-rate 30-year conventional loan, or shorter-term loans like 10 year, 15 year, or 20 year which may provide lower interest rates—all will dictate your monthly principal and interest payments.
Calculate any additional costs
Homeowner Association (HOA)dues and any planned future assessments, as well as real estate taxes, can substantially add to your monthly costs; therefore, be sure to calculate these additional fees into your total budget. Note: The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) report usually lists the current year’s taxes and HOA dues. Your real estate agent can also research to find out about any known assessments, membership buy-ins, or membership dues separate from the traditional HOA.
Begin with an internet search
The internet is a great way to begin your homebuying journey. It allows you to research and familiarize yourself with the areas you may be interested in, helps streamline the process and makes it easier for your agent to understand your needs, and makes your home search more productive. To help narrow your home search, identify the type of community or neighborhood that matches your desired lifestyle. For example, if you’re an empty nester, perhaps you want to downsize to a smaller space and move to a community that offers a lively, social environment, or if you have a young family, your preference may be to purchase in a neighborhood where your children can play and socialize with other children.
Location. Location. Location. For most people, this is the driving factor when deciding where to live. Do you need public transportation such as a train or bus, or need to be near an airport, hospital, or military base for work? Adding this to your house-hunting prep can help you focus on locations that best fit your needs.
Make a must-have wish list
Make a wish list of all the features you want in your home. First, determine what type of home you want—single-family, townhome, condominium, or perhaps even a new build. Generally, it’s quite difficult to get everything you desire, so consider breaking it down by categories: must-have (non-negotiable), would like, and can live without. If, for example, a garage is a must-have but having a basement is negotiable, you can remain focused on the must-haves and avoid touring homes that do not meet your criteria, wasting both you and your agent’s time.
Prepare a home inspection checklist
When viewing a property, be sure to bring a checklist as you tour the home. Examine all areas of the house as best as possible including the HVAC system, roof, electrical, and plumbing. It’s your responsibility as the buyer to ask questions and look for anything that may dissuade you from purchasing the home. You can also request a copy of the survey of the home to be sure no easements or property encroachments exist and check with the city or town for any plans that could be perceived as negative, both of which may affect the future value of the home.
Keep a list of homes visited
It can be a lot to take in when visiting several homes in a short period of time. You can prevent confusion by taking copious notes while touring each home. Be sure to jot down both the pros and cons of each, as you may choose to revisit one or more after having seen and compared them to others.
Beauty is only skin deep
Don’t be distracted by homes needing cosmetic updates. As long as the home is structurally sound and the overall bones of the house are satisfactory, the aesthetics can be changed when you become the new owner.
Creating a checklist as you start your house-hunting venture will help you to focus on the items that are most important, such as your desired location, must-haves, and price range through preapproval from your lender. In addition, speak to your real estate agent to help you identify properties that will match your needs and wants.