Buying a home is the biggest investment you will make in your life. Here are some tips that will help you get started:
1. FInd a home you love but be realistic
Buying a home can be an emotional process, and you can't take all the emotions out of it. Make a checklist of "must-haves" and things you would like to have in a home. Realize that in most cases, houses you look at will meet some, but not all of your criteria. Be open to compromise and know what you would be willing to sacrifice to move into your dream home.
2. Get pre-approved
Before you look at any houses, you should sit down with a lender and get pre-approved, so that you know your purchasing power. You don't want to find your dream house and then realize you can't afford it! Also, most sellers require a pre-approval letter at the time of offer. If you have the pre-approval letter, it will put you in a better position when making an offer.
3. Know the costs and save
There are various costs associated to buying a home—more than your closing costs and mortgage payment. Your lender should give you an estimate of any closing costs and your agent should let you know about any HOA fees associated with the home you're buying. Also, know that home/pest inspections, surveys, radon tests, closing attorneys and other home service professionals earn fees during the process. Make sure you save up, so that you're not stretching your budget during the home buying process.
4. Watch your spending and credit
When you are buying a home, lenders are watching your spending and your credit. Don't make any large withdrawals or deposits without running it by the lender first. If a family member wants to help you with your home purchase, the lender may require a gift letter, so that they know it's not a loan. Also, the first temptation that home buyers have is opening a credit card to buy home furnishings. Be careful, as your lender will be looking at all of your credit history throughout the process. Clear any and all large ticket items with a lender before you purchase.
5. Inspect your house and get a survey!
You wouldn't buy a car without test driving it, so why would you buy a house without having it inspected. Always get a home inspection to find out if there are any major defects that would make the home unmarketable. It would be better to back out of your contract and be out a couple hundred/thousand dollars, than to buy a home with a major defect and be unable to sell it without making expensive repairs. Also, get a survey to find out where the property lines are. You don't want to buy a house to later find that you don't own part of the property—it belongs to the neighbor! Always get a home inspection. Always get a survey!
6. Read before you sign!
From the moment you sit down with a real estate agent to the time you're at the closing table, make sure you read the paperwork before you sign. If you're not sure what you're sigining, your agent can help you understand or refer you to someone if you have a legal question.
7. Think about re-selling
Why would you think about re-selling when you are buying? Your family status can change, your job status could cause you to relocate, or you may decide to move to a different neighborhood. While some people stay in the same house for life, many people move within 7-10 years of buying their home. If there is a chance that you will re-sell in the future, consider the area and neighborhood where you're looking for homes.