Your real estate agent is always happy to lead you through your home-buying process from start to finish. That said, the market is hot right now. Doing some homework before talking with a Realtor ensures you’re ready to make an offer – and fund the loan – without any delays.
This can help you land the home of your dreams without it being sold to a buyer who’s more prepared.
5 Steps To Take Before Calling a Real Estate Agent
Many of the most desirable homes out there are only listed for a week before they’re in escrow. Sellers know the market is on their side and often want to review offers the day after their first open house.
By taking these steps before calling or meeting with a Realtor, you’ll be ready to make an immediate offer when you spot the home you want.
1. Get your loan preapproval in order
First-time homebuyers are not always aware there’s a big difference between loan prequalification and loan preapproval. The former is far less meaningful than the latter. Also, many sellers only allow buyers with a qualifying loan preapproval to see their homes, as there is absolutely no point in reviewing offers from buyers who may not get the loan funded on time.
The loan preapproval process entails a higher level of lender scrutiny as they verify your:
- Current employment and earning
- Checking/savings/investment accounts
- Credit history
- Credit to debt ratio
This process will result in a slight loss of credit points, so we recommend meeting with a few mortgage brokers before deciding which one you want to use. Otherwise, a credit report is pulled multiple times, taking a toll on your total score.
2. Get all of your paperwork ducks in a row
Once you have a loan preapproval, we recommend moving forward with the paperwork you’ll need to fund the loan. Lenders ask for a long and specific list of paperwork, so be ready with the following:
- Final tax statements for the past three years
- Copies of your paystubs (and keep holding on to them)
- Recent statements from financial accounts (checking, savings, investments, retirement, etc.), most of which you can get online and download.
Keeping a computer file of these makes it easy to provide them to your lender as needed.
3. Set clear boundaries around what you can afford
It’s easy to get lost in the real estate seduction process. The more you view homes slightly outside of your top price point, the more your brain starts scheming to plan ways you can come up with a mortgage that is difficult or impossible to maintain.
Decide what you can afford and then stick to that budget no matter what. Your real estate agent is your greatest ally in finding the best home for your budget – even if you have to wait a little longer than you wanted for the ideal home to come on the market.
4. Start going to open houses
Knowing precisely what you want – and don’t want – guides the homes your real estate agent sends your way in their listings. Before deciding who you will work with, head to open houses on the weekends. Even if you’re planning to relocate, visiting open houses in your area helps you get clear about what you can live with and – what you can’t – depending on the market in your desired community.
For example, we’ve had tall clients visit older “fixer” homes and realize they feel claustrophobic in homes with lower ceilings or smaller bedrooms. This is essential information. Touring multiple homes may help you realize you prefer homes with already established outdoor living areas or low-maintenance patios instead of lawns and landscaping.
Creating your needs and wants lists can quickly shape which homes your future real estate agent targets.
5. Study the market in your desired community
Websites like Redfin.com and Zillow are helpful for keeping an eye on the market in your desired area(s). Pay attention to things like:
- How long do homes that meet your criteria remain on the market?
- Are they selling for under or over the listing price?
- Do some of them come back on the market (indicating a prospective buyer didn’t qualify for a loan after all?)? If so, how often?
- How do the homes appear in real life compared with their marketing images? This is a good thing to realize so you’re more prepared when you begin setting appointments to view potential homes.
The more market research you do beforehand, the better prepared you are for what you’ll encounter when it’s time to move forward and make offers on prospective homes.
Southern Exclusive Realty Would Love to Help You Buy Your Home
Are you ready to begin calling and interviewing prospective real estate agents? Schedule a consultation with Southern Exclusive Realty. We are one of the DeLand area’s most successful real estate agencies, and we’ll make sure you’re 100% prepared before making your first offers.