Gather your financial paperwork
Before you go looking at homes, it is probably a good idea to find out what you can afford. To start, request your credit report from all three credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian). Look for any inaccuracies, and fix anything that looks off. You will want to gather documents to present to a loan officer, including pay stubs, previous years' tax returns, and bank statements. You want to avoid the mistake a lot of buyers make, which is touring homes that they find out they can't afford. In our market, most sellers will not even accept most offers without a pre-approval. The point is, you do not want to fall in love with a home you cannot get financing for. You want to be prepared!
Shop your lending options
Once you have obtained your credit score and your paperwork, you are ready to start shopping around for a mortgage. We have great lenders that we highly recommend, but we also advise on doing your own homework and search lenders and their reviews online. Obviously, you want to work with someone who will give you the best rate - but also look for someone who is responsive, honest, and will discuss your options clearly and answer your questions in full. Choosing a good lender is crucial during a transaction for a home. Someone that can provide financing quickly during a real estate transaction will give us an upper edge when a seller chooses a buyer. In our market, giving a full price offer is usually not enough. Can you believe that? Having a good lender that can "close" fast can be the difference maker in a situation where you are in competition with another buyer. You do not want to lose your dream home! You want to be prepared!
Start your home search
Now - the fun part. Most people just start shopping for homes right off the bat. The smart thing to do would be to sit down and talk about exactly what you are looking for in a home so we don't see a bunch of homes you don't like, effectively wasting your time. What neighborhood? Good school district? How many bedrooms? Bathrooms? Location is huge. The other thing to discuss is other fees associated with your mortgage, like HOA dues. An HOA is an association that handles maintenance of the general area in your complex/neighborhood (everything outside your walls). Usually, this cost is associated with condominiums (newer single family homes have this fee, but it is usually small). The most important thing for most buyers is the bottom line - what they will pay monthly to live in their dream home. This is something to discuss thoroughly with an agent to insure you move into the perfect home that you love, and that makes sense. Buyers remorse won't exist when you do these things. You want to be prepared!
Making an offer
This is where your agent will come in to save the day (hopefully). You do not want the seller's agent drafting the sale documents for you - they have a duty to protect their sellers interests, not yours. First off, you want to make a strong offer. You have the power to make whatever offer you want, but whether it gets accepted or not is a different story. I won't expose all my tricks, but you will need to pick an agent that will win over the sellers agent and sell you (the buyer) to the seller. Making a great offer will require research, like looking at comparable properties nearby to determine if the home is reasonably priced. In the Bothell & Greater Seattle market, sellers will often price homes slightly lower than market value, in order to attract a bidding war. It usually takes 30-45 days to move into your new home from the beginning of a transaction to the end, make sure that throughout the whole process your agent is keeping great communication with you and is consistently providing updates. Make sure your agent discusses all the different scenarios you could run into during a transaction, it is crucial. You want to be prepared!
Phew. Sounds like a headache huh? It doesn't have to be. This is why you hire a agent, a good agent. A good agent will take all the worry from you and almost act as your therapist! Preventing unforeseen problems from happening is 50% of our jobs. You want to feel comfortable and at ease during the whole thing. It is possible, I promise. Either way, headaches or no headaches, this is where everything comes together. You get your keys, and you have your beautiful new home!