Congratulations! You’ve decided that you are tired of renting and are ready to take the plunge into homeownership! I’m proud of you!
Let’s take some time and organize our thoughts.
- Find a realtor! He or she is going to be your new best friend for a while! Make sure you like her! What’s her plan? Does she help you use the internet to find great properties and look at properties in your area or price range? Does she listen to you? When my husband and I were younger, we asked a realtor to help us find a three bedroom home within the city limits of a suburban town in Atlanta. She drove us out of the city and county, taking us to some ludicrous exurb forty minutes from the town we wanted to live in! I swore if I ever got back to my area, I’d never get in a realtor’s car again!!! Find someone who respects your wishes, time, and takes your search seriously.
- What’s your budget? You probably have a good idea of what you can afford, but by getting pre-qualified with a good mortgage loan originator, you can look with confidence. She will check your credit and make sure that you can qualify for a good FNMA, sellable mortgage loan. This, to me, is the most tedious part of the process, but by being prequalified you entice listing agents to want to work with you. I have seen people not be able to purchase after putting time and money into making an offer and starting the purchasing process, only to be told later that they aren’t able to obtain the loan that they thought they could. It’s heartbreaking!
- Where do you want to live? Do you want to be near family, great dining and shopping, work? If you don’t have it down precisely, that’s fine. But two or three of zip codes is a great idea. When I work with clients, I have them set up on a daily email that shows all of the activity in their price range and location so they can keep track of the market and really see what homes are selling for and how long it takes a home to go under contract. As they learn where they want to live, they can start to make a good, timely decision on what home to make an offer on and be certain they are offering a good value.
- House or Condo? This is tied in with where you want to live. If you want to be more urban, you will probably be more concerned about the condo market. In Atlanta, if you are looking in Buckhead or Midtown under $500,000, you will probably looking at condos. There is a good supply of single family homes and condos in this area over $600,000. Right now I have a client looking between $500,000 and $700,000 who is strongly considering either.
- Make a list of what you really want in a home. I had a client recently looking in the high $100,000 to low $200,000 range who really wanted a tub. It didn’t have to be fancy, but only a shower was a deal-breaker for her. We didn’t even go look! She also really wanted a guest room. It didn’t have to be large, but a place for her guests to have some privacy when they visit. Since she has lots of friends who like to stay with her (she’s a blast!), this was also a deal-breaker for her. She ended up buying in a fabulous, historic condo building in Midtown. Her condo needed a little work to bring it into the 21st century, but that didn’t bother her. She loved the idea of light repairs, updating the kitchen appliances, and painting to make the space exactly what she wanted anyway. I have another client who works constantly and has a very demanding career. He has a much higher price range, but the home has to be updated and ready to move in and love. He has no time or inclination to do any repairs. I can’t blame him! I wouldn’t either with his schedule!