Buying a home can be one of the more stressful experiences in life. It is often a long and sometimes intimidating process, lasting up to six months on average. The Real Estate market is huge and changes often with swings up and down. It's easy to become overwhelmed by how much is ahead of you and how little you know about the process. But with the right attitude, it can also be an enjoyable, even exhilarating experience.
Here are some tips to make your home-buying experience positive and less stressful.
Preparing to MoveOrganize Be prepared by becoming knowledgeable. Educate yourself on each step of the process so you know what to expect. Get organized ahead of time. Keep a notebook and calendar dedicated exclusively to the home-buying process. An Excel spreadsheet is a great way to organize and compare all the information you gather, such as the homes you are interested in, potential lenders, and different mortgage rates.
Finances Assess your financial situation before you begin looking for a home. Come up with a solid number for the maximum amount you can afford, as well as a target amount you would like to spend, ahead of time. Overestimate the closing costs (interest rates can change). This is also a good time to begin gathering the financial documents that you'll need when applying for a loan.
Keep your finances in order until you close on your new home, which could be as long as six months away. Do whatever you can to help improve your credit score; don't acquire new debt (no major purchases, new loans or new credit cards), reduce or eliminate any current debt, and pay your bills on time. It is never too early to begin improving your credit and is best started as early as two years prior to purchasing a home.
Find an Agent Find a real estate agent who you trust and connect with on a personal level. Communication in this relationship is fundamental. Some questions to ask yourself: Are they good at translating industry jargon into terms you can easily understand? Do they communicate well using media that works for you, such as email, cell phone, or video conferencing? Credentials are a big factor too. Choose an agent with proven expertise in both the type of property and property location that interests you.
Finding a Home"Think from the end," is a common phrase heard in human potential circles. See yourself in your new home. How does it make you feel? What does it look like? Keep a journal to record these thoughts. Be as descriptive as possible. This can help to not only narrow down precisely what you are looking for in a home, but it can also help anchor you emotionally during a potentially unstable time by keeping the big picture in mind.
While dreaming of your new home is an important first step, keeping your expectations in check is equally important. Keep in mind that the criteria of what you are looking for in a home will change along the way. No house is perfect. Be willing to compromise on some of your requirements. Make a list of your top priorities (must-have's) and lower priorities (nice-to-have's). This will help identify areas where you can be more flexible.
Once you've found a home you like and know what you can work with financially, don't let the latest market news influence your decision to move forward. If you start second-guessing the housing market or interest rates, you risk losing the home to another buyer. Choose a home because you love it. Listen to your heart.
Waiting for AcceptanceOnce you've made an offer on a new home, try to relax and engage in your routine activities while you wait to hear whether the seller accepts your offer. During this waiting period, there are many potential stressors that could send your mind reeling. What if the seller rejects your offer, or comes back with an unreasonable counter-offer? Was your offer too little, or too much? Be prepared to make many offers before one is accepted. Keep in mind, even if your offer is accepted, there's no guarantee it will close. Try to remain detached from the outcome until after the property has been inspected and you've been approved for a mortgage.
Inspection PeriodHire experienced and certified inspectors to conduct a thorough inspection of the property including possible insect damage. Be present during inspection, so you can ask questions regarding the home and become knowledgeable about any issues that are discovered.
Getting approved for a LoanTaking out a loan can be the most stressful part of the home-buying process. Transactions typically take at least a month to complete. Having your financial situation scrutinized can be an uncomfortable process. Worrying about whether you will be approved is an added stressor. It helps to gather your financial records (credit card balances/statements, bank statements, investment statements) prior to meeting with a loan officer. Obtain a copy of your credit report; you're entitled by law to one free credit report per year. A copy of your 4506 T form (IRS Tax Return Transcript), which includes a summary of your tax information, is also available online for download.
Don't lose sight of the fact that you have options when choosing a lender and a mortgage. This can help restore a sense of control when so much of the home-buying process is out of your hands. Talk to several lenders; don't just go for the first lender you talk to. Consult with your Real Estate agent to help you through the process of securing a mortgage. Don't hesitate to ask questions until you understand the answer.