Once you decide that it’s time to buy a house, the first thing you might want to do is to hit the open houses in the area where you want to live. That’s a good idea, of course, but it should not be the first thing on your agenda.
There are several things you should do before beginning the hunt and several others you should keep in mind once you do begin. If you do these things, you improve your chances of getting what you want and maintaining your sanity while you do so.
The pros at Realtor.com have come up with a list of 10 dos and don’ts that will increase your chances of finding and succeeding in getting the home you want.
Here’s their list, along with a few comments on why each item is important as you begin your house-hunting.
Get preapproved for a mortgage. If you are not preapproved for a mortgage loan, making an offer on a house is not likely to impress the seller because nearly every other potential buyer will have a preapproval. An added advantage is that you’ll know what the lender thinks you can afford and you won’t waste your time looking at houses you can’t afford.
Use an agent. House-hunting without an agent is essentially tying one hand behind your back. Agents are the first to know about new listings or even listings that have not yet hit the market. And when the time comes to make an offer, an agent can help you avoid problems that might come up in the negotiations.
Know what you want. You may want to look at different kinds of properties at first, but figuring out early on if you want a condo, townhouse, or a home on its own lot can make the hunt less stressful and successful.
Be prepared to move quickly. Don’t wait too long to look at a new listing that has the features you’re looking for. It’s a sellers’ market right now, and if you snooze, you may lose.
Ignore amateur advisers. Getting advice from your in-laws or friends can be useful, but getting too many opinions doesn’t do much except muddy the waters.
Take your time at open houses. Don’t judge the book by its cover. Savvy sellers present the property to its best advantage, but you need to take the time to be confident that the home is as good as it looks. You’ll have an inspection eventually, but you should note some potential problems that you want the inspector to check on specifically.
Look beyond the sparkly new stuff. This can be especially important if the property is an investor flip. You want to look beyond new fixtures and faucets at the “bones” of the house and try to assess how well the renovation work was done and the quality of the materials used.
Perfection is not an option. Finding the perfect home, in the perfect neighborhood, with the best schools and everything else on your wish list is very likely not to happen. Figure out what are the most important features and focus on those.
Beautiful decor doesn’t come with the house. A home’s decor is the gift wrapping, the house is what you’re paying. Don’t be dazzled by how the house has been decorated or staged because that’s typically not included in the sale.
Check out the neighborhood. You don’t want to buy the best house in a bad neighborhood or even a so-so neighborhood. Check things like traffic, noise, and access to amenities like restaurants and shopping, if these are important to you.
Visit Realtor.com for more details.