I still remember how nervous I felt throughout the entire process of buying our first house. My husband and I had no idea what we were doing, like most things in our lives, and looking back on it now I laugh about some of the decisions we made. We did all of the right beginning steps: had a pretty nice down payment, got pre approved at the bank, found a realtor. But we spent what seemed to be month after month searching for our first home in Northwest Indiana. With a bundle of joy headed our way coming in Fall, we were scrambling. I think we saw a total of 32 houses, switched realtors for a better fit, and got more productive showings and found our house. Like the majority of first time home buyers, we did the bare minimum of research of the process leading up to us signing papers.
For everyone in our shoes, consider the following. First, find out how much house you can afford and WANT to afford, or your monthly budget for a home including principal, interest, taxes and insurance. And don’t forget to consider maintenance expenses. Because there will be A LOT of maintenance.
Speak to a lender at a bank or other financial institution that you trust, OR that is recommended by your Realtor, who can supply a list of proven lenders. After crunching a few (many) numbers, the lender will give you the top price you should stay under while looking at houses based on your income and debt. These “numbers” include your previous pay stubs, W-2’s, bank statements and, if you have self-employment income, copies of your last two tax returns. Coming in prepared will save you a lot of time and being pre approved before speaking to a realtor will start you off in the right direction.
If you don’t already have one, find and work with a GOOD REALTOR. I know, that might be easier said than done. But test them out, ask them some questions about their approach and experience! Just like the lender, they are here to help and listen to your needs and represent you in a purchase of a home that fits your criteria and situational needs. Since you may already have your price range from the lender, the Realtor will compile showings to you based on that and areas you’re interested in, the type of home you are looking for, and the amenities it offers, like number of bedrooms, baths, family room, garage, basement, yard size, and more.
My biggest regret is forgetting finding a home should be fun! Take the time to sit down and really explore what area you want to live, what the house should look like, and plan for that vision. After all, buying a home is one of the biggest and most important investments in your life, and it should be rewarding in so many ways. Doing your due diligence will save you headaches, time, and money.