1-Be honest about your budget
The first and most important one. You’re making a big commitment, a big investment. Most likely your biggest ever. If you do it right, you can set yourself up for success for years to come. But if you overextend yourself, reach for that house that may not make the most sense, or bank on future value..you could run into trouble. Start by making a budget and be realistic with yourself, so you know what you can and can’t afford. Better to buy less than you need now, and expand later. Go for too much too early and you risk backing yourself into a tight spot if your financial situation ever changes, or the market changes drastically.
The first thing you want to do before starting your shopping is contact a mortgage professional and get a full Pre-Approval. Notice I said FULL pre-approval, not just the cursory check the bank will do and tell you to go shopping. You need someone to actually check your credit and run your financial situation and give you an exact amount. Too many times I’ve had clients get told by their banker that they are pre-qualified for an amount, only to find out upon putting in an offer that upon closer inspection, they aren’t fully approved. As you can imagine, it was not a happy situation. If you’re unsure who to ask, call me and I can refer you to a mortgage broker who can get you the right info.
3-Start looking at areas and neighborhoods
Once you have the peace of mind of knowing exactly what your budget is, start thinking about what areas of the city you want to live in. What do you like to do on a day to day basis? What do your weekends look like? Do you want a short or long commute? There are many questions that your agent should be asking you that will help narrow down the search so you can get the home of your dreams. It starts with the neighborhood and goes from there.
4-Hire the right Agent
Obviously I’m a little biased on this one…I know who the right agent is for you. It’s me!
But seriously…interview a few agents. Ask for referrals from people you know and trust. Make sure the agent you’re hiring is looking out for you, and not just chasing after a commission cheque. You want someone you can relate to, be honest with, and that can understand your needs and wants. The right agent should make you feel like you’re in good hands and they’ve got your best interests in mind. You’ll most likely be working together for a good amount of time, so make sure their personality is one you mesh with. And check their qualifications. How long have they been doing this? What’s their track record? Do they have client reviews posted? If it’s an investment property you’re after, have they invested in real estate themselves? Do they have sales and negotiation training? Ask for examples. If they can’t answer all your questions in a way that makes you comfortable, move on. A great agent is your greatest weapon and can make your experience amazing. Make sure you get one of them.
5-Make a short list of Needs and Wants…and know the difference
This one may be a bit tricky. When you’re shopping for a house, EVERYTHING seems like a need, not a want. Gotta have this, gotta have that. You can blow the budget out of the water really quick by messing this one up. Be honest with yourself and ask what you really must have in a home, and what can wait. What can you do later? What absolutes do you have to have now? Too many visits to model homes and the wrong types of open houses can really skew your initial plan and have you chasing things you didn’t even know existed until you saw them. Try and make a list on paper and stick to it. Be flexible when you can. But try not to get caught up in the rollercoaster of emotion that inevitably takes hold and makes you add on 5 things you didn’t need and probably won’t ever use. Then once you’ve got the list…the fun part begins..house hunting!
There’s quite a bit involved in shopping for your new home, but most of it can be made easy, stress-free (mostly) and most importantly, FUN, if you just stick to a few steps. Above all else, enjoy the experience and get out there and hunt for the house of your dreams..it’s out there somewhere. Go find it!