1) Pick the right lender who offers sage budgeting advice, excellent customer service, a competitive interest rate, and low closing costs. Shop around, comparing local mortgage brokers, national online lenders, and the institute where you already bank. Know your credit score and financial info, and without having your credit run by each lender, ask what your likely closing costs and interest rate will be, and a likely timeline for closing a loan. A good lender will spend time explaining the loan process, down payments, and loan products, and will be willing to talk numbers with you. A tiny reduction in your fixed interest rate can save thousands of dollars over the life of the loan, so don’t be shy about asking questions and pursuing the best possible financing. Once you’ve decided on a lender, submit your financial information to that lender before setting out to find the home. This will establish you as a qualified buyer and give you an advantage over buyers who are scrambling to find a lender after they find a home.
2) Pick the right real estate agent
. Find a full-time, experienced agent who is familiar with your area and knows the market well. Subtle negotiation tactics and perceived authority can swing prices by thousands of dollars, so pick an agent who isn’t too pushy but offers valuable guidance backed by solid facts. One who is laser-focused on your needs and honors his or her fiduciary duty to you. Write an introduction letter about yourself and your family that your agent can present with purchase offers. Ask agent candidates how available they are for showing properties, whether they will screen homes on your behalf, and what technology they have available to make touring homes easy. Review the AAR Buyer Advisory
, timelines, and the flow of the purchase contract
with your agent so it will be familiar when you need it.
3) Pick the right home. This is the fun part! Try to get a gauge for the market by watching homes sell for a few months before you start your search. Think carefully about how much space you need, the number of bedrooms, commutes to work, schools, utility costs, amenities, traffic, shopping, etc. Searching online is easier than ever, and savvy listing agents are saving both buyers and sellers time by posting floorplans, 3D Matterport representations, videos, virtual tours, bird’s eye views, and drone footage of the home and its surrounding areas. Be sure to explore all available media and information about each home. This may save time and prevent visits to homes that have dealbreaker floorplans or “no go” lot orientations. Don’t pass on the “perfect home” just because it doesn’t fit a piece of furniture or because one room has a funky paint color. And don’t get too excited about a home that will be fun for entertaining 1% of the time, but miserable for the other 99% of daily life.