The One Thing You Need to Do to Get Ready to Buy a House This Fall

published Aug 15, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
A historic colonial structure in Concord, MA on an October day
Credit: Keith J Finks/ Shutterstock

Between back-to-school shopping, barbecues, vacations, and just generally trying to squeeze every last drop out of the end of summer, buying a house may be the last thing on your mind.

But if you’re hoping to make a big move this fall, time is of the essence. You want to get the ball rolling now so that you’re prepared to sign on the dotted line once the leaves begin to turn.

You may feel totally strapped for time and low on bandwidth. But if you do just one thing to get ready to buy a house this fall, it should be sorting out your finances — and figuring out what you can afford.

Why focus on financing? Real estate experts say it all boils down to interest rates, which went up yet again at the end of July. Eventually, rates will start to come back down — but it’s very unclear when that will happen (maybe this fall, maybe next year, but no one really knows). And since interest rates make your monthly mortgage payment more expensive, they directly affect the houses that will work with your budget, says real estate agent Diana Sutherlin.

“Understand the monthlies you can commit to and do your due diligence with your mortgage broker,” she says.

Other real estate agents agree, adding that if you haven’t started already, now is the time to stop accumulating new debt and begin paying off your existing debt, says real estate agent Rashi Malhotra.

“You need to think long and hard before making big purchases like buying a car, applying for a credit card, or any other decisions that will add to your debt, which in turn will slow the lending process,” she says.

Take a long hard look at your credit score and credit report too, which are available for free once a year from each of the three credit-reporting bureaus. On the report specifically, make sure everything looks accurate — and if you spot something off, be sure to flag it right away.

Especially when interest rates are so high, a good credit score can make or break your budget, says real estate agent Andrea Wernick. “Having a good credit score is really important to get better mortgage terms and interest rates,” she says. 

Other Steps You Should Take Right Now

  • Get pre-approved for a mortgage. Get all your financial documents ready and talk to a lender so that “sellers can take your offer seriously when the time comes,” says real estate agent Steven Gottlieb.
  • Hang out in your preferred neighborhood. If you have your sights set on a particular area of town, start spending more and more time there to familiarize yourself with the types of homes that are available — and what they cost. “Look at properties in person,” says real estate agent Mary Barbrack. “Doing so will help you narrow down what you’re looking for in terms of layout, location, and condition.”
  • Organize your belongings. It’s never too early to start the dreaded purging and packing process, says Barbrack, especially if you will be selling your current property. 
  • Get on the same page. If you’ll be buying with a partner or a family member, make sure to sit down and have a detailed conversation so everyone understands what they’re signing up for, says real estate agent Michael Martirena. “Know what you want, what you’re open to, and what you’re willing to settle on, both dollar-wise and location,” he says. “Understand your must-haves and agree on them before you start looking — it will save you time and headaches.”
  • Get your down payment ready. Save, save, and save some more. Or, if you already have the money but it’s tied up somewhere — like stocks — make sure you have liquid assets available and ready to hand over, says real estate broker Yorgos Tsibiridis.