5 Free Things You Can Do Today to Get Ready to Buy a Home
For many, the path to homeownership is a marathon, not a sprint. Even if you’re months (or maybe even years) away from being ready to own, there are still things you can start doing today to help you on your path to becoming a homeowner. And since they’re all free, there’s nothing to stop you from getting started right now.
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Find the perfect agent.
“I think the best advice for people who are currently unable to purchase a home would be to plant some seeds in the homebuying process,” explains Phillip Salem with Compass. “You have to start somewhere!”
He says that the first step is to find an agent who is patient and willing to work with you while you figure out your finances. “I have worked with some buyers who purchased up to three years after the initial introduction, so it’s always best to find an agent who is patient.”
Talk to a lender.
While you’re getting set up with an agent who is comfortable being with you for the long haul, Salem says you should also be reaching out to a mortgage lender. They can walk you through the details of your finances, including what you’ll be able to reasonably afford, how much you’ll need to be saving for a down payment, and what you’re looking at when it comes to closing costs. They may also recommend classes or councilors, both of which can help you get your finances in order.
Set some goals.
Once you have a good understanding of what you might be able to afford in the future, how much money you need to save, and how much debt you need to pay off, Salem says you should start “window shopping” with your agent. “Set the neighborhood criteria, bedroom and bathroom count, and of course the budget to see what type of home you can ultimately get in your preferred neighborhoods.”
Don’t get attached.
While Salem says window shopping is a great way to set goals and get a feel for the neighborhoods you’re hoping to call home some day, spending every weekend cruising open houses or getting attached to any one property is not going to help.
“I have had future buyers attend one to two open houses every so often to get a feel for the market, which is totally normal, but some over extend and see 10 to 20 a month and they start to feel overwhelmed and discouraged,” he explains. “The beauty of working with a good agent is that window shopping is a great way to save time, view apartments and homes virtually, and if one really catches your eye that fits the budget, it doesn’t hurt to view in person to get a better understanding of the market.”
Ignore listing prices and focus on the final sales price.
Salem says keeping an eye on the market is key because some homes aren’t listed anywhere near what their actual selling price will be, which can give hopeful buyers the wrong idea about how much house they can actually get with their budget.
“A good agent will track the closed sales for a prospective buyer, as list price is one thing, and sold price is another,” he explains. “Some [homes and] apartments are priced low to gain traction and ultimately end up in a bidding war so it’s good to know what [they] actually sell for as data points to use when ready to start looking and submitting offers.”