House hunting can be absolutely thrilling! It is so exciting to experience a new place and a fresh start. Our excitement sometimes conjures up fantasies of Fixer Upper-style rooms and decor. And sometimes our imaginations, left unchecked, can result in learning the hard way that what we want and what we can afford are at odds with each other.
As you eagerly set out to browse for new homes, let's consider a few Do's and Don'ts that will establish proper expectations to make your house hunting a far better, less discouraging, and time-saving experience.
Before you hop in a car and go anywhere you need to take care of a few matters first.
- Get Pre-Approved for a mortgage.
- Determine your budget.
- Make a wish list
- Prioritize your wish list to create "non-negotiables".
First and foremost...establish a solid relationship with a lender before you do ANY house hunting.
I recommend starting several months to a year prior to when you would like to purchase a home. This allows enough time to address anything that could be a potential problem and even raise your credit score by a few points. The better your credit score, the lower your interest rate!
It is also critical that you have a written pre-approval from your lender (versus a "pre-qualification") prior to stepping foot into a home. The last thing you want to happen is to fall in love with a house and then find out you are unable to put in an offer, or even worse, put in an offer and find out you can't get the proper financing.
DETERMINE YOUR BUDGET
By the time you are driving down the street to tour a home, you should be very clear on your budget and have an idea of what you can afford in terms of HOA fees, utilities, renovation, taxes, insurance, closing costs, and inspection fees. All the little expenses outside of the purchase price add up very fast so be prepared. Your lender and real estate agent should be able to give you a fairly good idea of the added expenses.
CREATE A WISH LIST
This is the fun part! Watch your favorite home reno shows, look at home designs on the internet, think about what you love about your current house and what you don't love. Consider any life changes that will be coming up such as kids, grandkids, pets, elderly family members, new jobs, school locations, etc. Do you want to host church groups in your home or business networking groups that will require a large room for gatherings?
DETERMINE YOUR NON-NEGOTIABLES
To make your search go smoothly, having a good idea ahead of time on what is non-negotiable will save you lots of time by excluding some homes. Start by thinking through all the needs and wants for your new home. Have each member of the family make their own list and then get together and highlight the Top 5 or 10 for a single wish list. Then prioritize them.
Example: Let's say you want a fenced in backyard, but a 3-car garage is also on the list. Ask yourselves, before you visit a house, "Which one do we need more?". Do that with each item on your wish list until you have prioritized each item on your list. Choose which ones are non-negotiable. Share this with your agent before you set up appointments.
This helps you to reign in the emotionally-driven responses to home buying and keeps you focused on those things which are non-negotiable for your home. That amazing view may send shivers down your spine, but after you move in you might realize that the long commute doesn't allow you to enjoy it very much and takes away from the time with your family that you were hoping to have. If a short commute is listed on your "non-negotiable" list it keeps emotional impulses under control.
DON'TS OF HOUSE HUNTING
Because I like to end on a positive note, let's go over what not to do first. Some of these are common sense, but let's have a little fun with our list!
- Go by yourself. We want you to be safe!
- Call the number on the sign or contact the seller's agent. Let your real estate agent handle it.
- Bring your dog.
- Drink a lot of coffee or water...not polite to use their facilities. (Make plans to stop somewhere in-between homes.)
- Be timid about what you love and hate about a place. Tell your agent! It helps them know what you are looking for.
- Criticize the home or anything in it until you are in your car with the windows rolled up. You never know if the owner is within earshot. Just saying...
- Be too picky about the cosmetics. You may not be the Rehab Addict but a fresh coat of paint, new fixtures and blinds can make a huge difference and not put too much of a ding in your pocketbook. On the same token....
- Think you are the Rehab Addict and take on more than you can handle.
- Forget your camera/phone.
DO'S OF HOUSE HUNTING
- Get PRE-APPROVED.
- Give yourself plenty of time to view the home. Set aside several hours or a full day in case you want to spend extra time in a home you like.
- Go with a real estate agent. 😁
- Sign up for notifications of new listings.
- Visit new listings within 24 hours, or even better, the same day.
- Wear easy-to-remove shoes like sandals or other slip on shoes.
- Open drawers, doors, closets and cupboards! This is the time to be snoopy.
- Look beyond the staging. Sniff out anything defective that might be hidden or covered.
- Be open to looking at neighborhoods you haven't thought of.
- Look for signs of neglect.
- Consider the flow of the home.
- Bring in a contractor if you are considering big changes to a home.
- Look up. We tend to look down and at eye level. Notice any cracks or signs of water damage.
- Look for fresh paint that could be covering something up.
- Look at the backyard and the garage.
- Notice the neighbors and the activity in the neighborhood
- Take pictures.
After each home, make sure to jot down some notes and feelings about the house. After looking at several houses in a day, it is easy to get everything jumbled up in your mind. That's where photos and notes come in handy. I encourage you to write down your impressions and feelings of a place as well.
You may have your heart set on a certain neighborhood or a specific type of house, but be open to considering other options. You may find an unexpected home will fit your lifestyle or the needs of your family better. Maybe not, but be open to the recommendations of your real estate agent because their experience and knowledge of the city can suggest things you had not thought of. They can also steer you away from homes that may appear to be what you want but ultimately will not meet your criteria on your wish list.
HOUSE HUNTING APPS
Technology is so convenient. There is an app for everything, including shopping for homes. I recommend using different apps in your house hunting such as Dwellr and Homesnap. There are dozens of apps available that provide photos of homes on the market and supply information on the safety and quality of neighborhoods in your city. These are great tools at your fingertips.
In spite of the wonderful resources available in shopping for a home easier, you can never replace the reliable, first-hand experience and knowledge of a local real estate agent. Utilize an experienced agent first and foremost and allow them to give you the direction you need.
Article: Partnering With The Right Realtor.
If you are looking for a Colorado Springs agent, I would love to chat over coffee to see if I would be a good fit for you. I can be reached at 719-321-0800