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How to Test the Waters When You’re House Hunting

  • Define your must-haves in a home and create a list of wants to help prioritize.
  • Team up with a reputable real estate agent who is familiar with the area.
  • Compare loan options and understand all the fees for getting pre-approved mortgage loans.
  • Ask about government programs you may qualify for and get a letter of pre-approval.
  • Attend open houses to better understand what kind of home is right for you, and ask questions.

So, you’ve been thinking about buying a house. Maybe you’re tired of renting, or you’ve saved up enough funds for a down payment. Whatever the reason, you’re ready to begin your journey in home ownership. But before you start attending open houses, doing your homework is important. After all, buying a home is a huge financial commitment. Here’s how to make sure you’re making the right decision for your present and future.

Start by Defining Your Must-Haves

What are your must-haves in a home? Do you need a certain number of bedrooms and bathrooms? Do you need a yard for your dog? Do you want to be in a specific school district?

Make a list of your must-haves, and try to be as specific as possible. This will help narrow your search and make the house-hunting process less overwhelming.

If possible, create a list of your wants, too. Having a list of features you’d love to have will help you prioritize homes when considering multiple options.

young couple smiling while planning for new home with boxes behind them

Team Up With A Real Estate Agent

It’s important to research the market before you start house hunting. An experienced real estate agent can help you understand the local market and find homes that meet your criteria. They can also walk you through the home-buying process and answer any questions you have.

Look for a real estate agent who is familiar with the area you’re interested in and has good reviews from past clients. There are also some great online resources to find trusted agents in your desired location.

Once you’ve found an agent you’re comfortable with, discuss your must-haves and budget. A good real estate agent will be able to use that information to help you find the perfect home for you.

Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage Loan

Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for, it’s time to start talking to mortgage lenders. Getting pre-approved for a loan will give you a better idea of how much house you can afford and also show sellers that you’re serious about buying. Here are some steps to take note of:

Compare Loan Options

Once you’ve found a real estate agent that meets your needs, it’s important to speak with multiple mortgage lenders to compare loan options. Doing so will help you find the best interest rate, repayment terms, and other important factors when acquiring a mortgage.

In addition to speaking with lenders, you can research online to compare rates and terms from different lenders. Many resources offer side-by-side comparisons of loan options and tips for choosing a mortgage lender that best suits your needs.

Understand All the Fees Involved

Before applying for pre-approval, it’s important to understand all the fees involved. You’ll likely have to pay closing costs and other associated fees when signing the paperwork for your loan. Knowing these costs ahead of time can help you budget accordingly.

Once you understand the fees, it’s a good idea to set aside some extra money in case of any unexpected costs. That way, you won’t be caught off guard when it comes time to buy your house.

Ask About Government Programs

You may be eligible for credit or down payment assistance loan programs. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers loans with zero-down payments to qualified buyers in certain rural areas. Speak with your agent and lender about government loan programs you might qualify for so you can take advantage of any available benefits.

Ask for a Letter of Pre-approval

Once you’ve been pre-approved for a loan, ask your lender for a letter of pre-approval. A pre-approval letter lets sellers know you’re serious about buying and already have the financing. Having this information ready to show during the home search process can give you an edge over other buyers in a competitive market.

house key on top of mortgage loan agreement document

Attend Some Open Houses

Now that you know how much house you can afford and what kind of house you’re looking for, it’s time to start attending open houses. This is one of the best ways to get a feel for neighborhoods and get an idea of what kind of homes are out there within your budget. 

Bring along a notebook and take pictures of any houses that catch your eye. Once you’ve gone to a few open houses, you’ll start getting a better sense of what kind of home is right for you.

Prepare to ask questions at each open house. Be sure to get the answers you need before signing any contracts. Make sure to ask about the condition of the home, its location, and any other features that are important to you.

House hunting can be a lot of fun, but it’s important to take your time and do your research beforehand. With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to make an informed decision when it comes to buying a house. So, take a deep breath and enjoy the process. You’ll be in your new home before you know it.

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