Preparing to buy? Here are five essential tips for making the process as smooth as possible.

Get your finances in order.

Start by getting a full picture of your credit. Obtain copies of your credit report. Make sure the facts are correct, and fix any problems you find. Next, find a good lender and get pre-approved for a loan. We can help you make connections with local banks, credit unions, and loan officers at the bigger national banks…whatever you prefer. Being pre-approved helps you narrow down your budget and focus on properties that are the best fit for you.

Find a house you can afford.

Now, the bank may approve you for a lot of house, but keeping within a range and monthly payment where you feel comfortable is really important. You don’t want to end up “house poor” where you can make your payments, yes, but can you still afford to go to a movie or out to lunch once in a while? Mortgage calculators (like the one on our site, or many bank sites) can help you understand how your payment would look when factoring in principal, interest, taxes and insurance.

Hire a professional.

While the Internet gives buyers unprecedented access to home listings and resources, many aspects of the buying process are unfamiliar to many people. Having an agent in your corner to help get access to properties, input and advice on neighborhoods to focus on, and how to navigate the entire process from offer to closing is extremely helpful to most buyers.

Do your homework.

Before making a bid, do some research to determine the state of the market at large. Is it more favorable for sellers or buyers? Next, look at sales trends of similar homes in the area or neighborhood. Look at prices for the last few months. Come up with an asking price that’s competitive, but also realistic. Otherwise, you may end up ticking off your seller. Your agent will help you figure out what comparable homes have been selling for and what else to factor in as you present an offer.

Think long term.

If you’re renting and thinking…should I keep renting, or buy?… Consider what you pay currently in rent, how long you’ll stay, and the equity you could reasonably expect to build over the course of some years. If you need more flexibility, it might be best to rent and pay a bit of a premium for that flexibility. If you’re confident that you’ll be in the house for a few years or more, it may make more sense to buy and begin building equity. Plus, there’s the ‘ownership’ factor both in your community and in the ability to make changes and customize a home that you love.

We’d love to help as you consider these questions! We’re certainly advocates for home ownership, but also realize that it’s not right for everyone at certain times. Our agents will listen and give honest feedback to help you make the best decision for you…and we’ll have fun if you decide to go house hunting with us!