So you’ve decided to buy a home. Maybe this is your first or your fifth but either way, being prepared is key to purchasing in this market. The competition is fierce and if you don’t have all your ducks in a row, you are not going to be take seriously buy any seller or listing broker.
So what does it take to be ready to roll?
Narrow down your neighborhood
This is something you can do with or without your broker. You may know exactly where you want to live or perhaps you are new to the area and need some help narrowing down your choices. In either case your broker will be most helpful. We find that many of our clients pick their neighborhood based on schools and where they work (due to traffic). If schools are important to you we highly recommend using the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction website-http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us and staying away from websites like Great Schools which we find to be less reliable.
Financing and your lender
This is the big one.
You MUST have a pre-approval letter from a lender before you can write an offer on a house. It should not be a pre-qualification but a full credit approval where your application has gone through underwriting for a full vetting of your income and debts. This enables us to assure a listing agent looking at several offers that there will be no surprises as we go through the financing process. There is nothing worse than being halfway through the escrow period and finding out that something you did on your tax return a year ago affects your ability to buy a home. Our preferred lender, Sheila Bryan of Caliber Home Loans, can get you credit approved and on your way. If you have a lender you have worked with in the past or that a friend has recommended, call them too. It won’t hurt your credit to have 2-3 lenders give you quotes on a loan. Choose wisely though, your lender is part of your team. If your lender can’t follow through, is late getting your docs in or is difficult to work with, it could end up costing you money in the long run.
Work with a real estate broker
Many of our clients love to go look at open houses on their own and that’s fine, especially in the beginning when you are just feeling things out. When it’s time to get serious however, you need to have a broker in place for a couple of reasons.
#1- You should always have your own representation. Your broker works for you and no one else. Many listing agents will write up an offer for a buyer but in most cases, they are still only representing the seller, not you. You want someone on your side to advocate for you, explain the process, the pros and cons of decisions you have to make and then to support you all the way. This is a tricky market and you want someone who knows how to negotiate the offer process and the transaction.
#2- Homes move fast in this market and you need someone who can get you in to see a home quickly. Waiting for an open house is often not an option. Also, having your broker go scout the house out ahead of time to see if it fits your criteria or if there are flaws you can't see in the photos (like powerlines, busy streets, etc) can make the process more efficient.
Get out there and find that house!
With pre-approval in hand, a great broker by your side and a lot of patience and perseverance, you will find a house to buy. In our experience, most buyers go through a learning curve of understanding what has to be done to buy a house. Sometimes you have to lose a few before you win, that the nature of this market, but eventually you will prevail.
Good luck and good house hunting!