Financial documents in order and accessible? Check.
Credit score at least 580+? Check.
Downpayment funds building up? Check.
Good News, you may be financially ready to start looking for your first home. Now you just need a little guidance on how to go about it. It’s best to have professional advice. With any big purchase, there is a lot of research and trust involved, so there are a few thing you need to consider BEFORE you explore your local listings.
Get recommendations from friends and colleagues and talk with licensed loan officers in your area. You will be sharing a lot of personal financial information with them, and the home buying process can be intense, so you need to feel comfortable and have a level of trust.
- Ask them about new home buyer programs in your community. You may qualify for grants, down payment assistance or special loan programs that can help reduce the cost of buying your first home.
- Ask them about how they work with borrowers and see if it matches your preferences:
- Do you prefer to do things online or in person? Find out if they can accommodate your preferences?
- Addicted to your smartphone? Find out if they have an app.
- Have hard move in/move out deadlines you expect to manage, ask how they coordinate closings to help things go smoothly.
- Check out their professional/social profiles and referrals.
- Ask what they would need from you for a pre-qualification or pre-approval letter. This will be critical when you are ready to put an offer on a home.
- Finally, ask how much home they think you can buy. Does this match your goals or assumptions?
Once you select a mortgage company and a loan officer, take the time to get a pre-qualification, or better a pre-approval letter. Some Realtors will not work with buyers unless they are pre-qualified. Many sellers will not accept an offer from a buyer without a pre-approval letter. The pre-approval letter from your lender confirms that you are eligible for a specific loan amount. If you have prepared your finances in advance, and have the required documents readily available, a mortgage pre-qualification or pre-approval can take just a few days.
There are many moving parts in a real estate transaction. Being prepared can help things go smoothly, but first-time buyers can really benefit from working with a Realtor. Whereas a lender can help prepare for the financial piece of the transaction, a Realtor can help prepare for the property piece of the transaction, helping you negotiate the contract and regulations required to purchase a home. Realtors have critical information about the neighborhoods, pricing and value of the homes.
Bottom line, with your finances and related documents in order, and a mortgage pre-qualification or pre-approval you and your Realtor can begin your home search with the two most important things you need: A realistic purchase budget and the ability to make a qualified offer.