When you set out to find your first home, the house hunting process can be a bit daunting. Deciding how much to spend, what features to prioritize, and where you want to live might leave you feeling a bit overwhelmed. If that sounds like you, we have 5 tips to help you put together your first home house hunting strategy.
1. Get Pre-Approved (Not Pre-Qualified)
The first step in any home buying process is figuring out how much you can afford. Pre-qualification is a step in the right direction, but to be fully prepared to begin looking for your first home you should seek pre-approval. Not sure what the difference is?
Pre-qualification is an estimation of what you can borrow based on information you provide verbally to a loan officer. They will ask you questions about your income, debt, and other basic financial info and provide pre-qualification based on that information.
In many cases, pre-approval will result in the same amount and interest rate as a pre-qualification, but it carries more weight because the approval process is more thorough. The loan officer will collect documentation to verify your financial position, so that your pre-approval amount is a number you can count on. When you are pre-approved, you are ready to make an offer on a home.
2. Make a List of Needs vs. Wants
Most people won’t be able to find a first home with every feature they like. Buying your first home usually involves making some compromises and prioritizing needs over wants. To prepare for house hunting, make a list of your needs and wants in the home.
For example, your needs like might include:
- Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
- Amount of work the home needs
- Commute time
- School district
- Space for a pet
Your wants list might have less crucial features, like:
- Gourmet kitchen
- Big windows
It’s a good idea to communicate both your needs and your wants to your agent, so they can help you find a home that offers as many of both as possible.
3. Don’t Waive the Inspection
A home inspection is an essential feature in the home buying process to allow you to make a confident decision you won’t regret in the future. After your offer is accepted, you can hire a professional inspector to thoroughly review the condition of the home and provide you with a report of any problems that need to be addressed now or in the near future.
Green Bay WI Real Estate Professional Greg Dallaire suggests, “Some people opt to waive their inspection in order to make their offer look more attractive, but doing this puts you at risk as the buyer. If you waive the inspection, you won’t know what costly or dangerous problems might arrive after moving in, and you also miss your opportunity to require the seller to cover the cost of repairs.”
4. Prioritize the Location
The location of your first home should be a top priority. Over time, you can change just about anything in your home other than where it is located. Make a list of the neighborhoods that would work for you, considering your work commute, the school district you are in, sidewalks and parks in the area, and any other local feature that might impact how much you enjoy your home or how long you can comfortably live there. This consideration should also include whether you are open to living on a main street, in a neighborhood with an HOA, or in an urban area.
5. Look Past Cosmetic Issues
It is easy to be turned off by cosmetic issues in a home, like outdated carpet, wallpaper you hate, or an architectural style you do not prefer. However, buying your first home often requires making some compromises, and compromising on cosmetic issues is often one of the wisest choices. Most homes can be made more your style over time, either through decorating or renovating. If the home is in the right location and meets your essential criteria, it may still be a great investment in spite of some features that are not your preference.