So you’re ready to buy a new home — or even your first one. Here’s what you need to know about today’s housing market.
Things are moving quickly in the homebuyer’s market this year. Before you even start looking, get your finances in order. You’ll want to gather the documents you’ll need to provide to your mortgage lender. These documents include tax returns, pay stubs, information about funds for your down payment, and other financial documents. Also, preparing to buy a home is a great time to check your credit report for any mistakes.
Each of the three credit bureaus allows you to receive one free credit report per year by going to annualcreditreport.com. If you use another site that offers free credit reports and scores, be cautious. There are often membership fees tied to these sites. When you’re looking to buy a home, it is a good idea to request reports from all three bureaus because lenders usually have a preferred bureau. You want to make sure all three are showing the same correct information.
Once you have everything set and you’re ready to look seriously for your perfect home, it’s time for you to get prequalification on a mortgage. This is a critical step in the home buying experience because you can look at homes knowing you already qualify for a mortgage that will pay for it — and steer clear of those that are more than what you can afford. With a prequalification, you can get the best sense of what size loan you qualify for and what the payments will look like at different home values.
Once you receive a prequalification, you’re ready to start looking. You can choose to look at homes yourself on Zillow or local RMLS sites. However, working with a Realtor® can help streamline the process. A Realtor will take the time to narrow things down by your preferred price range, neighborhoods, amenities, and other criteria, so you don’t have to. They also sometimes know about listings before they go public so that you might get an early look at the perfect property.
Because there is a high demand for homes, the process can be competitive. Home values rose more than 20% in California and nearly 25% in Florida in the past year, more than the national average of 17%. A Realtor can ensure that you exactly understand what works in your local market. They can also advocate with the seller(s) on your behalf, which can be a huge benefit. And you’ll get the most up-to-date advice. For example, potential buyers may write “love letters” to sellers to give the sellers more about themselves and why they want to buy the house. However, some states and localities have made these letters illegal. Your Realtor can help you write a great letter and steer you away if certain areas don’t allow them.
Due to the competitive nature of today’s market, you may find you need to make an offer over the asking price if you want the seller to consider you. Your Realtor will help you decide a reasonable amount to offer without letting your emotions sway you if you genuinely love a home. Your Realtor will have a sense of what is customary in your area, what non-cash perks you might offer, and what is reasonable to ask as part of your offer. Your Realtor can also work directly with the seller’s agent to learn what is essential to the seller to help you craft the right offer.
One thing you might want to avoid is using a Realtor who also represents the seller. Although many states allow such situations, it may make it hard for you to feel that your Realtor is fully advocating for you. There may be benefits because the Realtor representing the seller will know the property well and may be able to explain why you’re the best buyer more convincingly. You will need to feel as if your needs are number one to your Realtor and that they are acting as your best representative when you are buying a home.
Buying a home can be stressful, but it can also be inspiring. And with great homes entering the market every day, you might find the perfect one quickly. Doing a little prep work on your finances and hiring a Realtor will mean that you’re ready to act when you find the right home for you.
“This is the average cost of a home in California,” MSN, Sept. 22, 2021: https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/realestate/this-is-the-average-cost-of-a-home-in-california/ar-AAOGQAy
“Tampa Bay metro home prices continue to rise,” Tampa Bay Business Journal, September 23, 2021: https://www.bizjournals.com/tampabay/news/2021/09/23/floridas-housing-market-rising.html