1. Check your credit score
Do not start looking at real estate until you have checked your credit score. This is the number that mortgage lenders will look at to determine whether you are creditworthy, and will dictate the rate you will be charged by the bank.
The higher your credit score, the lower your interest rate—and that’s what you’re going for. Get a free copy of yours at AnnualCreditReport.com to see where you stand.
2. Clean up any credit blemishes you can
Any surprises on that report? Credit errors are more common than you might think, so contact the credit bureau to correct any erroneous information.
Remember that lenders love good credit scores, because they are an assurance of your financial worth. If you walk into a meeting with a lender with a low score, don’t be surprised if you can’t get the loan you’d like.
3. Figure out how much home you can afford
Next, make sure you are clear on how much home you can afford. Check out our calculator, which will help you determine your monthly mortgage payment, adjusting for variables such as the size of your down payment, the type of mortgage you will qualify for, and current interest rates. You can also get an official estimate by following our next tip.
4. Shop for a mortgage lender
A prospective home buyer should make one of their earliest stops with a mortgage originator, to see if they can qualify for a mortgage and confirm how much of a mortgage they can afford. If you need a referral on a lender contact us (310.989.7106) and we can get you connected with someone.
5. Secure mortgage pre-approval
Once you’ve found the mortgage that’s right for you, you’ll want to show the sellers that you have what it takes to buy their home. In hot markets, a pre-approval is almost required for a seller to take your offer seriously. That’s because it spells out exactly how much a lender has agreed to loan you, assuring the seller that you’re both willing and able.
6. Save up for a down payment
To get the best rates on real estate, you’ll need to make at least a 20% down payment on a home. When buying a $1,000,000 home that means a 20% down payment would be $200,000.
7. Sit tight!
Once you’re ramping up to buy a home, it’s wise to not make any—we repeat, any—major changes in your life or, most important, your finances.
This is a sensitive time for a buyer, so before you do anything, remember that you don’t want to mess things up with your credit score or your lender. If you do make a wrong step, you may not be able to qualify for the home loan.
8. Find a real estate agent
There’s no reason to go it alone—having a real estate agent helping you can make the whole process much easier.
9. Make a wish list
Of course, this list may be a very long one, but you need to be realistic about what elements are truly “wishes” and which ones are nonnegotiable—such as the number of bedrooms, a fenced yard for a pet, a specific school district, walking distance to the bus stop, etc.
Sometimes it’s helpful to divide your list into three categories: those nonnegotiable elements, followed by items that would be nice to have (e.g., a bonus room or home office), and your dream features (e.g., in-ground swimming pool).
Know that you are not likely to get everything on your checklist—but hopefully, you’ll get close!
10. Browse listings online
Have your realtor set you up on an online portal service that connects you with instant access to homes for sale. This portal service that our team offers gives you email updates when homes that match your criteria (price, location, size, etc.) hit the market. You see the homes as soon as we do on the Multiple Listing Service.
11. Visit open houses & schedule showings with your realtor
Poring over online listings is one thing; seeing the properties in person with your relator is quite another. Take advantage of open houses, as an easy way to schedule multiple showings in a day. Your realtor should facilitate the showing schedule based on your availability.
12. Check out the hood
You’ve undoubtedly heard the adage “location, location, location.” What that essentially means is that you’re not just buying the property you’re looking at; you’re also buying into the whole neighborhood. This means it is important to work with an agent that is familiar with the locations you are looking at!
13. Submit an offer
After deciding on which home you want to buy, you should contact your realtor and tell them you want to submit an offer. Your realtor will guide you on how to make your offer strong to a seller, make sure to research home comparables to make sure you are offering a fair market price, and take care of all the documentation.