So where do you start? The first step is to deal with the finances. This can not be over emphasized.
Without a solid financial plan any time spent looking could be a complete waste of everyone's time. I recommend beginning with an appointment with a local mortgage loan officer to discuss your financial picture (obligations, income, cash on hand for closing costs) and review your credit.
Then get a mortgage pre-approval letter from the lender. A mortgage pre-approval letter is different from a mortgage pre-qualification letter.
Why is this step so important it must be done first? Because it controls most decisions made in the home buying process unless a buyer is paying cash. Read: Step One: Get the Letter.
Later on when you are ready to submit an offer the seller is going to want to see a mortgage pre-approval letter or proof of funds if the offer is a cash offer.
The next critical step is to get your own real estate agent. BUYERS DO NOT PAY THEIR REAL ESTATE AGENT SO GET YOUR OWN. Read: Who pays the buyer's agent?
When you call me you should expect to receive a lot of questions. My goal is to gain an understanding of what buyers are looking for in a home.
Some of the questions are intended to gauge a prospective buyer's knowledge and experience level.
What are some of the questions to expect?
- When? The process takes time. Depending on the circumstances
(cash, mortgage, short sale, new construction, etc) this time may be a couple of weeks or six months or more.
- Financial picture? The ability to obtain a mortgage or the availability of cash is the most basic of considerations.
- Experience with the process? Your real estate agent is a resource and adviser. Knowing a buyer's background helps a real estate agent keep the buyer up to speed on the process.
- Familiarity with area? Simple but critical.
- Expectations? Buyers often begin the process by looking at one of the several online resources that provide real estate information. This is OK but the validity is sometimes lacking. Gaining an understanding of a buyer's expectations of the market may head off disappointment later.
- Are you working with another real estate agent? This is the MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION buyers should receive when they call a real estate agent the first time. Choose your real estate agent and stick with them.