How long does it typically take from start to finish, when you're buying a home?
You want to give yourself 6-8 months at least. Start 6 months to a year ahead.
If you're renting a place and your lease is going to end, and you're looking to buy a home soon, realize that it still takes 1-2 months to close the deal once you've finalized a home (closing costs, inspections, other formalities). So keep that buffer. Let's say your lease is ending in June, you want to start looking by December at the latest.
Makes sense. Do house prices vary seasonally. What's a good time of the year to buy?
Summer is peak season obviously - prices are high then.
If you start to look at homes in winter & spring, you may not find a lot of variety but you'll have more negotiation power. People are eager to sell.
Right after New Year's, prices are at a plateau. You could time it such that you're starting to look for houses around then. By summer they start popping up like weeds! You'll have much more choices, but the prices will be higher too.
Ok, what are the first few things you look at when you're searching for a home?
First and foremost - the area. Then if you're a parent, you're looking at school district. You can look up schools in a particular zip code on sites like GreatSchools.org. Check their scores and zoning rules (does your house fall into a particular school's zone or is it at the border?). And finally, look at the crime rate in the area. We give you a resource package with the contact info of the local police and they can give you details too.
Ok, so let's say I'm a newbie and I've decided to work with you as my realtor. Can you walk me through, step by step, what we'll be doing?
First, we'll start with your Budget. You'll go get qualified or pre-qualified for a loan from a bank. How much is the loan amount you qualify for? (this is based on your earnings, your debts). What value of a home can you afford? If you're serious about buying, you don't want to waste your time looking at homes that are outside your budget!
Keep that budget realistic. We'll use a monthly mortgage calculator to figure out your monthly payments. This depends on how many years you're taking the loan for as well ... 15 years, 20, 30.
Okay great, once we've sorted out my budget, what's the next step?
Then we'll look at your Wishlist. What's your ideal square footage? How many bedrooms? Yard or no yard? If you want to live closer to family or friends, we'll factor that in as well. I've seen that people can be quite specific on where they want to live! We'll start to narrow down listings based on these specifications.
Having said that, I've seen that buyers start with a wishlist and then sometimes they change their requirements altogether! So a realtor has to be acceptable to change along the way.
Another thing, a good realtor will watch out for if how your wishlist is playing out with your budget. Sometimes people get excited when they start seeing homes & they overstretch. You don’t want your client to end up “house poor”! I've learned to first build a relationship with my clients, understand their needs. That way I'm being responsible. With finances comes lots of emotions... a good realtor becomes almost like your therapist!