Start your house hunting process in the most efficient way possible by reading these 11 little, but life-saving, tips that no one’s ever told you before.
I say that with confidence because I’ve seen all too many prospective home buyers not know where to start or what they should be looking for when viewing a home.
In this post you’ll also learn the ins and outs of home inspections and why it’s important to also do an inspection of the neighborhood before moving in.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you’ll find out how to position yourself to receive the financing you need to secure your new home.
Whether you’re looking for your first home, or you’ve been through this process before, anyone can benefit from the advice you’re about to read.
First Steps: Preparing for Success
A successful house hunting process starts way before looking at homes. That doesn’t come until later.
There are several critical steps you must follow before you get to that point, and I’ll tell you why.
1. Check Your Credit Score
Start by checking your credit score, which you can do absolutely free at Borrowell.com. If your credit score is 650+, then skip this section and move on to the next part.
The reason why I say check your credit score first is, if you have a low score, there’s no risk in lowering it if you check it yourself online.
On the other hand, if you visit a bank or mortgage broker first, there is a very real risk of lowering your credit score because you would then have an enquiry on your report.
Know how much you can afford by getting a pre-approval from a bank or mortgage broker.
With a pre-approval you’ll find out the maximum amount you can spend on a home, the monthly payment associated with your maximum purchase price, and what your mortgage rate will be for your first mortgage term.
A pre-approval also guarantees that what you’re offered will not change for 90 to 120 days. You can lock in your mortgage rate, which protects you if interest rates rise while you’re house hunting. However, if interest rates go down, then your lender will honor the lower rate.
A pre-approval is free and doesn’t commit you to the lender. So there’s no reason why this shouldn’t be one of your first steps.
3. Hire a Top Notch Realtor
Don’t make the mistake of house hunting without a realtor by your side. Do your due diligence and find a well organized realtor who is a top producer in your area.
When your friends and family find out you’re looking for a house they’ll inevitably recommend their realtor of choice. Those are options to consider, but again, don’t hire anyone without doing your own research first.
Just because your friends or family had a good experience with a particular realtor doesn’t mean you will also.
Chemistry is key, and the best way to find out if you click with a particular realtor is to interview them. Ask them questions, such as how many homes they sell yearly (ideally 24+).
Listen closely to figure out if they’re answering your questions honestly and realistically. Most importantly, see if they ask you questions to understand your individual needs.
Find out if they work with a team or if they’re a solo operation. An agent who is supported by a team can ultimately provide better service.
Buying a house is the most significant purchase most people make in their lives. There are many risks associated with not hiring a good realtor, which may lead to you overpaying for your home, or buying a home you’re not completely satisfied with.
Next Steps: Beginning the Hunt
Now that you’ve checked your credit score, been pre-approved for a mortgage, and found the right realtor, it’s time to begin looking at homes.
At this point you likely have an idea of what you’re looking for from a home owner’s perspective. Here’s some advice on what to look for from a realtor’s perspective.
4. Look for Positives and Negatives
It’s easy to get distracted by a home that has your dream kitchen, or a bathroom that feels like a trip to the spa. Be careful – becoming infatuated with the positives may cause you to overlook the negatives.
For example, the house with the kitchen you’re in love with may have a big slope in the floor. Or a furnace that hasn’t been replaced in 20 years. Perhaps you’re house hunting in the summer, and the house you’re looking at has issues that do not show up until the winter.
A well experienced agent will help point out the negatives as well as the positives. It helps if you ask the right questions also. Don’t be afraid to ask if there are any known issues with the house that you should be aware of. You may be saving yourself a lot of trouble.
5. Home Inspection
Do not buy a home without a proper home inspection. I can’t stress that enough. As with every other step in the home hunting process, seek the services of a qualified professional.
In other words, your Uncle Bob the mechanic should not be doing your home inspection. Even if he did a couple bathroom renovations in the past.
A house may look move-in ready to your eyes, but an experienced home inspector can uncover issues that you wouldn’t know to look for.
An inspector will cover features of the house such as electrical wiring, plumbing, roofing, insulation, as well as structural features of the home. After the inspection they will provide you with a report detailing any improvements or repairs needed to bring the home up to current standards.
Save yourself money in the long run by spending at least $300-$500 on an all-encompassing examination of the home. It’s money well spent as it can ensure you’re not buying a home in need of costly repairs. It could also save money by allowing you to negotiate a lower price, depending on what was found during the inspection.
6. Read the Home Inspection Report
When reading the home inspection report don’t be scared off by some of the things that appear in it. Most of what you will see in the report are minor issues, but they have to be documented. Don’t let these things discourage you from buying what may otherwise be your ideal home.
No house is perfectly flawless, and that’s something you have to remember when you’re not buying a brand new home. It’s likely that the report will come back with suggestions like shingle replacing, new furnace installation, panel upgrading, and so on.
Your realtor will know exactly who can help fix these issues. Any well experienced agent will have their go-to contractors and can help you get the job done at a low cost.
7. Take Your Own Notes During the Home Inspection
It’s highly recommended that you attend your home inspection process. Not only is it a valuable educational experience, it’s an opportunity to take your own notes and photos of the property.
You could even take a video of the whole process so you don’t miss a thing. Just make sure to free up some space on your phone because a home inspection could take 2-3 hours.
Being there in person can help answer a lot of question you’ll inevitably find yourself asking while reading the report. If there’s anything you don’t quite understand in the home inspector’s report, then you can refer to your notes for clarification.
Those notes and photos/videos will also come in handy for other reasons, which I will explain in point #11.
Final Steps: Double Check Everything
So now you’ve assessed the positives and negatives of a home, gone through a home inspection process, and examined the inspector’s report.
At this point you’re ready to buy, but not before you double check everything. Double check the location. Double check your financing. Finally, double check the home itself.
8. Meet the Neighbors
When home buyers judge a location they think about the proximity to schools, grocery stores, restaurants, shops, entertainment, and essential services. Rarely does it cross their mind to think about the people they’ll be sharing the location with.
There’s nothing worse than moving into a violent neighborhood, or living amongst noisy neighbors who party all night. I actually had my heart set on a home one time and decided not to purchase it after knocking on a few doors. I could tell it was going to be a headache.
No one knows a neighborhood like the people who live in it. They can warn you about any red flags, or perhaps you may end up spotting them on your own.
You may find it awkward to knock on the doors of people you’ve never met, but think about it this way. If you decide not to move in then you may never see them again anyway. On the other hand, if you do move in, then you’ll already know each other.
9. Check Crime Rates
While meeting the neighbors you may learn a few things about crime in the area, or lack thereof, but there are a few other measures you can take.
Use a crime mapping service like CrimeReports.com, or conduct a Google search for “crime maps Sudbury”. You’ll find out exactly where crime was reported in the area, as well as what type of crime was reported.
You can also inquire about the number of homes for sale in the area. This may be an indication of the neighborhood’s overall safety. In some cases, a significant number of homes for sale may be a result of people moving away to escape rising crime rates.
Trust your instinct and take a tour of the neighborhood to see how safe you feel. Is it a place you’d feel comfortable walking home at night?
While walking around the area take note of the general state of repair. Look for warning signs such as broken windows, overgrown yards, run-down homes and fences, and so on. A well kept neighborhood is usually safe, as it’s an indication that residents take pride in their surroundings.
10. Don’t Jeopardize Your Financing
Take every precaution not to jeopardize your financing before the home sale closes. Do not – I repeat, do not – apply for any loans or buy a new vehicle.
Not only will that impact your ability to close the transaction, in the worse case scenario you’ll be opening yourself up for litigation.
Never apply for new debt prior to purchasing a home without consulting your lender. It will add to your debt to income ratio and may cause a drop in your credit score for a period of time
11. Final Walkthrough of the Home
Many home buyers, believing that a single home inspection is enough, never end up doing a final walkthrough of the home. Don’t make the mistake of not doing one last walkthrough before taking possession of the home.
In some cases, the condition in which you saw the home during the inspection is not the same condition as when you move in. A lot could change during that time.
I can’t tell you how many nightmares I’ve encountered where the previous owners have left the walls badly banged up from moving furniture. Other times they may leave an excessive amount of garbage or junk in the yard.
That’s why it’s important to have visual documentation from the home inspection, as I explained in point #7. You’ll have proof of the condition of the house has changed from when you agreed to buy it.
If you run into any issues during the final walkthrough you can take the evidence to your lawyer. They will contact the other lawyer involved to make sure the issues are resolved.
Hopefully that’s not a situation you ever run into, but unfortunately, it can happen and you’re better off being prepared.
That is a lot of information to absorb all at once, so let’s quickly recap everything:
- Check your credit score
- Get a pre-approval for a mortgage
- Hire an experienced realtor
- Look for positive and negative aspects of the home
- Get a home inspection
- Read and understand the home inspection report
- Consult your own notes and visuals when reading the inspector’s report
- Meet the neighbors
- Check crime rates
- Don’t jeopardize your financing by adding new debt
- Do one final walkthrough of the home