Planning to buy a home this spring? Then now—yes, during these last days of winter—is the right time to get rolling.
Spring is peak season, so with it comes a ton of competition. Start now to get the ball rolling so your ducks are already in a row before busy season starts.
- Find an agent. Finding an agent in the winter has a ton of advantages. For starters, because business is slow, you get a lot more attention so your agent knows exactly what it is that you are looking for and has time to educate you about the market so you know what to expect when the market heats up. In addition, your agent may know of homes in the pipeline that you can look at before they even go on the market to give you an advantage over the other buyers who waited.
- Get Your financing squared away. Before you go see a single house, you should talk to a lender. They will let you know exactly how much house you can afford so you don’t waste your time or your agents. Plus, if you need to improve your finances you have plenty of time to do that before the market heats up. While pre-approval is usually only good for 90 days, it’s easy to renew as long as you don’t do anything crazy to change your financial picture. So hold off on buying that new car.
- Preview homes. It’s one thing to say the things you want and need, but it’s a totally different thing when you actually get into houses in your price range. Your list of needs tends to change pretty drastically once you see what you can actually afford. For example, you start out saying you need three bedrooms, a fully updated kitchen, a pool, in-house laundry, and a large yard. Once you see houses in your price range, you may realize that while you still WANT all those things, the things you really need are three bedrooms, laundry, and a yard. The other things are great bonuses but not deal-breakers.
- Check out neighborhoods. It’s easy to think you want to live in one neighborhood when you do a drive-by, but you need to take the time to see what its really like to live there before taking the plunge. Pick an agent that is the neighborhood expert who knows the neighborhood like the back of his hand. Get to know the traffic patterns, what the commute is like, whether it’s under and airline flight plan, age of the occupants, etc. before it’s too late. Doing this in the winter when there isn’t a ton of competition and homes aren’t being snapped up the day they go on the market gives you time to make an informed decision.