Kathy Caufield: Local Home Buyer’s Guide Part II

We continue this series discussing the process of buying a home and how to compete in this seller’s market. If you missed last week’s column, here’s a recap.  Last week we tackled the initial phase of buying a home.  This first phase has four steps:

  1. Yes, I want to move.
  2. I want to move to the ______ area, or more specifically, _________ neighborhood.
  3. I MUST have ____ bedrooms, ____ bathrooms, specific school zone, and anything else you MUST have (eat in kitchen, basement, acreage, etc.)
  4. I would LIKE to have _______ (fireplace, flat lot, vaulted ceilings, main level garage, stand up shower, etc.)

Now, before we continue, I want to reiterate a few words we used last week – prioritization, preparedness, flexibility, and zero procrastination!  Keep these words at the forefront of your mind if you are considering buying a home!

The first phase was the initial phase, aka “getting your priorities in order”, like things you must have and things you want to have.  In the second phase, it’s time to get prepared! That means finances, budgeting, and devising a “plan of attack” for this crazy market.  These are a bit more detailed, time consuming, and require some legwork, hence why it’s important to start early.

  1. Make sure your credit is as healthy as it can be so you can qualify for the best interest rate possible. Take a few months and pay down credit cards. Make all payments on all bills on time. Doing these two things will make a drastic difference.
  2. Shop around for a lender. Find someone you can really connect with and feel comfortable asking questions to.  All mortgage companies do not offer the same interest rate so definitely take some time to find the lowest rate possible as this will affect your budget. Your mortgage lender can also offer you details on how much you will need for a down payment, plus they can tell you about the different programs offered that may require little to no down payment.
  3. Once you have connected with a lender and have taken the steps necessary to amp up your credit score, get a pre-approval letter. This letter may be important for your offer submission and tells the seller that you are 100% committed to purchasing their home and you have a lender willing to back you.  The pre-approval process can take about two weeks, and the letter is typically good for 3 months.  While you are in this two-week waiting period, move on to step 8.
  4. Connect with a local real estate professional. There are so many wonderful agents in our area, and our knowledge of the market and offer process can be what finally gets the deal signed!  Interview agents and find someone you feel comfortable with, someone who listens to your wants and needs, and someone who will keep you at the top of their priorities.  Ask what their “plan of attack” looks like.  There is usually no cost to you to use a real estate agent; in most cases, their commissions are paid by the seller, not the buyer.

Next week, we will look at the last phase of buying, which is putting that plan of attack into motion, when and where to be flexible, and when not to procrastinate!

Kathy Caufield is an experienced real estate agent with RealtySouth. You can submit a home buying and selling question to Kathy for her weekly column by sending an email to [email protected]. Disclosure: Kathy Caufield is also an advertiser in The Gardendale News.