Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or are looking to downsize into your fourth and final home, the house hunting process can be daunting. After all, purchasing a home is no small decision. With a seemingly endless amount of things to consider— like financials, your list of must-haves, and the future return on your investment— it may be hard to determine where to start.
House Hunting Tips
We’ve broken down the basics of the process with five simple house hunting tips. Before you start making offers, consider this house hunting tips checklist as a guide.
1. Get prequalified.
First and foremost, you should go into the homebuying process knowing exactly how much you can afford. The best way to do this is to get prequalified for a mortgage through a local mortgage lender.
Prequalification is useful for many reasons:
- It gives you an idea of your budget. This can narrow down your search and prevent you from getting your heart set on a house that is outside of your realistic price range.
- It shows real estate agents know that you are serious about making a purchase. Agents will know that you aren’t there to waste their time and be more likely to put time and effort into your home search if you have a prequalification letter in hand.
- Your offer will carry more weight. Real estate deals can fall through because the buyer is unable to attain financing. In a hot market, sellers may place more consideration on an offer from a buyer that has been prequalified since they know you are likely to get approved for financing.
To get prequalified for a loan, you’ll submit financial information to a mortgage lender such as your income, other debt obligations, and your credit score. Using this information, they’ll provide an estimate of how much you’ll be able to borrow when it comes time to actually apply.
Keep in mind that prequalification isn’t the same as getting approved, it doesn’t guarantee a specific amount, and it doesn’t represent any obligation for a mortgage if you decide now actually isn’t the right time to purchase a home.
2. Find a real estate agent.
A good real estate agent will be a tremendous help in your homebuying process. Not only will they help you find the right home, but they will be there to offer advice and support along the way.
Look for a real estate agent that:
- Has expert knowledge of the area you want to live in
- Wants to help you find your dream home, not just make a quick sale
- Will provide objective advice
Get recommendations from friends and coworkers and interview potential agents to find the one that has all the right knowledge and your best interest in mind.
3. Know where you want to live.
There may be thousands of homes on the market in your city; trying to look at houses across every neighborhood can be overwhelming.
Before diving into your house hunt, it helps to know where you want to live. Maybe you’ve narrowed it down to a side of town that's close to your office. Perhaps you want to live within a good school district for your kids. Maybe there’s a neighborhood that has caught your eye with its amenities and community resources. Having an idea of where you want to be located can help you and your real estate agent narrow down your search.
Here are some questions to find the answers to when exploring different neighborhoods and areas:
- How high are property taxes?
- What school district and schools does the neighborhood sit in?
- What businesses, parks, and recreational facilities are in the neighborhood or nearby?
- Is the area bustling with activity or quiet and peaceful?
- Are you close to public transportation?
- Is the area in a flood zone?
- Are home values in the area rising or falling?
- Do historic or homeowners associations enforce restrictions?
By knowing the answers to these questions, you can better understand whether or not a community is right for you. Thoroughly researching your neighborhood options is key to finding a house that meets your needs and expectations.
4. Know what you want— and need— in a house.
It helps to go into the home search with a list of must-haves and wants in hand. This will allow your real estate agent to present homes to you that fit what you’re looking for, saving you both time. Things to know include:
- The type of house you are looking for, such as a single-family detached, duplex, condo, etc.
- How much space you need, including number of rooms, bathroom, garage, storage, and more
- Features like central air and heat, accessibility features, a natural gas stove, swimming pool, fireplace, etc.
Differentiating your wants and your needs prevents emotional decision-making and eliminates homes from your list that are a bad fit.
On the same note, it is also important to understand what can be easily changed and what cannot. For example, cosmetic details like wall color, flooring, hardware, and light fixtures can be easily replaced with something that fits your style. However, the extra office space that you need for your remote job will be harder to create or build if it isn’t already there.
5. Schedule walk-throughs.
We all browse listings online nowadays, but pictures on a computer screen or phone often don’t do a house justice. Spaces can often appear bigger, brighter, and more inviting thanks to modern-day cameras and photo editing software. The only way to know for sure whether a home is the perfect fit is to see it in person.
Once you’ve narrowed down your search, start scheduling walk-throughs with your real estate agent. This will be a good opportunity to see what the home and the surrounding area have to offer. During your tour, be on the lookout for red flags and ask questions.
Get Started on Your House Hunt
Ready to find your dream home? Start by checking the first thing off the house hunting checklist— exploring your lending options and getting prequalified. This important step will help you from the start of your search to when you place an offer. Amplify Credit Union is proud to offer prequalification for homebuyers in Texas and help folks purchase their dream homes.