Your house search probably began online, browsing listings to see what is available and what they cost. If you’re looking for a competitive edge, you’ve come to the right place. Consider this: the average home buyer will spend over four months house searching before they actually buy. During that time you will compete with other home buyers to get the house you really want. To keep you from wasting time looking at less than desirable houses, and get you ready to take action when you find the right house, here are four important house searching tips to help you beat out other home buyers.
1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Before you begin seriously house searching, you need to lay some groundwork. Priority number one is to figure out where you want to live. Things to consider include not only the city, but the neighborhoods, school districts, community amenities, and cost of living.
The next step is to download and fill out the Homes for Heroes home buying checklist. It will help nail down your priorities for the type of house you want, including the must haves and nice to have items.
Once you’ve documented what you really want, you’ll also need to figure out how much house you can afford. This important information is what a lender will need to determine a loan amount for you. This will give a real look at your monthly income and expenses to show how much house you can afford.
To determine a real dollar amount you can use to determine the price of house you can afford, it’s best to speak with a mortgage specialist (lender or loan officer). They will take you through the home loan pre-approval process.
2. Get a Mortgage Pre-Approval Estimate
Before starting your home search, take the time to get a mortgage pre-approval estimate. Getting pre-approved for a home loan is the best way to determine the price you can pay for a house. For home sellers to take you seriously you will need to show them a pre-approval letter. A mortgage pre-approval letter tells the seller you can actually afford to pay for the house.
The mortgage pre-approval estimate is determined based on your actual financial history. This will require an official credit check conducted by the lender. A mortgage pre-approval is not a binding agreement, but instead an estimate of the loan amount you can receive.
Mortgage Pre-Approval Process
- Check Your Credit Reports and Credit Score: By taking this step early in the process, you can clean up any incorrect information on your credit reports, and learn whether you qualify for certain mortgage loan types.
- Complete Loan Application: The lender will ask you to complete a loan application to begin the credit check process.
- Financial Information: The lender will run a credit check and look at your financial history. This is to determine the level of risk involved in lending you money. They will likely ask you to submit the following:
- Income: You will need to submit 30 days of pay stubs, previous two years of W2s and tax returns, freelance work or side hustle income, overtime, commissions, bonuses, Social Security payments received, VA and retirement benefits received, alimony or child support received, interest and/or dividend income.
- Assets: You will need to submit the previous 60 days of your bank account statements (both checking and savings), any investment account information and proof of assets (IRA, 401k, etc), and any gift letters from family or friends gifting you money. This shows the gift money is not a loan.
- Personal Information: Photo ID (valid drivers license or passport) will be necessary. You’ll also need your social security number so the lender can run a credit check.
Homes for Heroes mortgage specialists are a great resource to handle the mortgage pre-approval process. If you decide to work with them through your home closing, you can save an average of $500. Simply register online and we will automatically connect you with our mortgage specialist in your community. They will answer your questions and walk you through the appropriate steps.
With a mortgage pre-approval in hand, you can quickly put an offer on a home when you find it. This is a big competitive advantage in getting the home you want.
3. Benefits of Having a Real Estate Agent
If you are not an expert in buying or selling real estate, you’ll want somebody on your team who is. A real estate agent is an expert who can simplify and manage the process for you. Benefits of working with a real estate agent in your house searching include:
- Access to Homes Listed: A real estate agent has access to almost all house listings using tools like the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). The MLS is a database with houses that have officially “hit the market”. Having this access assures you do not miss out on any potential homes for sale, and gives you a head start on other potential buyers.
- Access to Real Estate Data You Can’t Easily Find: Real estate agents have access to more information about current market trends and specific home sales. They have access to data such as median and average sales prices, average cost per square foot, and average days on the market. These data points can give you a competitive edge when house searching. For example, you may have found a home similar to the one you are interested in online, priced at $229,000. Your real estate agent can tell you it has several upgrades to the kitchen and basement, was on the market for 45 days and sold for $224,900 after falling out of escrow. Knowing this information provides leverage when entering negotiations with a potential seller.
- Pricing Strategy Guidance: If you find a house you like, a real estate agent will help you assess the demand from other buyers, if there are similar homes for sale in the neighborhood, and what similar homes are selling for in the neighborhood. Your real estate agent will then help you determine the best offer strategy to get the home you want for a reasonable price, and not lose out to other interested buyers.
- Coordinates Home Showings: Your real estate agent can coordinate with a selling agent to find a day/time to visit a house for sale that interests you. Otherwise you’re at the mercy of a public open house showing schedule, when anybody can walk through the house. A coordinated showing allows you to walk-through the home without distractions and allows you to fully assess the home before making an offer. Your real estate agent might also be able to get you a showing before an open house. This gives you more time to prepare an offer before a large amount of people get a chance to look.
- Negotiates: A real estate agent is an expert negotiator with home prices because it’s a primary skill of their profession. They also can remove themselves from the emotional parts of the transaction. They are trained to present your case in the best way possible, giving you the best opportunity possible.
- Manages the Paperwork: Purchasing a home involves massive amounts of paperwork including numerous legal documents and agreements. All of this paperwork needs to be worded correctly, signed by the appropriate parties and filed in particular fashion. Your real estate agent is crucial in making sure all of the parties have done their due diligence. This includes ensuring all paperwork is done correctly to avoid any future problems.
- Network of Professionals to Help You Further: Good real estate agents have a solid network of high quality and experienced professionals such as mortgage lenders, title companies and home inspectors they trust who can help you with other aspects of the home buying process. Homes for Heroes real estate specialists have an established network through Homes for Heroes. Together, our real estate, mortgage, title and home inspection specialists can lead you through the mortgage pre-approval, house searching, negotiating and ultimately the home purchase. Heroes save an average of $2,400 by working with Homes for Heroes specialists to buy a home. Simply register online to be automatically connected with our real estate and/or mortgage specialist in your area. They will introduce themselves and answer all of your questions. There’s no obligation.
4. Save on Home Buying and Mortgage Services
There’s no need for a hero like you to waste time finding a qualified real estate agent or loan officer. Our real estate and mortgage specialists commit to serving heroes like you, saving you money through the buying process. We pride ourselves in serving those who serve us every day. Giving back to heroes through the savings we provide is our way to say thank you to firefighters, EMS, law enforcement, military (active, reserves and veterans), healthcare professionals and teachers.
Want to start house searching with the help of experienced local experts while saving you money in the process? Register with Homes for Heroes and our real estate and mortgage specialists will make your house searching so much easier.