After years of renting, you are more than ready to take the plunge into homeownership. You dream of having a cozy casa to call your own, and you cannot wait to start the house hunting process.
While looking for your first home is exciting, it can also be stressful as unexpected bumps in the road tend to pop up. To avoid as many negative curveballs as you can, keep the following cautionary tips in mind:
Get your finances in order
Many Realtors will not work with home buyers until they have been pre-approved for a loan. In order to be sure that you qualify for a decent amount, spend some time getting your financial house in order. As Bank Rate notes, start by checking your credit score and report, since it will be a key factor in how much you will qualify for, as well as determining your interest rate. You can use a free credit score checking service like CreditKarma, or if you have a credit card like Discover, you should be able to check your FICO score there as well.
In addition, get copies of the actual reports from these companies that show all of your lines of credit as well as the reasons for your score, and go over everything with a fine-toothed comb. Look for mistakes, unpaid accounts and any collections, and if there are any issues, start the repair process at least six months before buying a home. Having a high debt to income ratio may also negatively impact your FICO score; if this is true for you, do all you can to pay down your credit card bills and other debts before shopping for a home.
Choose your neighborhood carefully
Some first-time home buyers are so focused on getting a certain style of house, they may overlook the quality of the entire neighborhood. The surrounding area deserves as much consideration as the house. Research the local school system, even if you don’t have kiddos yet, because it can impact home values.
Check to see how close needed amenities are, like grocery stores, gas stations, coffee shops and hospitals, and do a practice commute to see how long it takes you to get to work. You can also check the local crime stats, and if you drive through it at different times of the day, you can check for unexpected noises and activity levels; like a busy fire station nearby or a sports field where high school bands go to practice.
Make sure technology is working
Once you start the actual home search, you may be pleased to see that some of the homes come with innovative features like a home security camera system, thermostats and other cool forms of technology. Rather than assuming that everything works, either check these gadgets yourself to be sure they are functioning properly or if you have made an offer on the home, ask your home inspector to determine that the tech is in good working order.