Looking to buy a home in Seattle? Here are some basic tips for making the home buying process as smooth as possible in our market.
Find The Right Seattle Real Estate Professional
Choose one that fits your style. Are you the kind of homeowner to have an urban farm and grow your own organic vegetables, do you care about how walkable and bikeable you home will be? Do you want to like in an area where your neighbors will share similar values?
A broker that shares your values is likely to see homes through similar filters as yours. Once they get to know your needs they can do the leg work themselves and call you in on the best listings when they become available.The agent will get to know your own needs and be able to help you find a loan professional that can help you buy the type of home you want. It’s fine if you already have your own financial professional in mind. It is important though that loan professional is readily available to whip up a document when you are making a frenzied offer at 8pm on a Sunday night. Also that they will be around through to the day of closing to make sure the check come through. Your cousin you so enjoy hanging out with on weekends who just went to work for a bank, may not always be the best option to be your loan professional.
Get your financial ducks in a row
Start by getting a full picture of your credit. Obtain copies of your credit report. Make sure the facts are correct, and fix any problems you find (sometimes the right loan professional can help with a planned out major repair or quick credit upgrade). Next, find a suitable lender and get pre-approved or pre-qualified for a loan. This will put you in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house. Above all make sure you money has “seasoned” in your accounts and don’t make any purchases on credit; new cars, appliances, furniture etc until you have the keys to your new home. It’s a temptation to buy new items in anticipation of move-in day. If you can’t control your urge to buy new things, you might find yourself with new couches and no home to put them in. Once you go through the underwriting process be sure to keep your financial standing very steady and predictable. Also, it’s best to keep all your paperwork within easy reach. You are likely to have to show it to the lending institution more than once though the course of the purchase process.
Find a house you can afford
There are also a number of tools and calculators online that can help you understand how your income, debt, and expenses affect what you can afford. Don’t forget, too, that there are lots of considerations beyond the sticker price, including property taxes, energy costs, etc. Your loan officer can help you come up with realistic monthly payment for monthly expenses. That person can also direct you to the best lender for your situation. If you are a Military Vet, Doctor, School Teacher, Fireman or Police Officer, their are different opportunities and programs available to you. Remember as new home owner you should also keep a fund for emergency or scheduled repairs. You are the landlord now. When something needs to be repaired you are the one that pays for it. Your budget will need to be adjusted. Their are a number of inexpensive insurance policies you can purchase for home and appliance repairs. Depending on the home you choose one of these might be a great option to help you with peace of mind.
While the Internet gives buyers unprecedented access to home listings and resources, many aspects of the buying process require a level of expertise you can’t pick up from surfing the web. That’s why you are better off using a professional agent than going it alone. If possible find one who will have your interests at heart and can help you with strategies during the bidding process. Even one willing to talk you out of the wrong house. In WA state the buyer’s agent has the legal responsibility to only represent the buyer even if our commission is paid by the seller. There is no need to hire a discount agent when the a fee paid by the seller. Also in our multiple buyer market still prevalent in Seattle, a local lender that can speak with someone locally on the phone verifying a buyers credit worthiness will carry much more weight than an internet clearing house. Sellers want to feel confident the buyer is credit worthy and capable of fulfilling their contract. Again consult your Real Estate Broker for tips on who they have had success with in the past.
Do your homework and use your gut
Before making a bid, do some research to determine the state of the market at large. Is it more favorable for sellers or buyers? Next, look at sales trends of similar homes in the area or neighborhood. Look at prices for the last few months. Come up with an asking price that’s competitive, but also realistic. Is it worth losing a home in the perfect neighborhood, or with the perfect finishes and saving $10,000 over 30 years? If it’s a home you will be living in, it’s more than an investment–it’s a lifestyle. If you fall in love with it, odds are the resale value will be higher when you sell and spend less time (and less expense in carrying costs) over time. Otherwise, you may end up angering your seller and closing off any further negotiations.
Think long term
Obviously, you shouldn’t buy a home unless you are sure you will be staying put for at least a few years. Beyond that, you should buy in a neighborhood with good schools or in walkable, close in neighborhoods. Whether you have children or not, this will have an impact on your new home as resale value down the line. When it comes to the house itself, you should hire your own home inspector, who can point out potential problems that could require costly repairs in the future. Home inspectors cost a small fraction of the overall cost. The good ones leave you with more information than you will ever need and give you an idea of upcoming mantenance schedule so you can plan your budget. They basically give you a manual that you can refer to for decades to come.
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