We’re a few days into the new year and many have grand plans for the days, weeks and months ahead. For many, this year will bring a new living situation. Will this be the year that you realize the dream of owning your own home? Buying a home, whether it’s your starter home upgrade or downgrade to where you plan to retire, takes careful planning and consideration. Many things that most haven’t even thought about. Let me help you be ahead of the game with a few tricks and tips that will have you going into your home buying experience with a lot more more excitement and a lot less stress.

Credit. You will want to get that in order. Don’t know your credit score? You are entitled to a free report once a year and should absolutely be taking advantage of this. The better your score, the better interest rate you will be able to get for your home loan which then turns into a lower monthly mortgage payment. Who’s doesn’t love saving money? Speaking of credit, if you have dings such as late payments, missed payments or too much debt, now’s the time to clean all that up to work towards your goals. Pay all your monthly bills on time and do not open any new lines of credit. Also, now is NOT the time to be making any large purchases such as a vehicle. Keep your money where it is and wait until after you’ve closed on your home to make large purchases. if the purchase is unavoidable, it’s best to consult your lender for a purchase approval should something come up during the process to ensure that it won’t cause any hiccups for you with your home lending plans.

Financially, buying a home is more than just affording a mortgage, which includes property taxes, your home owners insurance and sometimes a PMI. it’s important to note: there are some exceptions to NO PMI if you qualify. Downpayment percentages vary depending on the loan you qualify for but can be as low as 3.5% to 20%.For secondary homes, the down payment typically ranges between 20-25%. Starting a no commitment home loan process is important as it helps determine what amount of money you’ll need for a down payment.

That being said, now that you have your savings started for your down payment, did you know that you should also have an emergency savings? Putting away money is never a bad idea as new adjustments will need to made for now having to rely on yourself for any incidental home repairs. It can also be a great idea to sit down and estimate a monthly home budget before you buy and try to live off of that to see how you do. If you are coming from renting an apartment, things like higher and added utilities and lawn maintenance weren’t really on the radar: they are now. Using this thoughtful mindset for planning will help you determine what adjustments may need be considered.

Get Pre-approved for your home loan. By doing this, you know exactly what you can afford when you begin looking at houses. it’a different than being pre-qualified, anyone can get pre-qualified. With being pre-approved, a lender has already looked at all of your financial information. It will save you time, energy and should you decide to put in an offer, the sellers already know you’re serious and you’re a step ahead of the game. Do your research and explore all your loan options.

Know about contingencies, closing costs and any other extra information. Closing costs are extra, thousands of dollars that come into play when buying a home. Many people are surprised and often dismayed, wondering how they can possibly come up with even more money during this time. Don’t fret, ask me if you qualify for closing cost help.

Ok, now on to the fun stuff! What do you want in your home? Do you have a certain school district or city you have to be in? Do you loathe stairs thereby canceling out two story homes? How about your significant other if you are buying with one; do they insist on a three-car garage? it’s best to make a list, both of you, with absolute, not going to budge on must-haves. But don’t make it too long or you run the risk of not being able to find a home. Having a top three or four will help you narrow down and weed through the homes you’re stalking every day on my MLS drip, Zillow or realtor.com as options are always nice! With that being said, go into this with some flexibility. Sometimes, the home with everything else you love but without that pool you’ve been dreaming of, has a backyard with room for a pool and suddenly, you find that you’ve found your home. Be open to homes that you might not have considered, don’t let that list hold you back.

Attend open houses. Should open houses become available in your chosen neighborhoods, call me in advance prior to going to the open house to do some background research for you. Not only do you get see what’s out there, but you also get a feel for what’s available to you in the current market and what these homes are selling for. After establishing that the neighborhood meets your needs, I’d encourage you to experience the neighborhood at different times the day; go in the evening, weekends and see if this neighborhood really suits your needs and wants. Many a time the “perfect house” has been found to be imperfect due to its surroundings. Don’t get into a house without checking that out! It’s also good to time and determine how long your daily commute will be and if that’s something you are comfortable with. Find out where nearest grocery store is, how far you are from the freeway and any other places you’d frequent.

Lastly, don’t try to time the market. If you find your house and you can afford it, really afford it, then the time is right. Real Estate is just like life, it has it’s ups and downs and then it goes back up again. If you just stand there, you’re chancing missing out on something great.

If you have any questions or want more information, get in contact with me today, Kristi Harden at 951.704.6370 or kristi@kristihardenrealestate.com