Finding the perfect home to buy can be a long, arduous process. From deciding on an efficient real estate agent, to locating the ideal area, to knowing what information you need on hand...there are a lot of steps to the whole process. A lot of time, work, and energy goes into house hunting, but there are ways to make it as stress-free as possible.
Like most big decisions in life, buying property requires you to do some research. The initial step you should take is researching real estate agents and companies in your area of interest. Check out their website, figure out exactly what services they offer, see how satisfied their current customers are, etc. This is a good first step to take so you know who you are getting involved with and how well they handle business. Next, you should research the specific area you are interested in buying. Scope out the area to decide if it fits your needs and if you would be comfortable living there.
Once you have decided on a general area, search for specific properties that fit your needs. The real estate agent will be able to assist you, but it is helpful to have a basic idea of what you are looking for in a home. Telling a real estate agent, "I'm interested in a two bedroom one bath", is not that useful. Most agents deal with numerous properties, so it makes the whole process quicker when you have more details. It is a good idea to check and see if the real estate agent's company has a website you can utilize. In these situations, the website will allow you to filter your search to whatever you're looking for (location, price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, etc.)
Next, figure out the requirements you must meet in order to purchase a property. This is as simple as finding a local, reputable lender and giving them a call. General requirements have to do with credit and income. It is important to get prequalified and preapproved for your mortgage in order to know how much you can actually spend. Typically, most sellers will not consider an offer without a preapproval letter. If you need to get a loan, you would have to provide financial information such as W-2 statements, pay stubs, and bank account statements to a lender in order for them to verify your financial status and credit. The general recommendation is to purchase a home that is no more than three to five times your household income to avoid being weighed down in debt.
In order to make the entire process simpler, have all of your personal information available and ready for the real estate agent and lender. Provide them with your best contact information so it is easy to get in touch with you about more available properties or to hear back in regards to the status of your offer. Make sure you provide the agent and lender your proof of identification and proof of income in order to get the process started right away. This way, they have the information they need to help you successfully place an offer on the home of your dreams.
Before placing an offer, it is strongly recommended to see the property. Setting up a showing with the real estate agent in order for you to take a look at the property is a pretty important step in the buying process. It is understandable if you are moving from out of town and cannot see the property before placing an offer, but you should at least look at pictures online or try to take a video tour. It is a good idea to take a look around the property first so you know if it is exactly what you are looking for and if it fits your neighborhood desires. It also helps you get an idea in your head of where you would be placing furniture and how much room you have to work with in regards to decorating. This also allows you to get a good sense of what this property would feel like once you decide to make it your home.
Last, but most certainly not least, be confident in the people you have decided to work with. Remember, they are all important partners in the buying process. The real estate agent is a valuable source of information regarding specific neighborhoods and negotiating skills. It is good to be on a first name basis with your real estate agent, but understand that they have numerous clients and they are doing their very best to get back in contact with you to help answer any questions you may have. Once your offer has been accepted, make sure you schedule a general home inspection with a local inspection company. This allows you to verify the condition of the house and renegotiate your offer, or withdraw completely, if you find significant damages. After you have officially decided to buy a home, the lender will conduct an appraisal of the home in order to verify the value of the property. After everything has been verified, the last step is the paperwork. The lender will arrange for a title company to handle all of the paperwork and help you close the sale.
Hopefully, this answers some of your questions, relieves some of your stress, and helps you find the home of your dreams. Good luck!