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How to Buy a House: Homebuyer's Checklist

By Dee Collard

The purchase of a home is one of the single largest purchases an average person makes in their lifetime. Some only do it once, some go on to invest in many homes. Regardless of which one you are, here are the 5 Essential things to consider as a Homebuyer that we call our Homebuyer's Checklist.

1. Setting a Homebuyer's Budget

Before embarking on the search for a home, whether it is your first or one of many, possibly the most crucial element of your search will be setting your budget, and fortunately, you can do this on your own. Are you even able to afford a home purchase?

Consider your current monthly income - what portion of this amount are you willing/able to dedicate to a monthly mortgage payment? What portion of that amount is already dedicated to other debt payments? (school loans, credit cards, etc). Most guidelines and lenders look for your monthly mortgage payments to be 25-28% of that total monthly income, and for there to be no more than 12% of monthly income dedicated to additional debt payments. Stretch this payment out over a max of 30 years, and you have a rough estimate of your budget for a home (to be later confirmed through a pre-approval estimate).

2. Location, Location, Location

After setting a budget, an essential factor in your house hunt requires that you narrow down, at least generally, the location in which you would like to make your home purchase (such as towns immediately North of Boston, or homes in Western Mass, or homes in the town of Billerica). This usually requires some research, because given your budget, you might find that some locations that you find most desirable may be out of your price range. You can easily search for homes in any of these areas here. A good rule of thumb is to be flexible with location, perhaps choosing a location according to qualitative elements of what the neighborhood offers: ie., neighborhoods within a certain mile radius of where you work, or neighborhoods with access to public transportation, or quiet neighborhoods that are family-friendly. Being flexible with location will almost always give you more home options within your budget, and who knows, you might fall in love with a new town you've never considered before.

3. Mortgage Pre-Approval & Finding an Agent

When you're getting serious about purchasing a home and are confident that is it an undertaking that you are truly ready for, these two steps are separate but go hand-in-hand in the home buying process. The first, obtaining a Loan Pre-Approval Letter, involves consulting with a Mortgage lender about your finances in order to determine precisely how much money you will likely be able to borrow from that lending institution for your mortgage. This Pre-Approval Letter will contain a dollar amount, and when added to the amount you have saved for a down payment, will be an objective maximum spending limit for a home purchase. Armed with this information, you should be ready to find a Real Estate Agent.

Obtaining a great Real Estate Agent is one of most important things you can do in your search for a home, as he/she will act on your behalf as a Buyer in looking for the best properties within your budget and needs, in negotiating with Sellers and other Agents to make sure you are getting a fair deal, and ultimately, providing you experienced professional guidance through the duration of your house hunt. Enlisting the help of a Real Estate Agent is your gateway to finding the best homes that your money can afford, and ensuring that your whole home buying experience is the most effective. Inquire about our experienced Agents here.

4. Determining your Homebuyer "Must Haves"

Some homebuyers are lucky and "fall in love" with the house of their dreams, the one that has all the features they want and is within or below their budget. The reality, however, is that this happens very rarely for the typical homebuyer, and some become very discouraged, heartbroken even, over this fact. The most effective way to avoid this kind of house hunting heartbreak is to compile a list of "Must Haves" in a home with no more than four items, and keep them in the forefront of your hunting strategy.

An example of common Must Haves are: a certain number of bedrooms or bathrooms, proximity to highways and public transportation, an open concept floor plan, dedicated parking (such as in garage spaces or parking spaces), a basement area, a backyard. Notice that these Must Haves are aspects of a home that are either very hard or impossible to change, rather than cosmetic aspects such as wall colors, light fixtures, and flooring, because these things can be changed on your own, or with the help of home improvement resources. Sticking to this short list of Must Haves will give you a long list of potential homes to look at, making it ever more likely for you to find that dream home.

5. Setting a Homebuying Timeline

When searching for a home, it would be in your best interest to determine a timeline for when you would ideally like to purchase, close, and move-in to a potential new home. In some cases, a timeline will be predetermined, such as in the instance of a couple expecting a wedding or baby in the near future, or a short-notice relocation for a new job opportunity. In other cases you will have to set the timeline yourself, which is just as useful for two reasons:

First, you will give yourself and your Agent a guide that will aide your house hunting strategy. A flexible timeline can allow your Agent to pace your house hunt so that you are better positioned to take advantage of off-season pricing, while a short timeline can spur your Agent to gather as much research up front as possible to then maximize your time viewing only the best homes. Second, it will automatically prevent you from suffering from house hunting burnout, a term becoming increasingly popular in the Real Estate field to describe house hunters who have looked at so many homes that they've become too confused or overwhelmed to make a decision.

More Popular Articles:

4 Tips for Managing Your Budget

How Much Should My Mortgage Cost?

Mistakes to Avoid When Selling a House

Renovating for Selling

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