Buying a home can be an emotional, time-consuming, and complex process. There are a few things that you can do to help make the process go as smooth as possible:
1. Get approved before you buy.
An approval means that a lender has reviewed your credit history, verified your assets and employment, and has approved your loan before you have found a home to purchase. As long as the home appraises for at least the purchase price, the loan should be approved.
Getting approved also gives you an advantage over other buyers. Your firm approval makes it easier for you to negotiate on the price of a home, than a person who is not approved or is pre-qualified.
While getting pre-qualified may sound official, it is really just getting an idea of what you can afford. It’s having a person plug in a few numbers that you give them – your monthly income and your monthly debt – and getting an approximate payment calculated. From the payment, the calculator can approximate the house price range that you can afford. No information is verified. Because your assets, income or credit is not verified, a pre-qualification has little or no value when purchasing a home.
2. Learn about the neighbourhood.
Often times the house you find may be in a neighbourhood that you're not familiar with, which is ok. It just means that you'll have to do a little more research. If you find a house that you like, ask for a list of the neighbourhood properties that sold in the last year. How does your home rank? Is it at the top of the price range? If so, it might be hard to resell. Is it average or on the low end? If so, great – as the other home prices go up in value, they will pull your home's value up as well.
Check out the schools – are they sought after? A good school district means your neighbourhood will always be valued by families which is a great reassurance to purchase, not to mention the value-add if you have school-age children.
Check out the location of the shopping, police and fire stations, schools, and air traffic overhead. These are all things that might affect your property value or quality of your life.
3. Have reasonable expectations.
There is a lot of money at stake. No house is perfect. Understanding and remembering these two statements will help diffuse the negotiation stage, the inspection stage and the closing stage.
Emotions are high for both buyers and sellers. – The seller may have loving memories and years of sweat equity in the house. Maybe they are being relocated and don't want to go. Understanding their motivations for selling will help you appreciate their situation and predicament during these emotional times.
There is a lot of money at stake for all the parties involved. Just remember that market value (the value of a home) is the price that a willing buyer and a willing seller can agree to. If you can not agree on a price, ask yourself: Is there something you missed? Are there comparables that support the price that they want? Are there motivations that might factor into the price they are demanding? In the end, does it matter? What is the house worth to you today and what do you think you can reasonably sell it for based on the amount of time you plan to spend in it? Think about the answers to those questions before you make your move.