As I mentioned in my post last week, I’m house hunting. While buying a house is certainly an exciting adventure for me, I didn’t think of it as being relevant to the blog. However, last week I reached out to all of you via Facebook for some content ideas. In the comments, someone suggested sharing the process of buying a house. I thought it was a such a smart idea so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
Now, before we start, I must mention that I’m not a home buying expert. Today’s post and future posts about this adventure are meant to be more for your enjoyment rather than the ultimate how-to guide for buying a home. However, I hope that through this process, you’ll be able to pick up a few tips, discover new resources, and learn from my mistakes. With that disclaimer out there, let’s get going on this fun journey!
FIND A REALTOR
I thought it would be smart to go back to the very beginning. To get my home buying process started, I first found a realtor. As you probably know, there are plenty of realtors. I suggest asking friends for recommendations or doing some online research to find someone who’s a good fit for you. Odds are you’ll be working closely with that person or team throughout the process so it’s essential that you like and trust them.
I found my realtor through social media. I was following a few developers in the Pittsburgh area on Instagram and several of them tagged Lifespace Pittsburgh as their real estate agency. After looking through some of the agency’s listings and doing a bit more research online, I set up an appointment and met with an agent to discuss my budget and what I was looking for in a home.
While finding a realtor is an important first step, you’ll also want to take care of a few other details early in the home-buying process. If you need to finance your purchase (that is, get a loan), I strongly recommend first getting pre-approval. Pre-approval will determine how much you can spend on a home. That is to say, there’s no point in looking at $500K homes if you can only afford something closer to $300K.
There are many options for loans whether you work through a bank or other lender. I suggest starting with your personal bank. Your realtor may also be able to point you to lenders. Because I’m self-employed, my process of getting pre-approval was a bit more challenging. A standard pre-approval is fairly easy and straightforward. You should be able to get your number in a day or two.
I made the mistake of assuming what my budget could handle and simply started looking for houses in that price range. Skipping the pre-approval process was not wise. I could have avoided lots of unnecessary stress and frustration by first getting pre-approval. Trust me, you don’t want to fall in love with a home only to find out it’s beyond what the bank will loan you.
ENVISION YOUR PERFECT HOME
In my next “Buying a House with IBC” post, I’m going to walk you through in more detail what I’m looking for in a home. This is another crucial step before starting your search.
This means you have to decide where in the country you want to live. Is your perfect home in the city or the suburbs? Do you want a big backyard or are you dreaming of a large front porch? Do you want a single-family home or condo? If you’re planning on or have kids? How’s the school district? How many bedrooms/bathrooms do you need? Do you want a fixer-upper or new construction?…
When I was thinking about what I wanted in a home, I made three lists: “Must Have,” “Would Be Nice,” and “Icing on the Cake.” Anything on my “Must-Have” List is non-negotiable. Things on my “Would-Be-Nice” List give the realtor a clearer picture of what my perfect home would have. They include the style of home, flooring type, specific features I like, and so on. My “Icing-on-the-Cake” List is for things I don’t need but would love to have, such as high ceilings, a clawfoot tub, and a functional fireplace.
While it’s important to know what you want, it’s equally important to be flexible. Be sure to make mental (or actual) notes about what you can and cannot change in a particular property. For example, you can replace carpet with hardwood, but you can’t change the school district the home is in. In addition, you can paint walls and add a front porch, but you can’t change the fact that the house is on a busy and noisy street. I hope that makes sense.
START THE HUNT
Your realtor can use all of this information and help you find the perfect home. Ideally, your agent should present you with some options based on what’s on the market and offer you new options as different properties become available.
However, thanks to the internet, you can also so your own home search. Websites like Zillow and Realtor provide a list of homes on the market. You can create custom searches to fit your budget, desired location, home size, etc.
In addition to my realtor’s search, I chose to set up a few custom searches on Zillow. (I’ll talk more about what I’m looking for and why I have multiple searches in my next post.) I defined these searches to certain areas, set my price range, and chose the option to have new listings emailed to me once a day. I like this because every morning I get an email with any new listings which I can quickly go through. Now, because I’m a bit paranoid, I also check my custom search listings directly on the site in the evening. What’s especially nice is that you can be as involved as you’d like. If you prefer a more hands-off approach when looking for a house, let your realtor do the work for you.
And that brings me to where I am today: the hunt. Unfortunately, the market in Pittsburgh is rather slow at the moment, so the number of houses that fit my wants and needs is limited. Thankfully, I have a few months left on my apartment lease. I also have the flexibility to extend my lease by a few months, if needed. This is important because I would much rather find a house that suits me rather than rush into something based on time. Now, if I could just decide exactly where in Pittsburgh I want to live and what my ideal home looks like … but we’ll save that until next time.