As I sit here at the computer, sipping some fine coffee out of my "I Heart Rochester" mug, I'm thinking about my first time home buyers. One of the best parts about my job is working with the first timer... they are so excited! It's refreshing to see people get as much enjoyment out of house hunting as I do! I try to make the whole process as fun as possible.
In addition to making the home search entertaining, I also try to educate the buyer on the process. Many people do research before attempting the big task, but there are some things that you just can't get from a book or a website. That's where I come in.
I get asked about numerous topics and all are important, so I have compiled a list of frequently asked questions to help assist if doing some research of your own. There are too many to list in one blog entry, so I will attempt to cover as many as possible in multiple posts. This will be "Part One".
So as I refresh my cup o'Joe, I wonder about where to start... Which answered my question immediately!
Question #1: How do I get started?
The first thing you need to do is enlist a good agent. If you do not have an agent in mind, then ask around... Ask friends and family. It is possible that they have worked with someone in the past that they feel very positive about, or they may have an acquaintance that is in the biz. You can also contact someone blindly from your local brokerage, or from a website, but wouldn't you like to have a testimonial from someone you trust?
Once you get the name of an agent, do something that most people do not do... INTERVIEW THEM! This is a person that will be working FOR you. Make sure you are comfortable with them. This is someone you will be spending some time with. This is someone that is going to be negotiating one of the biggest purchases of your life. Ask them about their past, their transaction history. How well do they know your target area? Find out what differentiates them from other agents. What can they bring to the table? If you don't like what you hear, then move on to someone else and interview them. Keep going until you find someone that you're happy with.
At the same time, find yourself a lender. You can check with the bank that you currently have a checking/savings account with. Often, if you are already a customer, you may get some benefits if you utilize them. There are sometimes fees involved which may be waived. You may also take your business to someone that was recommended just like when searching for an agent. In addition, your agent may have suggestions for you... some options of lenders that they have worked with in the past and found to be good at what they do. Yet again, no matter who you decide to go with, interview them as well! Once you settle on a lender, you will need to get pre-approved.
Pre-approval is where the lender does a preliminary check on you to see if you are a good risk to for a mortgage. The lender will ask you some questions regarding your "debts" (items that you pay per month like auto loans, credit cards, etc.), compare them to your income, and will also run a credit check. Based on their findings, they will hopefully issue you a pre-approval letter. This is a very important piece of paper.
The pre-approval letter is a great tool when you are searching for a home. First, it will typically give you the max range for price. It would be terrible if you found your dream home only to find it was out of your price range. Second, this letter is great for when you place an offer on a potential home. It shows the seller that you have already begun the process on obtaining a mortgage, and the bank thinks that you are a good candidate. If there are competing offers, that may give you a leg up over the other offer if they have not yet completed this step.
Mortgage pre-approval with a lender you feel comfortable with as well as finding a Real Estate Agent that will work for you is the first step in getting you into your dream home. That is how you get started!
Now if you want a GREAT agent, you should contact me... I would be happy to come in for an interview! HA! I hope this was helpful. Keep an eye out for Part Two of FAQ's of the First Time Home Buyer where the plan is to tackle "Contingencies". If you have any questions, enter them into the comment section at the bottom and I can address them in the next blog instead. Until then, Roc and Roll!