As many of you know, our family just moved into a new home on March 31 of this year, and we couldn’t be happier about it! Our house now has enough space for hubby’s office, my crafting, and more, plus we have some amazing neighbors who have become our good friends already.
Make a List of Essentials
Before you even start looking at available homes, sit down and make a list of absolute essentials: things the home MUST have for you to be truly interested. Don’t focus on cosmetics here, but rather the “bare bones” of the house. How many bedrooms do you need at minimum? For us, that number was three. Also, after growing up in an older home that only had one bathroom, I refused to look at any houses with less than at least one and a half baths. Is a big yard a must for your family, or will less land suit you just fine? Compare lists with your spouse and make sure you’re in agreement on the key things you’re looking for, then you can use them as filters when you begin searching so that you don’t waste time looking at homes that won’t meet your family’s needs.
Choose a Geographic Location
Decide on what areas you’re willing to consider before searching for what’s on the market. Otherwise, you might find a gorgeous home only to discover that it’s in a part of town where you don’t feel safe or don’t want to raise your kids. This is the time to think about things like how far you and/or your spouse are actually willing to commute to work each day, what schools you don’t mind sending your kids to, and how close you want to be to family, friends, your nearest Seattle-based coffee shop, etc. In our area, living 15-20 minutes outside the major “city” made the difference between being able to afford a single family home rather than a townhome because the costs were literally $40-50K less for a comparable home. Had we been willing to go a little farther north, we could have gotten even more house for our money, but hubby drew the line at a certain point based on how much it would extend his daily commute. These are the kinds of decisions to make before you start your search. Then, you can give your realtor specific guidelines or use them yourself on internet real estate search engines to make sure you’re only spending your time looking at homes in areas you actually want to live.
Do Your Math First
Again, before you start searching for what’s out there, take time to figure out your budget and what you can realistically afford. Don’t even look at homes that are out of your price range, because it will make you dissatisfied with the things you CAN afford. Plus, it’s just awful to fall in love with a home you can’t pay for. Either you’ll have to pass it up or you’ll convince yourself it’s doable and end up way in debt because the monthly payments are more than your budget can handle. Experts like the folks at Capital One recommend that your mortgage should never be more than 28 percent of your total budget. For an idea of what you can afford, multiply your annual salary by 2.5. There are also online mortgage calculators to help you come up with the right numbers for your family. Don’t forget to consider things like the down payment and how that can impact your monthly payments down the road. The traditional estimate for a down payment is 20 percent of the purchase price of the house, which can lower your monthly payments and avoid mortgage insurance better than a lower down payment.
Choose and Consult a Lender You Trust
Mortgages come in all shapes and sizes; which one is best for you depends on a lot of variables, including your budget, the amount you can afford to put down, the interest rate, and the term length. Consult an expert to gain a thorough understanding of what your options are so you can make an informed decision. The Capital One Home Loans Online Neighborhood is a free online resource where you can learn all about home buying from easy-to-understand articles and helpful videos, as well as information about Capital One’s Home Loans offerings. The site covers all stages of the home buying process – from deciding whether now is even the right time to buy and how much home you can afford, to the documents you need to apply for a mortgage.
Once you have your basic guidelines mapped out, go ahead and start searching with your agent or via online sites to see what homes are available in your area and price range that include your minimum requirements. Then the fun begins! Schedule showings where you can visit the homes and see which one best suits your family. Remember not to judge a house by its cosmetics; walls can always be painted, flooring can always be changed, and everything can always be cleaned! When you find the house of your dreams, your real estate agent and lender will walk you through the contract, closing, and settlement, and then you can start enjoying happily ever after in your new home, just like we are!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.