What to Do Before You Start House Hunting

Now is a great time to consider buying a home. Whether you're relocating, purchasing a vacation house or looking to become a homeowner for the first time, there are certain things you need to do before you even begin to look for a new home. Doing your homework before plunging into the house hunt can save you valuable time and energy.

Before you begin looking at homes, determine what you can afford to spend. "This may seem obvious," says Lawrence, Finn, Jr., CEO of Coach Realtors, "but it's a step that can lead to disaster if overlooked, causing you to waste time with homes you can't afford, or sparking arguments with family members about what your budget looks like."

Before you begin looking, sit down with all parties involved and set a realistic price range, including the amount of money you can afford to put down.

Once your budget is determined, make a list of what you're looking for. What type of neighborhood do you have in mind? Do you want to be able to walk into town, or are you looking for a private setting with lots of land?

Make a detailed list of the absolute necessities, like good local school systems, versus things you simply want, such as a modern kitchen for the chef in the family or a guest room for relatives. Finn, notes that "while both wants and needs are important, knowing the difference will help guide you in your decision making process. " Finn, stresses the importance of planning and talking about important details in advance, enabling you to weed out any possible homes that don't meet your criteria.

After listing your wants and needs, Finn, suggests talking to mortgage lender about your mortgage rate and figuring out an affordable monthly payment. "When looking at a monthly payment, you should always take into account unexpected expenses, such as medical bills or a job loss. Make sure you have enough emergency money saved to cover a few months' payments, should something go awry," suggests Mr. Finn.

It's also important to keep your credit in mind before you begin hunting. "There is nothing more heartbreaking than finding your dream home only to have the bank refuse to give you a loan due to credit," says Finn. If your credit isn't where it needs to be, spend a few months building it up before you begin hunting. "If your credit has really fallen, it can take up to two years to build it back up again. This is something you want to know before you begin searching for a new home," notes Finn, Jr.

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