When you're ready to go look for your new house, keep these simple tips in mind to make the best use of your time:
TIP 1: STAY WITHIN YOUR BUDGET
Whether you're looking online or in person, make sure you know exactly what number not to go over. If you don't know your budget, it's likely that you haven't spoken to a lender yet. As a busy agent, I will only show property to clients who have taken this initial step and have a pre-qualification or pre-approval letter.
It's important to stay within your means because no matter how much you love that home that's $100,000 above your budget, you won't be able to afford it. And let's face it, once you see something you can't get, you won't like anything that's actually in your budget.
TIP 2: DO DRIVE-BYS
If there are homes you do like, drive by them at different times of the day. During morning and afternoon commute times, at night, and on the weekends. You'll get a feel for the neighborhood and the street by seeing what kind of activity it gets.
TIP 3: CHECK FOR HOA RESTRICTIONS AND CDDS
Homeowners Associations (HOAs) make and enforce rules for your neighborhood and may impose restrictions on how you can use your home. Costs vary for each individual community, and may be charged monthly, quarterly, or yearly. CDDs, or Community Development Districts, provide the infrastructure for the community (paved streets, streetlights, stop signs, etc). Homeowners are charged an assessment on their tax bills.
These are important to take into account not only for the allowed use of your home, but also because of the additional costs that a homeowner will incur.
TIP 4: USE THE TODDLER APPROACH
When you're looking at a house, touch everything! Open the cabinets, go up the stairs, turn on all the lights, flush the toilets, etc. Although you're not there to do an inspection (and there are restrictions on what you can do while touring a house), it's important to look for things like cracks in the wall, peeling paint, water damage, pooling water, etc. It's also good to remember if the first house you saw had slow-closing cabinets - and you'll remember better if you actually opened the cabinets yourself.
TIP 5: BE READY TO PULL THE TRIGGER WHEN YOU FIND "THE ONE"
Just like in Step 1, this step means that you have a pre-approval letter. Not only that, but you should have had a Buyer Counseling Session with your agent to go over the process BEFORE you look at houses, so that you know what to expect. If you're in a hot market with multiple offer situations, you don't want to waste any time!
For more tips, contact Nadia Anac, Realtor, J.D.
Nadia Anac is a Realtor(R), military spouse, and mom of two boys. A former lawyer, she currently resides in Tampa, Florida, where she enjoys living 5 minutes from the beach.