House Hunting with Confidence: 5 Steps to Prepare for the Hunt

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When deciding to buy a new home, a seemingly enumerable array of factors present themselves. However, deciding upon a home doesn’t have to be a juggling act. A step-by-step approach will help you know exactly what you want, what you can afford, and how to get it.

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  1. Know What You Want
    This is the fun part. Make a list of the things you need, can’t live without or “must have,” and also your wishes or “nice to haves.” Knowing which is which will help you objectively decide upon houses while you’re in the field. Also, have an idea of what your needs and wants will cost you. If one of your needs is a completely remodeled kitchen, realize that you may have to downgrade lots of acreage to the “wants” list. Keep this list for when you hire a real estate agent, since this will be a helpful tool for them as well.
  2. Determine How Much You Can Afford
    When deciding upon your number, take into consideration the many costs associated with owning a home besides getting the best mortgage rate, like the closing costs, the utilities, the insurance and taxes, and of course, factor in for regular upkeep and maintenance. Remember that you’ll want to keep up with your other expenses, like car or student loans. Finally, while a healthy down payment is extremely important, don’t raid your emergency fund for this. Save up separately. A fully funded emergency fund is going to be a critical cushion when owning a home.
  3. Know Your Score
    Pull copies of all three of your credit reports with Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Also buy your three credit scores. If there are any mistakes on your reports, now is the time to fix them. If there’s a dispute, you want time for that to clear before heading into the lender’s office.
  4. Get Prequalified
    Knowing exactly what you can borrow will give you a huge boost of confidence while house hunting. It will let you know what your definite limit is, and that will help narrow your search and keep you focused. It will also be a relief to know that when you do find your dream house, the financing will be there. Talk to a mortgage loan officer about prequalifying, or use Credit Sesame’s interactive mortgage calculator to find the best mortgage rate and prequalify online.
  5. Hire an Agent
    Once you have completed the previous steps, you’re ready to hire an agent and start looking. Ask friends who are happy with their homes for references on a reliable agent. Also, your lender will probably have recommendations on professional real estate agents they’ve done business with in the past.

Take your time with the hunt. This should be an exciting time for you. And once you’ve decided on a house that meets your needs (and a few of your wants), fits your budget, and is within your prequalified limit, you can proceed to taking out a mortgage and fulfilling your dream of homeownership.

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