When you finally make the decision to buy your first home, it can be exciting. However, things can turn from exciting to overwhelming pretty quickly without the right guidance. You need the right home, the right price, and the right location, but you’re not sure how to get started. I’ve worked with many first-time homeowners here in the Arlington, Virginia area, and put together this list of the top things you should think about when preparing for your first home.
- Know what you want: If you start looking at homes without any idea what you want, you’re going to get frustrated very quickly. Before contacting your Realtor, create a wish list of what you want – and don’t want. For instance, do you want a Colonial-style home, or Rambler? Are large entertaining kitchens most important? High-tech homes or old-world restorations? Remember, though, a wish list is great, but seeking perfection will frustrate you quickly. Know what you’re willing to compromise on. And share it all with your Realtor so they can narrow the search and help you get exactly what you want.
- Clean up your credit: If you haven’t done this in a while, check for errors on your credit reports (free at AnnualCreditReport.com) and get your FICO score; many credit cards offer this service for free. Know your credit score numbers, they will help you with the next step.
- Know your budget: Talk to your bank or a mortgage lender to get pre-approved for a home loan. This helps you to understand how much you can afford and how much they will lend you. Having pre-approval gives you more leverage as a buyer, and it helps keep you focused on homes that fit your budget. Be sure you understand how much you will put as a down payment, and figure in closing costs, an amount that is typically 1 ½ to 2 percent of the purchase price.
- Don’t stress about timing: Housing bubbles, sellers’ market, and buyers’ market; all of these things can make you wonder if there is ever a perfect time to buy a home. Don’t obsess about trying to time the market. The best time to buy your first home is when you are ready and when you find the home you want. Try to wait for the perfect time and you could risk missing out on the perfect home.
- Home inspections: If you love HGTV’s Rehab Addict and want to take on your own fixer-upper, don’t hesitate to ask about home inspections before you buy. This goes for newer homes, too. Better to spend a little up front on an inspector than to spend a fortune later on repairs you didn’t see coming.
- Get to know the neighborhood: If you’re in love with a certain neighborhood or community, let your Realtor know so that you can narrow your search. Once you find a home that you think is right, take a few days to really check out the immediate surroundings. Drive by at different times of day to see what’s happening on the street and nearby. Map out the course you would drive to work every day. See how far you are from the essentials such as food, entertainment, schools, and parks. All of this affects the value of both your home and happiness in a very big way.
*If you’re interested in moving to Arlington, Virginia, and want to learn more about the diverse mix of neighborhoods and which one might be right for you, be sure to check out the neighborhood pages on my site. Just go to the DC Area Living menu on my site to the Arlington page, and access each neighborhood from the menu on the right.
- Don’t go it alone: The key to success when buying a home is to have an expert on your side. A local Realtor who knows, lives and works in the communities you want to live in will be your best source for knowledge, insight and guidance to making the right choice.
If you’re ready to buy, sell or learn more about the real estate market in the Arlington and surrounding Northern Virginia communities, as a highly experienced Arlington Realtor, I’m here to help! I take the time to get to know what my clients want, what they need, what their vision, personal style, and practical needs are in order to make the process fun, stress-free and rewarding. Give me a call at 703-593-6320. Email is good, too: firstname.lastname@example.org.