If you are first time home buyers, out there looking for your first house, then here are a few tips, to make things go a bit smoother, and not waste your time or your agents time.
1. Go to your bank, or loan provider. Get all your papers together, such as proof of income etc, (yes they will ask for this!), all your credit card statements, and any debts and also savings. This way you can get pre-approved, and know exactly how much you can safely borrow. Your agent can then find a house in your price range, and therefore save you and them time, as you focus on the houses with potential for you to buy, rather than ones you can't afford.
2. If you are renting right now, you need to know exactly when you can move out. You need to get that lease out, and see when the date for renewal is, and how much notice you need to give your landlord before moving out. Find out if you can sub-let, especially if the rental market is tight and there are many renters looking for a place just like yours. In this case, your landlord may let you off the hook. If you can't get out of your lease, then you are going to have to time a house purchase with the end of your lease, or have somewhere for storage if the dates do not coincide.
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3. As a first time home buyer, you may not be totally familiar with the features you would like or want in a house. But as you live in your present place, think about what you like to do. Do you like to cook? Then look for a good sized or well laid out kitchen. Do you like to garden? Then you need a house with a yard. Create a list of all the things you would like to see in a house. Make sure the most important needs are at the top of the list. You can give this list to your agent, along with your pre-approved mortgage amount, and this way your agent can do the homework, and then find you some houses to look at that will suit you.
4. If you absolutely hate moving, then make sure you are looking for a house for long term. If you want to move yourself up the housing market, then you can look at starter homes to begin with. With a starter home you are looking for a good neighborhood, that has potential for resale down the road. If you want this to be your "long time" house, then find a neighborhood you like right now. You really need to ask yourself this question right at the beginning of the house hunting process.
5. Unless you are really handy, then find a home inspector (word of mouth is the best way). Let them crawl through all the spaces in the house, especially the ones you don't see on a viewing, and they can let you know, what problems may be coming up, and if there are any major structural issues that need to be dealt with right now. This does not mean the homeowner was hiding anything, as many times they may not even be aware of it themselves. Having a home inspection, by a professional inspector, can be good for both sides, the seller and the buyer.
First time home buying, can be an exciting time, but you both (if you are purchasing a house as a couple) need to be on the same page, in particular, your needs and wants, so that you spend your time looking at the houses that fit your list. You don't want to be looking at condo's if you want a detached in the suburbs house right?. Make sure your agent knows what you are looking for, and that he schedules viewings that will suit you and your price range. Remember there will never be the "perfect house", you may need to make some compromises here and there, but if you have made your "want list" ahead of time, then you should find a house that checks off most of your list, and find that first house.