Buying a home takes time and many decisions.
When you are thinking about buying a home, it is important to commit a certain amount of time to make the many large and small decisions necessary, plus you need to figure out where that time will come from. Just to begin the fabled first step to buying a home — loan preapproval — takes time, and decisions must be made that are not to be considered lightly. Even the most organized CPA will have to answer questions never dreamed of when filling out a loan application.
I don’t know if I would go so far as saying all agents tell new buyers the first step in buying a home is getting preapproved for a mortgage. I am sure many do, and in the past I have. In fact, my first serious question when I met with a new buyer was: Are you pre-approved for a loan? It is not possible for a buyer to know what they can afford until they have applied for loan preapproval.
After reviewing my 2014 sales, I have new ideas about the first step in buying a home. To be successful, it is important to keep in mind that it is possible to make a choice about where to spend your time and decision-making energy. Once this is clear, you will be ready to begin.
What are the steps to being successful in buying a home in 2015?
1: The first step is to commit a certain amount of time to consider the various tasks and choices involved in the purchase of a home. Until you are actually making offers, 30 minutes once or twice a week may be enough time to set aside to make decisions about your home purchase. Once you have made an offer, you may need 30 minutes or more every day.
2: As you consider the tasks and choices, make a list of all the things you will need to do to buy a home. This is a time for free association.
3: Work on one decision at a time. This is the most difficult part of my plan for success. It is fun to think about kitchens, baths, and gardens, or driving into the garage you dreamed of, but you will never get these things if you don’t focus on picking the location for your home.
4: Armed with your list, I strongly recommend that you talk to both a real estate agent and a banker or mortgage broker for a reality check. These professionals have long-term relationships with their clients. I guarantee that speaking to a professional will save you time, give you answers, and relieve anxiety in a way that no amount of time spent in online research will do. Remember these professionals are your allies. Their goals and livelihood depend on your success and satisfaction with their service. They are not your family or friends with ideas about how much you should spend or where you should live.
5: Explore the neighborhood of your choice. Go to Sunday open houses. I always recommend my buyers combine open house visits with walks in the neighborhood and coffee or lunch at a cafe. You may have friends who rave about life in the Mission or Noe Valley, but deep down inside you may find that you are a person who would love to live near Golden Gate Park, South of Market, or even near Ocean Beach where walking along the shore with your dog and family is the thing you love most for the long term.
6: The two big questions now are: Can you afford the neighborhood of your choice, and do you feel at home there? If the answer to these to questions is yes, then you are ready to move to the next step. If your answer is no, repeat step five until you are ready to narrow your focus and search.