Finding the perfect house for you and your family can be a great deal of fun when you are armed with realistic expectations, patience, and plenty of research in hand. With just a little preparation, you'll be well on your way.
The first few steps include narrowing your choices down to the neighborhoods you like and determining the maximum home price you can afford. You may be pre-approved for a loan, but you still need to consider other possible expenses, including retirement and college savings, vacations, and home maintenance and repairs, when you calculate how much you can afford for a monthly payment. Do not forget homeowners insurance and property taxes.
Once you have narrowed down your choices, prioritize your needs versus your wants. You need three bedrooms, but a fourth room would be nice for a play room or guest room. You need a two-car garage, but a larger one would be nice for storage. You need a functional kitchen but want hardwood floors. You need two bathrooms but want a luxurious master suite.
Before you get started driving all over looking at potential homes, start a checklist. Make a chart with a column for exterior and a column for interior features. Give each feature a rank from 1 to 10.
Make sure you also add any other general features that may be important to your situation such as traffic, schools, distance for your commute, etc.
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If you find a house you like, offer a competitive bid. Keep in mind you will likely be competing against other offers, especially if interest rates are low and the spring buying season is in full bloom.
Once you make an offer, make it contingent upon the findings of a professional home inspection. If any major defects surface, you will want to have the leverage to renegotiate or back out of the deal completely.
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