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  • by Casey Fleming via

On Your Mark: How to Get Ready for Spring Home Buying Season

The real estate market heats up in spring. Sellers list and buyers start looking. Today’s real estate market is very competitive, however. There are fewer listings than there are buyers. This means you have to be quick, qualified, ready to make an offer and competitive. Let’s examine what you need to do to be successful.

Get Pre-Approved Before Spring

You need to be pre-approved for your loan, of course. Why get pre-approved months in advance? In most cases, there are ways to massage your circumstances to get you approved to borrow more, or to get a better rate.

If you are due for a raise, ask your boss if you can get it now, so that you can document the higher income when you go into contract.

Find a local bank, mortgage company or a broker. Your loan agent should be experienced and have a broad knowledge of loan programs. Have your lender run your credit; there are almost always surprises in the credit report. Sometimes those surprises can cost you thousands of dollars. Uncover surprises very early in the process so you can work on them.

If you are tight on cash, stop spending and start saving. That extra buying power just may be enough to win you the deal.

If you are due for a raise, ask your boss if you can get it now, so that you can document the higher income when you go into contract.

The bottom line: See your mortgage advisor now, not later, so that person has the time to help you qualify for more or pay less.

Be Prepared to Sell Yourself

You know you are special, but the seller of your dream home doesn’t. We assume that every seller just wants the most money. That’s not true. Sellers is not just selling a piece of real estate – they’re selling their home; perhaps one they’ve raised their children in.

A buyer’s letter can often swing the deal, even if you are not the highest bidder. Why do you want the home? Will you be raising your children there? Do you need to be close to aging parents? Why does this home work for you?

Write your story, and when the time comes, the sellers will see you as more than a mystery buyer. That might be all you need to get your new home.

Interview Agents – And Let Them Interview You

An experienced, competent real estate agent will qualify you as a buyer. It’s more than just a loan approval. Your agent should determine that you are ready and willing to buy any one of the homes that he or she shows you. If not, the agent is wasting his or her time, your time and the sellers’ time. If your agent isn’t qualifying you, you might have the wrong agent.

Decide Where You Want to Live

What is most important to you? Commute to work? School district? Access to shopping? You want to be successful not just at buying a home, but living there for as long as you want. If you hate the neighborhood, you won’t be happy. Think this one through – what is really important to you?

Drive through neighborhoods you’ve identified at different times of the day and on weekdays and weekends. The personality of a neighborhood changes at times. Make sure you’ll be comfortable there.

Refine Your Needs and Wants List

Bedrooms and bathrooms are only the beginning. Do you need a separate family room? A formal dining room? How important is architectural style to you? How about yard?

In fact, no house is perfect. Everyone personalizes their home and makes it their own over time. You will, too. If the location is good and the basic amenities you want are there, the rest are just details that you can add later. Make sure that you know what’s really important and you will be happy in the long run.

Shop in Your Price Range

Finally, be realistic about what you can afford. Shop for homes in your price range. Everyone wants a deal – that’s human nature. It would be wrong to say your chances of getting a screaming deal on your first home are zero, but they are very, very close. In this market especially, you will likely have to pay a fair price for the home you want.

Long after you’ve forgotten what you paid for the home, you will remember the memories you’ve created there and you will cherish your sanctuary from the world. Happiness in the long run depends more on buying the right home and making it your own than it does on what price you pay.

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