The start of a new year is a great time to think about setting goals for yourself. If you’ve been thinking about buying a home, January is the perfect time to start the process!
Here are seven ways to make your dream of home ownership a reality in the new year.
1. Start Your Search Now: Gain FREE Access to the Official MLS Listing Database
Don’t wait for the spring rush, when buyer competition increases dramatically. If you’re serious about buying a home soon, you need to up your game by accessing my free Kitsap County MLS search tool. It only takes a few seconds to sign up! Get email alerts for new properties, save your favorite listings, access market reports, and perform extensive searches based on your criteria. The Northwest MLS database is the same one used by REALTORS® and it’s more accurate and up-to-date than Zillow or Redfin!
2. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage
Pre-approval is the first step the home buying process. Talking with a mortgage broker early in in the process is critical, even if you aren’t quite ready to buy a home. It can take months to resolve credit issues or other challenges that affect your ability to qualify for a loan. But you also may not be aware of programs that can help you get into a house faster than you thought! Pre-approval helps you understand how much house you can afford, and alerts you to problems up front. To apply, you’ll just need to provide your lender with documentation about your finances and employment. Don’t skip this step; if you’re not ready to put in an attractive offer right away when the right home comes along, you could miss out in the bidding wars.
3. Make Your List of Search Criteria
Don’t worry, you’re going to rock this part, because YOU are the expert when it comes to your real estate needs. Are you looking for a place to live in Poulsbo, Kingston, Bainbridge Island, Silverdale, or Bremerton? In addition to determining the right price range and location, you need to think about the number of rooms and bathrooms you need, yard size, features like a garage and fireplace, and whether or not you’re open to doing some remodeling. It’s important to prioritize your non-negotiable criteria, and be open minded. It’s rare to find a home that checks every box, but knowing what’s most important will help you think clearly and make good decisions.
4. Stay on Top of Your Credit
Even if you have good score, it’s important to monitor your credit report in case of errors. Lenders will use your credit rating to decide whether to lend you money, how much to lend, and what interest rate you qualify for. An excellent credit score is anything from 750 to 850. A good credit score is from 700 to 749; a fair credit score, 650 to 699. A credit score lower than 650 is deemed poor. Your score is impacted by payment history, debt-to-credit utilization, length of credit history, and other factors, which you can improve over time.
Once a year, you’re entitled to a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com, and requesting it will have no negative impact on your credit score. You can also use sites like CreditKarma.com to get a free score estimates from the three major credit bureaus. Talk with your mortgage broker about ways you can fix your credit, if necessary.
5. Starting Saving & Watch Your Spending
There are many ways to save up for a down payment and closing costs. Buyers can reduce expenses, take a second job, find cheaper rent, or sell valuables to save more quickly. But it’s also important to watch your spending, because big purchases can lower your credit score and impact the interest rate or the loan amount you qualify for. Again, talk with your mortgage broker, because down payments for various loan programs range from 0% to 20%.
6. Do Your Taxes Early
Many Americans receive a refund on their tax returns. That refund can help you save up for a down payment! In addition to giving you peace of mind, getting your taxes done early helps protects you from tax fraud and identity theft, because no one else can try to file in your name. And it’s important to talk with your tax professional about your real estate goals, especially if you are self-employed or have complex financial situations.
7. Make a Game Plan
When you sit down with me to discuss your home search, one of the first things we do is gather all the resources you need to be successful. This includes partnering with a mortgage broker to get you pre-approved for a loan, identifying your home search criteria, setting up email alerts, talking through the buying process, reviewing important documents together, and creating a support system of people who can help you make decisions. The goal is to make your experience as stress-free as possible. If you’re ready to take the next step, give me a call at 360-979-6411 to set up a no-pressure consultation.
I hope you have a happy New Year, and I look forward to helping you achieve your real estate dreams!