The process of buying your first home can be extremely daunting, and although buyers may feel overwhelmed with information, in a market where first-timers are often outbid by buyers with cash on hand, doing your research and being as prepared as possible are key.
First of all, figure out how much you can afford. Meet with a lender to review your finances and establish a realistic price range. You don’t want to begin looking at homes and fall in love with one only to realize the monthly payment is too high.
Shop around for a mortgage. If you would compare prices on groceries, it only makes sense to do the same for a purchase as significant as a home. Look up who has the lowest mortgage rates online first, then call lenders and ask for a written list of their fees so you make sure to get both the lowest rate and the lowest fees.
See if you quality for down-payment assistance. There are several of these programs offering services in King County. See here for more info.
Get preapproved for a loan. This will make your offer more attractive to sellers, as there is less likelihood your loan won’t be approved while you’re in escrow. Find out from your mortgage lender what kind of paperwork you need to submit to get preapproved. These often include W-2s, pay stubs, bank statements and tax returns. Get your credit report and make sure there aren’t any abnormalities that need to be addressed.
Get referrals from your family and friends to find a great real estate agent. Interview them to make sure you feel comfortable with them and to assess how knowledgeable they are. Don’t forget that if a particular agent isn’t meeting your needs, you don’t have an obligation to continue using them.
When do you find a home that you’re ready to make an offer on, take the market into account – if it’s a sellers’ market and the home is priced well, you’ll probably want to make an offer either at the asking price or possibly even a little above. If the seller knows they will get multiple offers, you want yours to stand out.
Just like everyone else who you employ in your home search, you are free to use a home inspector of your choice. Get recommendations from friends and family to make sure you’re getting a trustworthy inspector, not just one who is working to help the agent close the deal.