A buyer asks: what should I do to get ready, before I start looking for a new home?

One day, you’re comfy in your apartment, happy to keep the walls the color the landlord chose and to live with the smaller-than-a-breadbox closet that barely fits your awesome shoe collection, much less your fabulous wardrobe. The next, you check your bank balance, realize that you want to stay in <insert name of your hometown here> for the time being, and because you’ve been reading our blog or hearing the news that now is a good time to buy, you decide to take the plunge.

It’s Time to Buy a Place to Call Your Own. I put that in capital letters because it’s a big deal.

What steps should you take to get ready? Gather ’round, future buyers, and I’ll fill you in.

1. Ask your friends and colleagues for recommendations for a Realtor. Check reviews on Yelp. No matter what market you’re in, you need a trusted agent on your side, representing your interests. Some people recommend interviewing at least three Realtors. Matt and I recommend interviewing as many agents as you need to, until you find someone (or two someones) with whom you feel comfortable and you feel you can trust.

2. Get thee to a mortgage broker and get pre-approved for a loan. Your newly chosen Realtor will have recommended brokers for you to consider. Get fully pre-approved, not just pre-qualified. Why? A pre-qualification isn’t enough to submit an offer, and going all the way through the process gives you an exact picture of what you can afford, how much you need for closing costs and down payment, and what your approximate loan payments will be (based on interest rates at the time of your pre-approval).

An important credit-related note here: don’t go on a full-on loan binge and submit your applications to multiple brokers either in person or online. If you run your credit history too many times, your credit score may be negatively affected. And that would be bad.

3. Sit yourself down with any other decision-makers, as well as your agent, and figure out what you’re looking for. If you are human, and most readers of this blog are, your initial list will change as you get to know what can be expected in your price range. Will you trade your desire for a remodeled kitchen for a parking spot? A parking spot for a view? A view for a yard? Everything for a closet like Big built for Carrie in Sex and the City?

4. Get started!

Now, wasn’t that easy?

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