Next Real Estate Steps For Newlyweds
It’s nearly springtime in lower MoCo. The real estate market is buzzing. And pretty soon, “For Sale” signs will start popping up like we’re playing Whack-a-Mole.
For newlyweds who are first-time home buyers, the options can be overwhelming. Lots of questions to discuss:
- Single family, condo or townhouse?
- Which neighborhood?
- How much can we afford?
- How long do we expect to stay?
- Do we want a home in perfect condition or a fixer-upper?
To get to the heart of these questions, it takes teamwork. For a couple launching a first-time home purchase, working in tandem is essential. You can’t expect the best result unless you tackle the adventure together.
You’ll need a good reliable Realtor who really knows the local market. We can help with that, of course. But it’s never too early to know the basics. Here are a few:
Make a wish list. This might be the most fun part of your journey. Have a good, long talk with your partner about your fantasy home. Chances are, you won’t be able to afford everything on your lists, but it’s a good way to get all ideas on the table and prioritize your wishes and needs. Olympic-sized pool? Um, maybe next time. Walk-in bedroom closet? Definitely!
Get an expert to help. Surfing for homes online is fine. And, yes, open houses are fun. But don’t rely on those strategies alone to find your home. Get help from a Realtor who really knows the territory. There’s no substitute for an expert who follows neighborhood sales trends and can provide info on schools, opportunities for civic involvement, nearby recreational options, etc. Your Realtor should also have advance knowledge of soon-to-be-listed homes that aren't advertised on popular home search engines yet. That inside scoop can help expand the available inventory pool and give you a jump on the competition.
Drive the neighborhoods. Be prepared to devote enough time to this step. Get some coffee, bring a list of possibilities, and ride together as you investigate neighborhoods – especially ones that are unfamiliar. Visit at different times of the day. Think about how each neighborhood would work for both of you when it comes to commuting, shopping and distance from family and friends.
Think ahead. If you’re a first-time buyer, chances are you’re fairly young and footloose. But what if you start or expand your family? What if your plans include adding a pooch to your happy home? Or maybe a home renovation? Before making an offer on a property, ask whether it will fit your needs for the next several years.
Be flexible. When two people shop for a new home, each will have individual priorities, even if they’re generally on the same page. Preferences may differ on many things – the kitchen layout, the size of the yard, distance to a Metro stop, etc. If you feel strongly about the big stuff, say so. But don’t be stubborn about everything. Relying on compromises is a good choice for home shoppers – and excellent practice for when it comes time to decorate!
Share your understanding about the financial obligations ahead. This is huge, our course. And please know that we’re available to dig deeper into each of the items below as you begin to check all the boxes. But here are the basics:
Know what you can afford. Do the math. Sit down together, combine your take-home pay, then subtract all your current monthly obligations – utilities, food, debt payments, etc. Your monthly mortgage payment should not be more than 25% of your income. Don’t forget that your mortgage will include property taxes and homeowners’ insurance.
Save for a down payment. At least 20 percent of the listing price is recommended. That will keep you from paying for private mortgage insurance, which usually costs 1% of the loan and is added to your monthly payment.
Pay off your debts. Work together on a plan to eliminate those credit card bills, loans and other debts.
Get Preapproved for a mortgage. Get quotes from multiple lenders. You may want to divide and conquer on this one. One study found that getting just one additional rate quote can save you as much as $1,500. Once you’ve made your choice, get pre-approved by filling out a loan application, submitting the required documents, and agreeing to a credit check. When you’re ready to make a bed, having a pre-approval letter will let the seller know you mean business.
Don’t forget closing costs. You’ll need to pay these on closing day. They average about 3-4% of the sale price and include payments for items such as the appraisal, home inspection, credit report, attorney fees and homeowner’s insurance.
Establish an emergency fund. Remember, as a homeowner, you won’t just pay a monthly mortgage. Homeowners pay for maintenance, utilities, property taxes, mortgage insurance, homeowners’ insurance, and unexpected repairs. No more calling the landlord to fix the leaky sink!
Be ready to make a decision. Spring buyers are likely to face competition. If you and your partner know what you want and can afford, be prepared to make an offer. You may regret taking some time to “sleep on it.” In the end, work together – and trust your instincts!