When you make the decision to buy a house, keep in mind that the seller will use every trick in the book to get you to buy their property. Before you get emotionally involved in a house because you walked in the door with your real estate agent and the current owner was baking fresh apple pies with cinnamon, take a “reality check” checklist with you to keep your focus!
The first thing you need to do before you even look at a house is get your credit in order. There are three major credit reporting agencies in the U.S. that keep tabs on your credit history – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Get a copy of your reports and be proactive about correcting mistakes and removing items that should no longer be on the report. If you have outstanding debts, make an effort to pay them down.
Once you have your credit in order you can proceed with finding a lender or mortgage broker willing to finance your purchase. Obtain a letter from the lender stating you have preapproval to expedite the process. There is nothing more frustrating than finding a home you really want and not getting approved for the mortgage. This also helps you stay within the monthly payments you can realistically afford.
Don’t try to establish a deal without a real estate agent representing you unless you are very experienced. Never take anyone’s word for anything – get it all on paper. If you find a house you want, have the contract written so that the transaction will go through based on specific contingencies. For example, if you are looking at an historic building you can make the deal contingent upon ascertaining the wiring is up to code standards.
Hire an independent building inspector to assess the conditions of the house. You may also want to consider a roof inspection by a roofing contractor since they can determine water damage and issues such as black mold in the walls. Home repairs are very costly so you should be fully aware of any issues with the house before you make the purchase.
Don’t be caught off guard with unexpected changes. Just prior to the closing date have your agent walk through the house with you to make sure it is in the same condition it was when you agreed to buy it. If the sale of the house included the fixtures for example, you will want to know they are still intact before it is too late.