Buying a home is both exciting and sometimes stressful...whether you're a first-time homebuyer or an expert at it. The key to reducing the stress and successfully finding the home that matches your wants, needs, and budget is to have a home-buying strategy.
A home-buying strategy serves to keep you focused, in line with your goals, and on financial track. It can function much like a marketing strategy does for a company. It contains the important tasks, outlines your objectives in buying a home, your must-haves in a home, your financial budget, your move-in timeframe, location, desires, and more.
It may sound like a lot of work but if you take the time to put together a home-buying strategy and then share it with your real estate agent, you'll find that the clear goals you have will bring you closer to finding exactly what you're looking for and, likely, in a shorter period of time.
Putting together your home-buying strategy: In previous columns, I've written about getting organized for your move by organizing a binder that holds your vital paperwork and any materials that you'll immediately need during the moving process.
Organizing your home-buying strategy works in a similar way. You'll start by taking inventory of the home you currently live in. This gives you the opportunity to note both the pros and cons. Write it all down. Then write down your must-haves, would-love-to-haves, and absolutely-nots. You can write a list on notebook paper and place it in a three-ring binder and share it with your agent. In today's digital era there are many highly useful tools and apps to help you with house hunting. The creative and social website, pinterest.com is wonderful for saving website links and photos to various boards that you organize in categories. Even if you keep digital files, also keep the binder handy as your agent will give you lots of paperwork and having it all in one place will be a big relief when it comes time to find a particular document.
Seek out financing. Do this before you start to physically go out and look for homes. Sure, seeing lots of different homes can be fun (for some people) but seeing homes that you don't qualify for is a lesson in frustration for all. Be realistic and be informed by getting the information you need from a mortgage broker who can get you pre-qualified.
Create categories in your binder. Separate sections with tabs and label them things like: budget, favorites, neighborhood, comps. This is where you will place the notes you take during your house hunting. The "budget" section clearly has the defined price point that you are comfortable with. Surprisingly, some buyers start their shopping without giving careful consideration to this and they wind up frustrated because they're not certain how much home they can afford. The "budget" section also includes other expenses that go along with owning a home such as amount of savings for household repairs and, perhaps, new home furnishings.
Bring along a small camera, video recorder or your smartphone to capture your own quick snapshots that you can print out and put in the "favorites" section of your binder. For the "neighborhood" section, be sure to take a few photos of parks or other areas in the community that make this neighborhood and location a good potential match. Again, there are apps that can also do this on your computer but I find both the use of a physical binder and digital tools to be the most effective. Sometimes you just need to see and hold the photo or papers in your hand.
In the "comps" section, you'll place the comps that you receive from your agent. Sometimes buyers will toss this information away thinking they'll remember the details. However, it's best to keep any comps you receive to review it again later when you're making your ultimate choice. Yes, there is lots of paperwork but it serves a good purpose.
Having all that paperwork and your digital apps at your finger tips will provide you with a solid and effective home-buying strategy that allows you to focus on finding the home you're looking for rather than searching for papers and photos you've misplaced. Also, later when you're contemplating, referencing the photos and notes that you've taken will help tip the scale and help you choose the home that's right for you.