Spring and summer are typically more active real estate seasons in the Upper Midwest. More homes come to the market, but more buyers are looking. Competition means you’ve got to be ready to move when the opportunity presents. Be prepared to find your dream home by taking these preparation steps ahead of time.
#1- Reduce your debt
Work to lower your debt-to-income ratio. A low DTI will help you get the best interest rates and qualify for more lending opportunities. Not only will this make you a stronger buyer, but it’s an all-around good financial practice to carry as little debt as possible.
If you’re not sure where to begin, try a debt snowball method. Start by paying off the smallest balance first. Once that is paid off, roll what you were paying into paying down the next lowest balance.
#2- Know how much home you can afford
Before you start looking at homes on the market, interview a few mortgage lenders. Learn about their loan programs and the current interest rates. Not all lenders offer the same rate and terms.
Keep going from there. Your monthly bill will be more than principal and interest. Research local property taxes and home insurance.
Factor in what you learn from the lenders regarding loan terms you pre-qualify for with insurance and tax information to figure out your monthly housing budget. That way, you’ll know your price bracket when looking at homes. You’ll buy something you can reasonably afford.
#3- Make a List
Define your “must-haves” in a home. These are typically features like bedrooms, bathrooms, and square footage. Maybe you want something specific in a home, like a large backyard or a three-car garage. Write it down.
Make a companion list of “wants,” things you’d like to have but could be compromised on. These could be features like a fireplace, an open floor plan, a wood floor, or an island in the kitchen. If you have a partner, make the list together so you both are on the same page.
Factor in features outside of the home, like commute times, schools, and neighborhood amenities. These enhance the quality of life you’ll enjoy in the property.
#4- Talk with a local real estate agent
Local real estate agents will guide you to the right neighborhoods that fit your price range and amenities list. Spend more time looking at homes that meet your criteria and less time sorting through the MLS.
Go with your agent to open houses to get a better feel of what’s available in your price range. They will help you set realistic expectations.
When you’re ready to buy, partner with a neighborhood specialist who can use their connections and knowledge to pinpoint the right homes.
#5- Save Money
Median home prices have been trending upward for some time. As you begin to work through the homebuying process, keep saving funds. Build up what you can offer a buyer, so you’ll present a stronger contract when it’s time to write an offer. You’ll also need funds for the closing costs and moving.
#6- Stay focused
In a competitive market, it’s easy to get discouraged and start looking elsewhere or talk about stretching your budget. Stick to your guns and focus on the areas that are the best fit for you. Do everything you can to be ready to make an offer. You may not have the time to “sleep on it” if the home is the right one for you.
Leverage the higher inventory of the spring and summer season. With some patience and preparation, you’ll be ready to find your dream home. The Luminate team is here to help in any way we can.