The Metro Atlanta home buying market is showing no signs of slowing down. In a recent survey conducted by TD Bank, 56% of homeowners across the nation feel it’s a ”good time” to buy a home. If you’re among those that are ready to start the home buying process for the first time, there are a few tips we’d like to share that may make your search more enjoyable, less stressful and ultimately successful. Let’s take a look at some of the first-time home buyer “rookie mistakes,” and how to avoid them.
Metro Atlanta Home Buying: Things to Remember
Watch your finances before buying a house. Keep an eye on your credit. Remember, taking on too much new debt or making a large purchase like a new car prior to the loan closing is a very bad idea. Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is one of the major considerations mortgage lenders analyze before the final approval process. Most people aren’t aware that lenders regularly review all the financial criteria used in the loan underwriting again before the loan closing takes place to ensure nothing has substantially changed. So, if you’re contemplating a new purchase, make sure you wait until after you’ve closed your loan and moved into your new home. Even then, make sure you can afford that new car, new furniture or second honeymoon. The last thing you want to do is create a financial bind immediately after you’ve bought a home.
Get pre-approved for a mortgage before you start your home search. Often, first time homebuyers erroneously assume they can afford at least what they’re currently paying in rent. While that may be true, it’s best to sit down with a mortgage lender and get pre-qualified – that is, receive an early, non-binding commitment from the lender as to what they will likely be willing to loan you based on your credit score, DTI ratio and other lending criteria. Many sellers these days don't want their home being shown to anyone not already pre-qualified to purchase their home. Most real estate agents won’t show potential homes without a pre-approval.
Don’t choose the priciest home you can afford. Most real estate experts advise against buying the most expensive house you can find and qualify for right out of the gate. Remember, just because you can afford it doesn’t necessarily mean you should buy it. Home ownership often requires unexpected expenses as time goes on. Repairs, insurance premiums and deductibles, real estate property taxes and other potential surprises always come at the worst possible time. If you’ve spent all your savings for the down payment of your home, you may not have anything in reserve to take care of these or other homeowner emergencies.
Don’t prioritize the home over the neighborhood. It’s human nature for first-time homebuyers to get excited about the possibility of finding their dream home in the most popular neighborhood. Once they realize how far outside their budgets dream homes can be – especially in affluent markets – they often make the mistake of looking for that same dream home in a neighborhood that may not be as good.
Don’t be pressured, take your time and be smart. Another Metro Atlanta home buying tip for first-time buyers is to slow down and take your time. While in today’s often-hectic market many buyers have to act fast to get what they want, the key is not to be pressured into making a decision you may regret later. Educate yourself as to what’s available in the housing market and what the median sales prices are. Remember, knowledge is power, and the more you know about what you want and what you can expect in the real estate market, the better your chances of making a wise purchase.
Don’t rely too much on the Internet. The Internet has revolutionized the way prospective home buyers search for homes and get other information like mortgage financing tips, credit scores and more. However, it shouldn’t take the place of physically meeting or speaking with professional real estate agents, lenders and others during the Metro Atlanta home buying process.
Don’t forget to visit and revisit the house you want to buy. Remember, the location of your house is fixed and will never change. For that reason, visit the neighborhood at different times of the day and night to see what’s going on around you. Is there a particularly loud bar or music venue nearby that you weren't aware of? If the house is located near an airport, what’s the traffic like at various times of the day? The more visits you make to the house and the neighborhood, the more you’ll be able to know what it will be like if you buy.
Don’t skip the home inspection. Sometimes excited first-time home buyers think skipping the home inspection may be an easy way to save money. Besides, you’ve fallen in love with the home and there’s absolutely nothing that could possibly change your mind, right? Then you move in and are faced with maintenance or repair issues that could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars – a problem that may have been avoided with a home inspection.
Don’t be indecisive. While we mentioned above not to move too fast and take your time before making a decision to buy, it’s just as important to actually make a decision when you have to.
Some first-time home buyers run the risk of losing a chance to buy a particular property they like to another buyer if they don’t make a decision to act quickly. Although shopping around in the Metro Atlanta home buying market is usually a wise move, remember that indecision in a seller’s market means you probably won’t get the house you want.
Read more about home buying in the section of articles on Atlanta Home Buying Tips just below Atlanta Real Estate Categories in the column to your right. Remember, we also post tips daily on Facebook and Twitter. Check us out there, too.