It’s a rite of spring in the real estate industry: As the weather warms, the for-sale signs start sprouting like daffodils, and home buyers begin coming out of hibernation. If you’re one of those people waiting until the spring thaw to start your housing search, now is the time to begin gearing up. When the days get longer, the temperatures rise and the market begins blooming, you’ll be poised to pluck the house you want. Here are 7 things to do to get ready for the home shopping season:
1. Check your credit report
Go to www.annualcreditreport.com and report any mistakes you find now, so they can be corrected before you apply for a home loan.
2. Decide what you want
Do you prefer the city or the ‘burbs? Modern or traditional? Grande manse or cozy cottage? If you’ve got a clear view of what you’re looking for, it’ll make your search much easier. Take some time before the weather warms to scout neighborhoods that you like, and eliminate those you don’t.
3. Think about what you can afford
Online mortgage calculators, like the LendingTree Home Affordability calculator, can help you figure out how much you can afford to borrow for a home. Track every dollar of your spending for several months and determine how much you really have in your budget to pay the mortgage.
4. Do some spring cleaning
Organize your closets and throw out or donate items that you’re not using. When it comes time to move, you’ll be glad you did.
5. Get your paperwork in order
Your mortgage lender will want to see your W-2s and tax returns for the past two years, as well as recent pay stubs and statements for investment accounts. Get ready for your home purchase by making copies of all your documents, and keeping the originals in a safe place.
6. Prepare your down payment
Research any down payment assistance programs for which you may be eligible through your employer or non-profit group. If you’re selling stock or another investment to make your down payment, be sure to save any related documentation. If you’re lucky enough to be receiving a gift to help pay for your new home, have your donor fill out a gift affidavit form, which you can get from your mortgage lender.
7. Choose a REALTORâ
There is no shortage of real estate agents looking to help you find a home. The trick is to fine the one that is right for you. Get references from friends and co-workers, and then interview several before settling. For a list of smart questions to ask a prospective buyer’s agent, check out our Finding a buyer’s agent checklist.