10 January . 2023
Face the Mountain: Making the Steps Toward Buying a Home
Settling into the Pacific Northwest is a wholesome experience. Whether you’ve lived here all your life or you’re itching to set up homebase in a gorgeous place filled with adventurous spirit and immaculate vistas – the PNW has a home waiting for you.
Though, finding the perfect home for you and your family at first can feel like you’re navigating up the face of a rock cliff at times. You might be wondering:
“What’s the best neighborhood? Will my kids have a fulfilling upbringing out here?”
“I’m a first-time home buyer and have no idea what I’m doing. How do I buy a house?”
“Am I making enough to even make this step?”
Let’s address some of the uncertainties and take things one step at a time.
What is the home buying process step-by-step?
The seemingly endless list of things to do in order to find the right home might seem overwhelming at first. Since it’s such a significant purchase it can appear to be a bit more complicated than finding an apartment or even getting a new car from the dealership.
But if you manage to break things down into steps, everything gets a bit easier.
- The money question: does it make sense for you financially?
- What’s the best area for what you need and want?
- Find out what you can afford & get preapproved for a mortgage.
- Reach out to realtors to help you in your journey.
- Get the house inspected by an independent party.
- Looks good? Time to make an offer.
- Close on the home.
- Pop a bottle of champagne!
Things to Know When Buying a House
1. The money question: does it make sense for you financially?
Don’t stretch beyond your means! While it’s essential to find a home that has close proximity to work, school, and green spaces – your financial situation will determine how much house you can afford. Going to the top tier of your range can be a risky move.
The key is to find a house that you and your family can afford down the line especially if/when budgets become tighter or more complex. Consider the cost of living in the area, saving up for your kids’ college, how you’re budgeting for future retirement, and the stability in your job market.
A house is an investment, but unlike the stock market – you can live in a house, fix it up, and increase the value.
2. What’s the best area for what you need and want?
Assuming that you want to live near the Puget Sound, mountains, and among a serene, wooded area it’s likely you’ve narrowed down where exactly you want to live. Out and away from the cities but not too far. For many remote workers, living in the city is no longer a requirement. Or a hybrid work schedule allows you to make the hour or so commute once, twice, or three times a week without being a total pain.
Look for homes that are move in ready. You love watching those HGTV house flipping, and repair shows but what they often don’t show you is the actual price tag associated with heavy repairs. Beyond cosmetic changes like a fresh coat of paint or new carpet, major repairs can be a financial nightmare. After closing on your DIY project, you may not be in a place to immediately start knocking down walls and writing out checks to contractors.
Which brings up a major part of the home buying process. Visit in person! Photos are helpful but you can’t tell if there’s a leak in the roof, creaky steps, or if a marble will roll from one side of a room to the other…unless you show up and take a look.
Your buyer's agent (which we’ll get into in a bit) can help negotiate what’s included in the purchase (updated appliances, fresh paint, washer and dryer, etc.) If it’s not in the contract, it’s not necessarily going to be there when you move in. So, make sure that what you see, what you like, and what you expect is written into the documents you expect to sign.
That said, as you search online and find homes in your ideal price range – keep track of everything. Include links. Update when a home is taken off the market. Note which places you’ve seen in person and include any costs that may not be included in the sticker price.
3. Find out what you can afford & get preapproved for a mortgage.
Since 2020, interest rates have changed quite a bit and depending on what you’re looking for, you’ll want to know what each of these things mean. When interest rates are low, home prices in competitive markets can be higher. When interest rates are high, home prices might typically reflect that cooling market.
The length of a mortgage will also be a decision you’ll have to heavily consider.
- 30-year mortgages tend to have a higher APR annual percentage rate (APR).
- 15-year mortgages tend to have lower APRs.
- An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) will fluctuate based on an index.
Finding a bank or lender to pre-approve a mortgage will show you the amount they’re willing to lend to you. This can vary depending on your financial situation, like:
- Your credit score (720+ is the ideal. The higher the better your outlook for lower interest rates.)
- Your income
- The down payment
- If you’re a first-time homebuyer. Government grants and loans can assist you as well as help lower your down payment.
It is often suggested that you get pre-approved by several lenders as this can provide second and third opinions on your financial health, especially when you want to prove you’re the best candidate to purchase the home.
4. Reach out to realtors to help you in your journey.
Your cousin’s best friend from college might have somehow gotten your email and told you that they’re the best realtor in town. And while that might be true, it’s worth taking a look at several other options in the area that will work best for you.
A buyer's agent's job is to save you from pulling out your hair and managing the ups and downs of the home buying process. Their expertise and willingness to work for you can help save you money in the long term. Not only will the sellers be covering their commission at closing, but your realtor will be there to solve all of your real estate needs in the long run
As you search, get to know who your ideal realtor would be. See if they’re a good fit for you. Meet them in person when you can. You’re in the driver’s seat for this decision and hiring the right real estate agent that can handle the ups and downs of the search can be an amazing experience, a real pain, or something in between.
They should want to get you the best experience you can, and if you don’t feel that in an initial interview that might be a sign their salesmanship isn’t the right fit for what you and your family need.
Find a real estate agent that’s based in the area who you can trust. Read reviews. Compare and contrast the benefits of each:
- Are they experts in the Pierce County market?
- Are their clients buying single family homes or mostly condos?
- Well…do they have clients? You’ll want to find somebody with experience.
Reach out to friends who have gone through the process. They can tell you their experience first-hand. Good, bad, ugly – it’s all worth knowing so you can find the right buying agent to assist you in your search. A few more questions:
- Were their real estate agents communicative?
- Were they too busy?
- What were they able to do that made the overall buying decision stress-free or seamless?
5. Get the house inspected by an independent party.
Make sure to get the proper inspections prior to purchasing. You may have heard the stories during the pandemic. No inspections and buy on sight. It’s a cooler market at the time of this writing but depending on when you read this you should always ensure that you can get a proper inspection prior to making an offer.
6. Looks good? Time to make an offer.
You think you’ve found the one. It’s beyond measure for what you need now and what you can see yourself living in as you grow into the next decade of your life…if not forever. Are you ready to make the best offer? And if so, how do you do that?
By now, you know the market. You know that there are a certain set of eyes and offers made on each closed home that’s similar to the one you’re vying for. Make sure you’re prepared with these:
- Your pre-approval from a reputable lender
- How much your down payment will be
- Your offer amount
- Any contingencies that you have to protect you in case the deal falls through (i.e. appraisal doesn’t match up to value, inspection shows something that would cause major concern, etc.)
Your Realtor will be able to assist you in this process and provide their experience in dealing with constructing the best offer.
7. Close on the home.
When closing day comes you’ll receive the deed and keys and become the homeowner. As simple as that? Not exactly. You will be signing lots of documents and settling up financials between all parties involved. Read more info on what to expect in the closing process.
8. Pop a bottle of champagne!
You’ve done it! What a journey. Now it’s time to celebrate and get all your valuables from one place to the next.
You might be tired of moving all your books, kitchen wear, exercise equipment, bed and so on. Find some great movers who can get you into your new home. Who wants a sore back after making the best decision of their lives?
A Few Added Perks.
Living near a healthy school district can make everything a little better. The added cost of daycare and private schools can take a huge chunk out of your finances, so the closer you are to great public schools means you can remain invested in your kids’ futures without having to pay top dollar.
Access to the outdoors.
How close you’d like to be to the beauty of the Pacific Northwest is a lifestyle choice that can enhance your well-being throughout your years. If you’re paying for a house that’s in a crowded area with loud, busy roads that’s an aspect that can take a toll on your mental health. Seek out walkable neighborhoods that have a focus on the natural landscape you’ll inhabit.
While location is very important, your home insurance will often play a key role. Want that castle on the top of a craggy mountain or the beach front cabin with access to the water? Your mileage may vary in these instances and what your home insurance covers, and especially what it does not cover will have an impact on where you’d like to live.
Want to make it happen?
You might find yourself in the middle of the big search – perusing where you want to call home next – and if that ideal home is among the woods with a stellar view of Mt. Rainier you ought to reach out to us at Tehaleh! We’ll show you homes in your price range in a neighborhood that is priceless.
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