One thing I learned during the home buying process was that every single step involves at least two other parties. Because of this, you need to assemble a team that you can trust and like to work with. Think of this part as your Ocean’s Eleven (but not eleven, more like three). You should probably have your team assembled before you go to open houses, but if you’re like J and I and have no idea what you’re doing, then you’re probably doing everything at once — researching, submitting items for pre-approval, going to open houses, asking realtors at open houses if they would recommend getting a realtor (their answers will probably leave you more unsure), and trying to figure out how the hell you’re supposed to find a real estate attorney. Regardless, here are the folks you need to look out for:
By the time you’ve gotten through all the pre-research and have your commitment letter, you are probably raring to look at some candidates for your future Home Sweet Home. This is the best part of the entire process leading up to home ownership, so enjoy it! This is also probably a good time to get a realtor (if not earlier?), but J and I breezed through that step and jumped heads first into the world of open houses. Looking back, I would possibly recommend getting a real estate agent because if this is your first time, it can be quite confusing to go it alone. Realtors can assist you through the negotiating process when you want to make an offer and many have specific neighborhood knowledge that can benefit you. That said, there are a lot of agents out there so it’s good to find one who understands what you’re looking for — luxury? Pre-War? Fixer-upper? Move-in ready? Find someone in tune with your needs.
As I said, though, J and I just decided to go for it and start looking at places on our own.
There are a number of hoops that you must jump through before you can even begin looking seriously at a home. For J and I, the first obvious one was checking in with my parents and getting their thumbs up. The second and slightly less daunting one was to apply for mortgage pre-approval from a bank.
There are a lot of things J and I discussed before we launched into the house search, mostly the scary what-if scenarios as well as unpacking my fears of “settling down” and what kind of lifestyles we want. But beyond those items, we also had to dive into finances. Everything had to be on the table — IRAs, various stocks and investments, how much we’re holding in savings, checkings, what post-tax income looks like, and how much we were willing to part with. It’s a level of financial intimacy that we hadn’t fully broached before.
Additionally, we needed to be somewhat on the same page in terms of what we were looking for. How many bedrooms did we want? What’s the difference between a condo and coop?