Last year we spent 4 months in house hunting hell!! It was an absolutely miserable experience. This was the fourth house that we have purchased in the 23 years we have been together. So it was definitely not our first rodeo but it was the most miserable one in all our house buying experience.
We ran our real estate agent ragged and we were all frustrated beyond belief. After physically viewing more than 40, yes I said more than 4-0, we finally made an offer on a house only to have it fall through at the last minute. It took another 15 or 20 house viewings before we finally found the one we purchased. I figured that it was a good time to share some things about house hunting that we have learned over the years so that maybe it will help someone who is new to the game. Of course I can say that this time was definitely a learning experience. I have to add that I am not a real estate expert and every experience has been different in one way or another.
1. Check your credit report before you even think about applying for a loan. You can obtain a free credit report from each of the reporting agencies once a year by going to Annual Credit Reports. I say this because you never know when something will show up that could throw a wrench in the works and delay or stop you from getting a mortgage loan. This will give you the opportunity to get any problems corrected ahead of time.
When we purchased our first house we ran into this issue with hubby's credit and had to spend some time getting corrections made to his credit report. You do not need to pay anyone to help fix credit errors this is something that you can do yourself. Check this site for help on how to dispute errors and get corrections made.
2. If you are a veteran I would also suggest going ahead and applying for your Certificate of Eligibility at eBenefits. That way if there is an issue with it you can get it corrected before you get started and hold everything up. We ran into this recently and while we were lucky they were able to research the problem and correct it quickly that may not always be the case. The VA showed that we had not paid off a previous loan which I fortunately had proof was paid in full.
3. Get pre-approved through whichever lender you want to use. Especially if you live in an area where the market moves quickly. With our first two purchases we did not do this but neither house was in an area that moved quickly. The last 2 purchases were made in places where houses where being sold within a day or two of being on the market. We actually lost out on a couple of houses because we didn't see them fast enough. If you have a pre-approval then you can move quickly when you find the house.
4. See if you are eligible for the Homes for Heroes program. This is a discount program for military, firefighters, EMTs, law enforcement and several others to help with the purchase of a new home. Not all real estate agents or other companies are signed up with this program so checking with them first will help you find your local agents that work with the program. We learned about this program right before we started looking for house number 4 and were able to get discounted fees with our lender and with our real estate agent as well. It ended up saving us about $2500 in closing costs.
5. Before you start working with a realtor, sit down and make a list of your must haves and decide on the area where you want to live. Also know ahead of time what you are willing to compromise on before you get started.
We ran into a problem with not finding a house with our must haves in the 10-mile radius we wanted and let the realtor talk us into looking outside of that area instead of saying no. We knew better than to let that happen and it ended up causing things to take more time and be more stressful. I finally put my foot down with our realtor and told her "this was our must have list and the only area we would look at houses" period. I'm sure when we hung up her first thoughts about me that day was not a nice one but I didn't really care by that time.
6. Don't look at more than 3 or 4 properties a day if at all possible. When you look at too many houses in a day it is tiring and frustrating for everyone trying to rush from one house to the next on a time schedule. And it can limit the time you have to walk around each one during the viewing.
We were in a time crunch with house #1, 2 and 3 because we only had a week of house hunting time available during our military transfers. I can say that with #1 and 3 I wish we had just rented something and taking more time looking for something. With #2 we only looked at maybe 4 or 5 houses when we walked into this one and knew without a doubt it was ours. House #4 we decided to rent for 6 months while we looked and still broke this rule because of the limited time hubby could be away from work.
BONUS TIP: I forgot to add this one originally. Even if you have filed bankruptcy it is still possible to purchase a home. Check with your attorney and see if there is a time frame before you can try. I believe that you may have to be at least a certain number of years into the process before the court will approve the purchase but I cannot tell you for sure. You will have to have the approval from the court if you have not reached discharge and this could take a little time so get it early.
I hope that something here will help someone who is just starting out on the journey to home ownership.