Looking to buy a home? Here are five essential tips for making the process as smooth as possible.

Get your finances in order.

Start by getting a full picture of your credit. Obtain copies of your credit report. Make sure the facts are correct, and fix any problems you find. Next, find a suitable lender and get pre-approved for a loan. This will put you in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house.  If you don’t know any lenders reach out to a real estate professional that can direct you towards a reputable source. 

Hire a professional.

While the Internet gives buyers unprecedented access to home listings and resources, many aspects of the buying process require a level of expertise you can’t pick up from surfing the web. That’s why you’re better off using a professional agent than going it alone. If possible, recruit an exclusive buyer agent, who will have your interests at heart and can help you with strategies during the bidding process.  There are many factors that go into creating a winning offer and without a trusted representative to work for you, you’d be making one of the largest purchases of your life with no-one on your team.  

Find a house you can afford.

There are a number of tools and calculators online that can help you understand how your income, debt, and expenses affect what you can afford. Don’t forget, too, that there are lots of considerations beyond the sticker price, including property taxes, energy costs, etc.  Two homes at the same listing price can be significantly different in monthly payments due to property tax rates in each town.  If you are looking in several different towns, get familiar with the tax rates.  Your Realtor® can help you with this. 

Do your homework.

Before making a bid, do some research to determine the state of the market at large. Is it more favorable for sellers or buyers? Next, look at sales trends of similar homes in the area or neighborhood. Look at prices for the last few months. Come up with an asking price that’s competitive, but also realistic. Otherwise, you may end up ticking off your seller.  Your Realtor® can work with you to pull all of the area comps in order to help you determine a fair offer. 

Think long term.

Obviously, you shouldn’t buy unless you’re sure you’ll be staying put for at least a few years. Beyond that, you should take into consideration things that could potentially impact your resale value, like neighborhood, busy streets, or school systems. When it comes to the house itself, you should hire your own home inspector, who can point out potential problems that could require costly repairs in the future.