Research has shown that most buyers shop for homes online six months or more before they get serious and schedule in-person showings. Once you’ve decided to buy a home, it may be awhile before you make your purchase, that’s completely normal. Here are some steps that you can take right away to make sure to get off on the right foot and set yourself up to buy the home you want when you find it.
a couple holding a house and looking thoughtful

Start Your Loan Approval Right Away

A huge mistake is waiting to secure a loan approval until the last minute. Think about it, if you are only approved for a certain amount, then why spend time online falling in love with homes you won’t be able to buy? Also, if there is an issue with your loan, often there are ways to fix your application that take time. Lenders can repair your credit report for example, but it may not be overnight. If you are short on funds, it may take time to save more with a clear goal in mind. If you are missing some important documents, it may take time to gather them. Once you get serious, you may have to update your file and run your credit again, but usually that is a formality as long as you still have your job and your credit profile has not changed dramatically.

Identify where you want to live

It’s a good idea to explore the areas of interest to you to see if they are the right fit. Concerned about the commute from that area? Get up early, pretend you live there, and test it. Concerned about crime? Spend some time looking at crime stats and walking around that area at night to see if you feel comfortable. Is area walkable with shops and schools nearby? Try it out yourself. Talk to family, friends or co-workers that live there and pick their brain.

Hire an agent

Many buyers wait until the last minute to hire an agent, for fear of wasting that agents time. Don’t worry about. Buyer agents are excited to hear from you, give you ideas, and even set up a great online search even if you are buying a year from now. Just be honest with them upfront about your timing.

Explore homes in your budget

Once you have a loan approval, you will now what you are able, and willing, to pay for a home. Now you can explore open houses in that price range to get a sense for what is realistic. There are many websites where you can search houses for sale by price and neighborhood. When visiting homes in person, try not to provide your personal info to the agent conducting the open house, unless you want them bugging you a lot. Instead, hire a buyer’s agent, explain your plan to explore open houses, and ask your agent for business cards to hand out instead of your own information. Then sales inquiries will be made following the open house to your agent, and not you.