5 reasons you should get a jump on the Boston real estate competition and start looking for your new home this winter, rather than waiting for the spring market to heat up.
- Get prequalified. This is not optional. You need a budget to go shopping for anything, looking for your new home is no different. Otherwise you’re wasting your time. Do it now while you have lots of time. Mortgage brokers, banks, credit unions, etc. will be a little slower this time of year and you’ll have their full attention and maybe a more competitive rate and/or terms. I’d recommend getting a good faith estimate from each. Don’t be afraid to shop rates and terms. Some of the line items on a loan are negotiable. You won’t know unless you ask. “Are you willing to absorb the appraisal and application fee?”
- Draw a territory. I think it’s helpful to use a physical map. I use mapping apps for everything, but for this purpose, I highly recommend an “old fashioned” map. Highlight the neighborhoods or towns (or portions of communities) which you would consider. This is a tricky task. If you draw too wide a territory, you’ll have a very hard time weeding through all the property, too small and you’ll miss opportunity. I highly recommend sitting down with your Buyer’s Agent and doing this together.
- Interview Buyer’s Agents. Even the most seasoned buyers can benefit from a solid Buyer’s Agent. Figure out what services and attributes are important to you, and interview agents. Be transparent and frank about what you are doing – they will appreciate it. You definitely want to check out my post about how to hire a Buyer’s Agent.
- Look at property like it’s your job. When looking for your new home, see absolutely everything on the market that meets your basic criteria. Don’t just look at the ones that are all dolled up. Look at everything in your wheelhouse. Why? First, this will help you begin to develop a mental map of value. Second, you will learn a lot about where you want (and don’t want) to live, what kind of homes you like, and generally, if you have a knowledgable agent – you will learn about houses. The good, the bad and the ugly. Once you have exhausted all the inventory, not only will you have gained a great deal of knowledge – you will make the job going forward significantly easier. You will know what you want, where you want it and how much you’re willing to pay for it. Now all you have to do is watch, and wait for the the right home and then POUNCE!
- Do your paperwork. Have all your offer documents in place. When it’s “go time”, you will have little notice to compile all the moving parts. Make a cloud file on Drive or Dropbox or whatever. Have an updated pre-qualification letter ready. If your lender isn’t available at the drop of a hat, then see about getting letters in 10K increments +/- 50K from your target number. Also, write a “love letter”. Draft a really nice letter to the seller. Tell a little about yourself. What you do for a living (assuming you’re not an executioner or the like), where you come from, why you’re moving (if appropriate obviously). Don’t get mushy or smarmy. Just the facts. Just introduce yourself like you would at a dinner party. Humanize your offer so you’re not just a piece of paper. Leave a paragraph so you can customize it if you need to. Don’t forget a charming picture! Finally, have your checkbook with you at all times.
If you follow these steps, and get all your ducks in a row, by the time March rolls around and the market starts to really get going again – you’ll be ready to rock! Good luck with your search.