It’s pretty easy for me to know what I like in a home design.
I have been pinning beautiful images to my “Dream Home” Pinterest Board for years. Check mine out:
Knowing what I want isn’t the issue, and it isn’t the issue for most dreamers. The issue is that buyers, in general, are clueless about what they need to know and do, and in which order steps are to be taken.
I mean, you thought you just dream about the property you want, choose a builder, have them build your dream home, and voila! Perfection!
Take it from Jack Nicholson, who answered this simple question with a resounding, “NOPE!” (Okay, he didn’t say that. But I bet he would!)
Please consider the following steps…
Step 1. Have a Dream
“Wait, I thought you were sort of shaming me out of dreaming, Heather!”
No, I actually want you to follow my mom’s words of wisdom:
“Have a dream, and live your dream!” (She really said that. Thanks, Mom!).
Without a dream, you’ll be spinning your wheels, never achieving anything.
Decide what you and your loved ones want in a home. Be bold and deliberate, but realistic, visualizing how you will use every room, every outdoor space, access to recreation and work, usability of the property, the details about what you are hoping for in a neighborhood and community…etc.
Start with a dream.
Step 2. Partner with a Realtor.
One of the most important choices you can make is selecting the Realtor who will help you through the entire process of purchasing property: whether it’s an existing home, land, or a new construction home. A trusted, ethical Realtor can make or break a purchase. You want to find one who responds to you, offers you help, and treats you with respect.
Here is just a portion of what a Realtor should do for you:
- Be on your team from the beginning. I love to meet with you and learn all I can about your goals to be the best agent I can be.
- Listen to your dreams, and care about you and your family.
- Advise you from start to finish, and becomes a trusted advisor in the future when you have questions down the road.
- Connect you with the best financial specialists, escrow officers, or other professionals they know to help you through the particulars of the transaction.
- Take action to help you find what you are looking for.
- Show you any and all properties in which you are interested.
- Educate you on the state of the local real estate market as changes come.
- If you want to build your own home, introduce you to reputable builders that are the best in the field.
- Become an extra set of ears and eyes in every meeting you would like them to attend. You’re in charge. You are not bothering your agent when you include them in meetings. They can help alert you to red flags, calm your concerns, and take notes for future reference.
- Negotiate on your behalf, getting the most bang for your buck from any home seller, builder, or land owner.
- Show loyalty, confidentiality and obedience.
- Consult with you, day or night, addressing your questions and concerns to the best of his/her ability.
- Research any information you have need of knowing. Really, this is one of those options that many people just don’t realize they can ask of their agent.
- Keep paperwork organized, emailing you copies of all interactions. You shouldn’t have to think too hard when it comes to signing documents. They will help you understand what you are signing through the process (and there is a lot to sign!).
- Assist you in keeping deadlines met, reminding you of all important dates.
- Communicate promptly and often, responding quickly to your needs.
- Advocate for you in any and all situations through the end of the process.
- Follow up after all is said and done, addressing any new concerns or issues.
- Field calls and struggles that arise, alleviating the pressure on your shoulders.
- So many other personalized tasks and efforts that you will never really know about, and that’s okay! I love what I do, and it involves totally different efforts based on my individual client’s needs. Every situation is unique, and every client is different. That is what makes it so exciting!
- Bonus: invite you to special client parties, movies, sporting events. (wink)
Step 3. Prepare Financially
This is the part where we all want to plug our ears, close our eyes, and bury our heads in the sand. Financial stuff can be intimating for many buyers. Your agent will know who is great to work with and who to avoid. Don’t use your brother-in-law’s cousin’s neighbor out of some sort of obligation (sorry, bud)!
Shop a few lenders, to see who you want to work with, what their fees are, and to be sure you feel good about your choice. Loan officers who work regularly with your agent will put forth extra effort to stay on top of their job for them, knowing they will only receive future referrals when they do their job well.
Information that most lenders will ask you to bring with you:
(this documents list is from my awesome loan partner, Trisha Wollebaek with Citywide Home Loans in Utah. firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks, Trisha!)
- 2 years most recent tax returns, personal and/or business (all schedules/ pages are required).
- 2 years W2/1099’s for each person listed on the loan application (K1’s if applicable).
- 2 most recent pay stubs covering 1 full month, must include year-to-date earnings (be sure the entire page is legible and nothing has been cut off in the margins)
- 2 most recent checking/savings/retirement statements (All pages, even if they are blank, are required. If you have any large unidentified deposits over $300, we need documentation showing where the money came from.).
- Name and contact information of the insurance agent for your homeowners insurance policy. If you do not have a trusted insurance agent, please let us know and we will refer you to a reputable insurance provider.
- A current mortgage statement (if applicable)
- Divorce decree (if applicable, all pages required)
- Bankruptcy discharge papers and all schedules (if applicable)
Your loan officer will offer ideas to improve your current financial readiness, if needed: suggesting that you resist new large purchases, pay down revolving debt, bring all accounts current (if there are any that need your attention), save up for closing costs and a down payment, and avoid new debts. If you play your cards right, you can receive the best financing options, such as lower rates and fees, saving you money in the long-run.
Once you obtain the credit-approval letter (sometimes called a pre-qualification or pre-approval), include it with your offer on your dream property. This shows financial strength and capability to the seller, and will give you a better chance at obtaining an acceptance of your offer. Hooray!
Step 4. It’s all about the House
Building? Meet the builders you want to meet with, and those your agent suggests as well. Bring your plans and ideas, staying consistent with your budget so you compare apples to apples. After you have the main ideas and plans in place, knowing the measurements of the footprint of the home, you are ready to find your ideal piece of land.
There are several loan options with land. You can purchase the land only, and sit on it, but this will usually require a HEFTY down payment. My suggestion, if you’d like to save on the down payment, is to acquire a wrapped loan that includes the land (lot loan) and the cost of your future home (construction loan). It takes a bit more time, but your down payment can be much lower, freeing up cash for other home details, such as furnishings, yard…etc. Again, obtain professional advice from trusted loan officers before jumping in. (There are so many moving parts to home construction, this will be a topic of a future article…I just know it).
Purchasing an existing home? Go see the homes you like with your agent. I like to suggest to my clients that they always keep their top 2-3 homes in mind, and adjust it as you find better homes, kicking off those that do not meet your expectations.
Keep in mind the 80/10/10 rule: you’ll likely find an existing home that you love 80%, hate 10%, and can make adjustments to 10% (Thank you, Creston Inderrieden, in Houston, TX, Broker/Owner of IndyQuest Properties, for this concept).
For example, you could find what seems to be the perfect home: a great floor plan, perfect neighborhood, close to your work, on a quiet street, with beautiful views. But the paint color inside is horrific and the backyard is only partially finished, and there are large power lines nearby. Take a step back, and see what of the home meets 80% of your expectations, the 10% that can be changed (paint and yard), and the 10% that cannot be changed (power lines). It still is a great choice, but you may have to live with one or two things that bug you.
Depending on the market conditions, you might be left without the luxury of “think on it” time. If a home meets your key criteria, and the 80/10/10 rule, go for it! In this market, buyers are competitive, and sellers are picky.
Your agent will assist you with your offer, and you’re on your way!
Step 5. Sell your current home.
Need to sell your existing home before you purchase a new home? To learn of the best timing, work with your agent, builder, and loan officer to plan the best timeline for your situation. Some choose to list their home right away, and move in with family or into a rental property during the building/moving process. Others wait until a couple of months before completion of their new home, then list their current home. Some rent out their current home, using it as an ongoing investment that brings returns.
Consult with your team to learn what would work best for you.
Heads up: moving can be stressful. It also can be exciting and fun at times, but there are always obstacles that are thrown your way. There will be days when you are overwhelmed and tired, feeling as though you want to give up your dream.
Keep your dream at the top of your list. Hold on to what you truly want to create in your next home. Buckle up, prepare by taking the right steps, with the right team, and press on with confidence.
Thanks for reading!
Contact me if you have any questions. email@example.com
For fun, this is one of my favorite houses. I like to dream, too!