If you're wishing Santa puts a new abode under the tree in Dallas, now is a great time to get ready for what happens next--once he's up the chimney you're on your own for mortgages and moving. Even if you've bought a home before, it is not a bad notion to freshen up on your home buying and moving skills so when the time comes, you navigate it like a pro.
Financial Check-Up in Dallas
First, get your finances in order. Unless you're paying cash for a home, you will need to have a mortgage. While mortgage lending rules have relaxed a bit recently, you'll still need to have all your ecomonic matters straightened out and tidy before you talk with a loan officer (even a virtual one). Request a copy of your credit report to make certain you haven't been a victim of identity theft, and double check that all your bills have been paid by their due date. If you see something that does not appear true, contact the credit reporting agency to report erroneous information.
It is always a good idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage. In some parts of the country the real estate market never slows down, and you need to be ready to submit an offer on a house when you find it. Anymore, a large number of sellers will not even look at an offer without a pre-approval from a lender. Don't mix up a pre-approval and a pre-qualification; the pre-approval shows that your credit and income are already okay--sometimes already underwritten--with the lender, you just need to find a home. A pre-qualification says that they looked at your credit report and if all other factors check out then they'll consider a loan.
You want everything in the new home—the best schools, outdoor kitchen, open floor plan, modern landscaping, privacy, friendly neighbors, and low real estate taxes. Chances are you are going to need to make some adjustments somewhere, so start and compile your wants list and your needs list, and see where the two intersect. Regardless of your budget you are not going to find every last thing that you want, so concentrate on your needs. If you need to be in a specific school district, or you need to be within a radius of the airport, or you have five kids and need as many bedrooms, those non-negotiables should be at the top of your list. House-hunting is the ultimate Goldilocks experience, so don't even bother with residences that are too large or small, too far off the beaten track, or out of your price range.
It should go without saying, but needs to be said anyway, that your family must concur with the needs and the wants. If you want a swimming pool in the yard and your spouse would be happy with a high-rise, work out those specifics before your realtor turns into a mediator.
A Great Real Estate Agent in Dallas
A good real estate agent is not the one who is a "million-dollar producer" (this might mean she sold ten houses in ten years) or whose face is all over billboards. A great realtor is the one that you feel like you can develop a comfortable working relationship with--after all, you are going to be spending a lot of time together, and she will be acting on your behalf in a large financial transaction. Find someone who's easy to talk to, that you can trust, and who really listens to what you are saying--if your limit is $350,000, she should respect that.
Your job when you are interviewing realtors is to be honest about your budget and your expectations. If you've been pre-approved for $600,000, do not squander your time or your realtor's looking at houses in the $700,000s. If you are relocating and have one weekend to house hunt, make arrangements so that your realtor has blocked out the weekend just for you.
The internet makes house hunting so easy, you might find yourself falling in love and making an offer sight unseen. If that is the case, ask Santa to put some boxes under the tree.