Ringing in the New Year with a New House in Austin
Financial Check-Up in Austin
First, get your finances in order. Unless you are paying cash for a residence, you'll need to obtain a mortgage. While mortgage lending rules have slackened a bit recently, you will still want to have all your ecomonic matters arranged and tidy before you sit down with a loan officer (even a virtual one). Obtain a copy of your credit report to assure you have not been a victim of identity theft, and double check that all your bills have been paid in a timely fashion. If you see something that doesn't seem correct, contact the credit reporting agency to report erroneous information.
It's always a great idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage. In some parts of the country the real estate market never slows down, and you want to be ready to present an offer on a home when you discover it. Anymore, a lot of sellers won’t even consider an offer without a pre-approval from a lender. Don't mix up a pre-approval with 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 residence. A pre-qualification reflects that they looked through your credit report and if all other factors line out then they'll consider a loan.
You want it all in your new home—the best schools, outdoor kitchen, open floor plan, modern landscaping, privacy, friendly neighbors, and low real estate taxes. It is likely that you're going to need to make one or two concessions somewhere, so start and compile your wants list and your needs list, and look at 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 certain mileage 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 houses that are too big or tiny, too far off the beaten track, or too expensive.
It should go without saying, but needs to be said anyway, that your significant other should be on the same page with the needs and the wants. If you want a to have an acre for your garden and your spouse would be happy with a high-rise, work out those little details before your realtor turns into a mediator.
A Great Real Estate Agent in Austin
A great 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 good working relationship with--after all, you're going to be spending a lot of time together, and she will be acting on your behalf in a large financial transaction. Look for 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 responsibility when you're interviewing realtors is to be upfront about your budget and your expectations. If you have been pre-approved for $600,000, do not waste your time or your realtor's looking at houses in the $700,000s. If you are relocating and have one weekend to house hunt, plan so that your realtor has blocked out the weekend just for you.
The internet makes house hunting so easy, you may find yourself falling in love and making an offer sight unseen. In that event, ask Santa to put some boxes in your stocking.