If you're hoping Santa deposits a new house under the tree in Little Rock, now is a perfect time to get ready for what happens next--once he's up the chimney you're by yourself for mortgages and moving. Even if you have purchased a house before, it is not a bad thought to brush up on your home buying and moving skills so when the time comes, you handle it like a professional.
Financial Check-Up in Little Rock
First, get your finances in order. Unless you are paying cash for a residence, you'll require a mortgage. While mortgage lending rules have loosened a bit recently, you will still need to have all your financial matters arranged and tidy before you sit down with a loan officer (even a virtual one). Get a copy of your credit report to make sure you haven't been a victim of identity theft, and confirm all your bills have been paid in a timely fashion. If you see something that doesn't look true, contact the credit reporting agency to report inaccurate information.
It is always a great idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage. In some areas of the country the real estate market never slows down, and you need to be ready to make an offer on a home when you discover it. Anymore, a large number of sellers won’t even look at an offer without a pre-approval from a lender. Don't muddle up a pre-approval and a pre-qualification; the pre-approval reflects that your credit and income are already okay--sometimes already underwritten--with the lender, you just need to find a residence. A pre-qualification shows that they looked through your credit report and if all other factors line out then they will consider a loan.
You want everything in your new residence—outstanding 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 compromises somewhere, so proceed and compile your wants list and your needs list, and see where the two intersect. Regardless of your budget you are not going to get all of the things 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 few miles of the airport, or you have five kids and need lots of bedrooms, those non-negotiables need to be at the top of your list. House-hunting is the ultimate Goldilocks experience, so don't even bother with houses that are too large or small, too far off the beaten track, or too expensive.
It should go without saying, but needs to be said anyway, that your family should be on the same page 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 marriage counselor.
A Great Real Estate Agent in Little Rock
A wonderful real estate agent is not the one who is a "million-dollar producer" (this could mean she sold ten houses in ten years) or whose ads are all over billboards. A great realtor is the one that you feel like you can develop a solid working relationship with--after all, you are going to be spending a lot of time together, and she will be helping you through 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 truthful about your budget and your expectations. If you have been pre-approved for $600,000, don't 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 time just for you.
The internet makes house hunting so easy, you may even find yourself falling in love and making an offer sight unseen. In that event, ask Santa to put some boxes in your stocking.