You know you want to buy a house in the Birmingham area. You think you're ready to make the leap. If you can complete my homebuyer's checklist, it might just be time to start packing.
1. FIND OUT YOUR BUDGET & PRE-APPROVAL
This means taking the time to do two important things: discover what you feel comfortable paying and get pre-approved for a mortgage.
Take the time to really crunch the numbers. Add all your expenses and all of your income to determine the maximum monthly payment you can afford.
Calculate how much cash you can put down based on what you currently have saved. Even with 100% financing, buying a home will always require some money due to expenses like inspections, closing costs and moving.
Obtain a copy of your credit report to verify accuracy. If you see any errors, get them fixed right away.
Then find a lender to pre-approve you for a mortgage. This first step will take some time but it is certainly the most important. You can find a great local lender list here.
2. PICK A LOCATION
Maybe you already know exactly which area around Birmingham you want to live. If not, you'll need to decide before you begin searching for homes.
The actual house will be very important in your buying decision but, keep in mind, you can usually change the house. You cannot change the city or neighborhood.
Think about what you really want from a location. Some people love Helena houses because of the city's reputation of being safe. Others love Mountain Brook houses because of it's beautiful roads and village. It's possible that school system, distance to work or walkability will be important to you.
Explore the many suburbs of Birmingham and then choose the locations just right for you.
3. MAKE A WANTS & NEEDS LIST
This part is the most fun! Grab a sheet of paper and make two columns. One for "WANTS" and one for "NEEDS".
In the "needs" column, jot down any items your new home has to have. Examples might be two bathrooms, a garage or a master suite. The location and the price will also be in your "needs" column. Things you can add or change about a home later will usually not be in the column.
In the "wants" column, write things you would like to have but aren't requirements. Some of these might be hardwood floors, white cabinets, a covered deck or a fenced in yard.
4. FIND A GREAT BIRMINGHAM AGENT
Having a great real estate agent will be key to making sure you have a happy and easy home buying experience. The reality is that buying a house is a big deal and it can be complicated at times. Find an agent that works for a reputable company and will help you overcome any problems that may arise.
Start by researching real estate agents in the Birmingham area. Meet with potential candidates and choose one that fits your style. Maybe your style is an agent who relates to your needs. Or possibly one that communicates frequently. For some buyers it's a real estate agent who is available at odd hours. For you and your agent to be a good fit will be crucial to the process.