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. FIGURE OUT YOUR FINANCES
This means taking the time to do two important things. Figure out your homebuyer's budget 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. Even with 100% financing, buying a home will always cost 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 mortgage broker to pre-approve you for a mortgage. This first step will be the most difficult of all but it is certainly the most important.
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 always 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 villages. It's possible that school system or walkability will be important to you. Explore the many cities around Birmingham, research those items that matter to you and then choose the locations you like.
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 three bathrooms, a garage or a master suite. In the "wants" column, write things you would like to have but aren't requirements. Some of these might be hardwood floors, a covered deck or fenced in yard. Make copies of this list and be prepared to take it with you every time you tour a home. If a home doesn't have everything in the "needs" column and it's not reasonable to add the missing items, then the house should be marked off your list... even if it has several of the "wants".
4. FIND A GREAT BIRMINGHAM AGENT
Having a great real estate agent will be key to making sure you have a happy 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 prepare and defuse 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 buyer's 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 sale.