It’s not your imagination – the DC Metro real estate market is fast-paced. Well-priced, well-marketed homes in desirable neighborhoods are flying off the shelves. In some areas, there’s so much pent-up demand that a house with a ‘For Sale’ sign in the yard is virtually guaranteed to be sold in less than a week – barring bad marketing and overpricing.
If you’re a buyer in today’s market, this here-today, gone-tomorrow environment can seem daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. By doing some homework up front, you’ll be well-positioned to submit the winning offer when your dream home pops up. Here are the three essential action items that we recommend to all of our buyer clients before they start their home search.
First: Put some guardrails around your money
Before you start moseying around open houses, take a look at your monthly budget to determine two very important numbers: your comfortable down payment and your comfortable monthly payment. These two numbers are the guardrails that will protect your money when emotion starts to creep into your home purchase. If you have, for example, $60,000 in your savings account, but you’re only comfortable putting $30,000 into a down payment for a home, then you should let your lender know that upfront. In the same way, if you think your comfortable monthly mortgage payment is $2000 a month, even though you theoretically could afford $2500 a month, then your lender needs to know that too. With those two numbers in mind, your lender will be able to reverse engineer a purchase price that falls within your comfort zone.
Second: Find a nosy lender
Yes, you read that right. The best lenders are “nosy”. Those lenders who are committed to helping you find a mortgage that fits your financial situation will ask for a lot of documentation upfront. If it seems like your lender is asking for a lot of redundant information about your finances, then you probably found the right person. All the documentation they receive helps them to verify your income, assets and debt. Once everything is verified, they’ll issue you a pre-approval letter for a mortgage that reflects the down payment and monthly payment that you are comfortable with.
With that pre-approval letter in hand, you can feel confident that when you do find a home in your price range, you’ll be able to prove to the seller that you’re qualified to make the purchase.
Third: Make sure you’re getting every listing
If you’re a serious buyer who’s done your homework with your lender and you know your purchasing power, then it’s time to get the most accurate and up-to-date information on homes that meet your parameters. So that means it’s time to fire up the old Zillow app on your phone, right? Wrong. Your best bet for accurate and timely listing info is not one of the national listing aggregator sites, it’s a local agent’s app (or website) that has a direct feed from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). The MLS is a database of listings that agents themselves use to list and find properties for sale. Any platform with a direct feed from the MLS is likely to have significantly more accurate info than the national sites, which rely on agents to supply listing info – and not every agent is keeping their listings up to date on those sites. You can start your home search on our website here, or download our user-friendly KW mobile app here.
An even better option than a local agent’s website is going directly to a local agent to discuss your search criteria. A diligent agent will know how to set up a search directly from the MLS that sends the newest listings that match your criteria to your inbox every morning. This is the most surefire way to never miss out on a home that works for you and your family.
If you’re in the market for a home, or will be in the near future, we’re here to help. Drop us a line, and we’ll connect you with our best lenders who will help you make sense of the loan approval process. Once you know what you can afford, our buyer specialists will help you narrow your search and see that the listings that matter to you arrive in your inbox daily.