If you're hoping Santa puts a new house under the tree in El Paso, now is a good time to get prepared for what happens next--once he's up the chimney you're on your own for mortgages and moving. Even if you have owned a residence previously, it is not a bad thought to freshen up on your home buying and moving skills so when the time comes, you handle it like a professional.
Financial Check-Up in El Paso
First, get your finances in order. Unless you're paying cash for a residence, you'll need to obtain a mortgage. While mortgage lending rules have slackened some recently, you will still want to have all your money matters straightened out and tidy before you talk with a loan officer (even a virtual one). Get 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 by their due date. If you see something that doesn't seem correct, contact the credit reporting agency to report erroneous information.
It's always a good 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 submit an offer on a house when you find it. Currently, most sellers will not even look at an offer without a pre-approval from a lender. Do not 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 home. A pre-qualification shows that they looked through your credit report and if all other factors line up then they'll consider a loan.
You want everything in a new house—great schools, outdoor kitchen, open floor plan, mature landscaping, privacy, fabulous neighbors, and low real estate taxes. Chances are you are going to have to make some adjustments somewhere, so go ahead and assemble your wants list and your needs list, and look at where the two intersect. Regardless of your budget you are not going to get everything you want, so focus on your needs. If you need to be in a certain school district, or you need to be within a few miles of the airport, or you have five kids and need as many bedrooms, those non-negotiables must 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 out of your price range.
It should go without saying, but needs to be said anyway, that your family must 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 specifics before your realtor turns into a marriage counselor.
A Great Real Estate Agent in El Paso
A good 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 comfortable 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. Pick someone who's easy to talk to, that you can trust, and who really listens to what you're saying--if your limit is $350,000, she should respect that.
Your task when you are interviewing realtors is to be truthful about your budget and your expectations. If you have been pre-approved for $600,000, do not misuse 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 find yourself falling in love and making an offer sight unseen. If that is the case, ask Santa to put some boxes in your stocking.