Many buyers are approaching their home search the way I like to approach food: “Life is short; east dessert first.” But when getting ready to buy a home, you need to start with the nutritious part. By that I mean you need to start with the basics, even though that may not seem nearly as much fun as starting by looking at homes. This spring market is already much more competitive than this time last year. If buyers want to take advantage of the still-low rates and discounted prices, and succeed in acquiring a home appropriate to their needs and budget, they need to start not by driving around, but by sitting down with a trusted advisor.
Your REALTOR can recommend loan professionals who are experienced with local transactions, and are a good match for your situation and personal style. Lenders are more particular than ever, so being completely pre-approved for a loan is *essential* now. That means all of your income and asset documents have been reviewed through a desktop underwriting system, and only a property appraisal is needed for final loan approval.A casual "pre-qualification" or an approval from last year is worthless.
Once buyers know how much they can actually afford, they will benefit from prioritizing: I ask my buyers to write down the top three assets that a home must possess, as well as three qualities they’d like to avoid. If it’s a couple I ask them to prepare their lists separately—the differences are often very educational! What tolerance do you have for fixing a home? Is it important to have a second bathroom? Would a half bath do? How long is an acceptable commute? The answers will determine the homes and neighborhoods that should be included in the search. Once you have an agreed list of priorities, don’t be seduced by a beautiful home that fits none of your priorities. Unless your needs are very restricted, there always will be other homes to consider!
Multiple offers are common now in many neighborhoods in my area: Berkeley,CA and the surrounding communities. Make sure your REALTOR is well-connected within the community, and will present your offer in person if given the opportunity. That's something I always do, but not all agents will take the time. That step can make the difference between your offer being accepted, or not.