Home shopping in Missoula? It’s a great time to buy!
Few would dispute that buying is new home is exciting. But because of that, it’s tempting to start looking without a good understanding of what you can really afford. Whether in Missoula or anywhere else, to ensure the best home buying experience and to avoid disappointment, it’s best to follow some sequential steps.
1. Determine your budget. It’s very important to know just how much you can realistically afford and then shop only for homes in the price range that fits your budget. In determining how much you can afford, be sure to factor in taxes, insurance, and related costs that will add to your monthly mortgage payment. Also consider your lifestyle and determine how much it really takes you to live the life you enjoy without the house payment added in. Without doing this, it’s very possible to end up “house-poor,” leaving little left as disposal income after mortgage and essentials are covered.
2. Get pre-approved for a loan. Pre-approval means your loan has been approved up to a certain amount. Being pre-approved puts you in a better position in home buying negotiations. Sellers are more willing to negotiate with people who are already approved for a loan to buy their home.
3. Be prepared for up-front costs. Besides a down payment, there are other costs for which money will be needed prior to completing purchase. Upfront costs can include closing costs, title insurance, escrow fees, and more. Make sure you have ample funds available to avoid unpleasant surprises.
4. Do some research online. Before visiting homes, it helps to become familiar with real estate for sale and the local market conditions. Doing this preliminary research can help you be more knowledgeable about the current Missoula real estate market. It can also help you set realistic expectations as to the size, features, and location of homes in your price range.
5. Determine your home shopping criteria. Identify what you “must have” in your new home, as well as which things you “must not have.” For example, it likely isn’t wise to settle for a two-bedroom home if you obviously need more than that for your family to live comfortably. If a short commute is important to you, don’t settle for a home that requires a long drive to and from work each day.
6. Consult with a dependable real estate agent. A good agent understands the local market, knows your price range, and appreciates your “must have” and “must not have” features. Have the agent select homes that best meet your criteria and then visit only those homes.
7. Visit potential new homes. It’s a great idea to use a checklist to compare one with the other so you can note each property’s advantages and disadvantages. Even though you think you’ll remember each home precisely, you’ll quickly find it difficult to accurately recall the features and concerns related to each.
8. Check out prospective neighborhoods. Since your home is part of a neighborhood, it’s important to consider future homes in context. Before making commitments on a home, take time to drive around and observe the neighborhood, talk to potential neighbors, visit area schools, check out local shopping, etc. Make sure the neighborhood meets your needs as well as your potential future home.
9. Make an offer. Once you’ve settled on a home that’s right for you, make an offer contingent upon a satisfactory home inspection. You don’t want to purchase a home only to find that you need to replace the furnace or update the entire house with new wiring to bring it to code. A home inspection by a qualified professional can give you peace of mind that the home you are purchasing is free from major problems or defects.
10. Close on the property. When closing at the title company, be sure to review all paperwork thoroughly. Ask questions freely to ensure you understand all the numbers and any legal language you may not understand completely. Sometimes closings feel rushed and many people are reluctant to ask questions or seek clarification. Buying a home is a major commitment and you absolutely have the right to know exactly what you’re signing and the commitments that come with it.
Best of luck finding the perfect home!