If you are hoping Santa deposits a new abode under the tree in Little Rock, now is a great time to get prepared for what happens next--once he's up the chimney you're alone for mortgages and moving. Even if you've owned a house previously, it's not a bad plan to freshen up on your home buying and moving skills so when the time comes, you navigate it like a pro.
Financial Check-Up in Little Rock
First, get your finances in order. Unless you're paying cash for a home, you will need to obtain a mortgage. While mortgage lending rules have loosened a little recently, you'll still need to have all your ecomonic matters straightened out and tidy before you discuss anything with a loan officer (even a virtual one). Get a copy of your credit report to ensure you have not been a victim of identity theft, and double check that all your bills have been paid in a timely fashion. If you see something that does not seem true, contact the credit reporting agency to report erroneous information.
It's always a good idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage. In some regions of the country the real estate market never slows down, and you should be ready to submit an offer on a house when you discover it. These days, most sellers will not even look at an offer without a pre-approval from a lender. Don't muddle up a pre-approval and a pre-qualification; the pre-approval says that your credit and income are already okay--sometimes already underwritten--with the lender, you just need to find a house. A pre-qualification reflects that they looked at your credit report and if all other factors line up then they will consider a loan.
You want it all in a new house—outstanding schools, outdoor kitchen, open floor plan, mature landscaping, privacy, fabulous neighbors, and low real estate taxes. Most likely you're going to need to make a few compromises 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 all of the things that you want, so pay closest attention to on your needs. If you need to be in a specific school district, or you need to be within a radius of the airport, or you have five kids and need five 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 residences that are too large or small, 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 significant other must agree with the needs and the wants. If you want a swimming pool in the yard 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 Little Rock
A great 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 ads are all over billboards. A great realtor is the one that you feel like you can develop a good working relationship with--after all, you're going to be spending a lot of time together, and she will be helping you through a large financial transaction. Find 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 responsibility when you are interviewing realtors is to be truthful about your budget and your expectations. If you've been pre-approved for $600,000, do not misuse your time or your realtor's looking at houses in the $700,000s. If you're 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 even find yourself falling in love and submitting an offer sight unseen. In that case, ask Santa to put some boxes under the tree.