Buying a home is one of the most exciting, yet stressful times in life. If you are also selling your current home at the same time, it can feel downright overwhelming. But there are ways to keep your sanity and enjoy the process.
Looking back on my experience, I learned a lot and will be better prepared when I start the journey again in a couple of years. Like most learning experiences, I did some things very well and made a lot of mistakes. I hope that by sharing my thoughts/experience I can help make your journey of buying/selling a house a little less chaotic.
A major reason I felt overwhelmed at times is because I was trying to get my house ready to sell while looking for a new one, all while living an active life. It was a lot to juggle. If you’re able to plan in advance when you want to sell/buy, do that. About a year in advance, have a realtor come out to your house to give you a list of projects that will help your home sell for top dollar.
They will likely tell you to paint, clean the carpets, do landscape maintenance, declutter your home and maybe stage your home. Consider having a home inspection company come out to do a thorough evaluation on your home, so that no surprises pop up during the contract process and you can remedy issues early. By taking care of these tasks in advance, you will save yourself a lot of headaches once you list your home.
Thinking ahead should also include looking at your personal finances. How is your credit score? Do you have the money saved up for a down payment? Or will you need to use the profits from selling your home for the down payment? Do you also need to save money for a moving company?
Choose a realtor
Do your research – look at their reviews, scan their social media. Do you want a realtor who gives back to the community? Maybe one that is LGBTQ friendly? How long have they been in real estate? Are they a solo agent or one that is on a team?
You’ll be spending a lot of time talking with your realtor and seeing houses, so it’s important to make sure that you not only get along with them, but you trust them. Also – talk to your friends and family to see who they have used! A lot of real estate agents have a referral-based business, so talk to people you already trust for a recommendation.
Identify your why
Why are you selling/buying? Is it because you want to move closer to work, have a growing family, or are you looking to downsize? Maybe you are like me and am jumping on the housing market to pay off your student loans.
Is this new house your forever home or one that you expect to be in for a few years? If you’ll be in the house for a few years, are you looking for one that doesn’t need a lot done to it? Knowing your why will help you determine your deal-breakers and must-haves when searching for a new house (and makes your realtor’s job a lot easier).
Get pre-approved for a mortgage
This is incredibly important. Not only does it make any offer you put in more attractive, it’s important to have a conversation about the price range you can afford/want. Both times I have bought a house I had a goal mortgage payment in my mind, so that I could continue to focus on putting money into my savings/401k and have money to enjoy life with.
I never want to feel ‘house poor’. Meet with a mortgage loan originator to go over your budget. Like a real estate agent, do your research – look at reviews, social media, and word of mouth from friends/family.
I have been incredibly blessed to work with the most amazing mortgage loan originator twice. She is a wonderful human, a rock star at her job and uses her business to give back to dogs in need through a charity she started. For each mortgage she does, she makes a donation in that clients’ name. We’ve become friends throughout the process of me buying two homes, and she’s who I will always use for my mortgages going forward.
Communicate with your realtor!
This is crucial – looking back I communicated very well on some things and others not at all. Sit down with your realtor and discuss your budget, your deal breakers in a house, your why, your preferences in a house and what your style is. Again, this not only makes your realtor’s job easier, but the entire process.
Similar to dating, an expectation not communicated is a thought. So communicate with your realtor! They can’t help you find that dream home if they don’t know what the dream is.
Good communication is paramount if you have to do virtual showings. I did a couple virtual showings due to my work schedule and went into contract on one of the houses. The moment I walked in on inspection day, I knew it was a house I wouldn’t be happy in. Looking around I saw several signs of water damage. The inspection report came back and it was rough to say the least. In the end, I walked away from the house. Had I communicated better with my realtor, and she knew what to look for while doing the virtual showing, I would have never put an offer in.
For your current home, make a list of any repairs/updates that you have done in the past 5 years and give it to your realtor. As a potential buyer, I loved seeing this information in houses I was looking at. If you have kept a binder of paperwork, make sure your realtor knows. I had a binder that included the paint colors I used in the house, warranty paperwork, invoices from a variety of repairs and upgrades, as well as the home warranty information.
For the home you are buying – once you go in contract, things move quickly. As soon as you start searching for a new house, I would suggest gathering some information that your mortgage loan originator will need once you go into contract.
They will need recent paystubs, checking and savings account statements, 401K and IRA statements, a copy of your driver’s license, current home insurance information and possibly tax returns. Have two consecutive months of these documents saved to your computer. If you need to make a PDF of a printed document, the app CamScanner is free and easy to use.
Trust me, having these documents ready to go is almost better than a plate of freshly baked cookies for your mortgage loan originator. And it is one less thing for you to do when squeezing in showings.
Think about logistics of moving – will you hire a moving company or have friends/family help you move? Do you need to rent a truck? Buy boxes? Plan for child or pet care while moving? Take the time to research these items before you start looking at houses and consider these costs when making your budget.
Say Thank You
Realtors and mortgage loan originators work crazy hours to give their clients the best experience, often logging on in the evening or weekends to meet client needs. I am a huge fan of handwritten thank you notes, but also love giving gifts that are meaningful. I reached out to some local businesses and artists to do my thank you gifts.
While a gift is not necessary, I would strongly encourage a handwritten thank you note at the least. Since real estate is a referral industry, also take the time to fill out a review for both your mortgage loan originator and your real estate agent. If you had a good experience with them, be sure to recommend them to friends/family.
Buying and selling a house can be stressful, but it should also be exciting and fun. I loved getting to look at a variety of houses, making mental notes for my ‘dream home’ one day. I enjoyed seeing how different people decorated, paint colors, architecture and more. It’s exciting to be stepping into a new chapter of life, so be sure to be present in the moment and enjoy it. Also, I met some pretty rad humans along the way.