Buying a Home in Seattle? Here’s Where to Start

Buying a Home in Seattle? Here's Where to Start

Buying a house is a major commitment. Before you begin shopping for properties or comparing mortgage options, you need to make sure you’re ready to be a homeowner. Buying a home can be more than a little challenging. In fact, the process can be downright confusing and overwhelming, especially for first-time buyers. The chief source of home-buying anxiety is a result of knowing that it is the largest financial transaction of your life – you don’t want to make an enormously expensive blunder. But the buying process can be made far more manageable – as well as financially safer – if you take the right initial steps. So check out this brief guide to where to start when buying a home in Seattle.

Take a Hard Look at Your Finances

Buying a house may be the biggest financial decision you’ll ever make, so before you take the plunge you want to be sure your finances are solid. Your first step toward buying a home in Seattle should be to take a close and hard look at your finances. A careful audit of your financial situation will let you know whether you are in fact ready to make this big, expensive move. So before you even start looking at listings, take care of this important task.

First, consider your savings. According to financial experts, you shouldn’t “even consider buying a home before you have an emergency savings account with three to six months of living expenses. When you buy a home, there will be considerable up-front costs, including the down payment and closing costs. You need money put away not only for those costs but also for your emergency fund. Lenders will require it.”

You also need to review your monthly expenditures and spending habits so that you can know exactly what you spend each month and where. “This calculation will tell you how much you can allocate to a mortgage payment. Make sure you account for everything – utilities, food, car maintenance and payments, student debt, clothing, kids’ activities, entertainment, retirement savings, regular savings, and any miscellaneous items.”

And then you need to look at your credit, debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, and payment history. You will, of course, need at least the minimum required credit score, maximum DTI ratio of 43%, and a history of paying bills on time. 

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Determine the Type of Home and Features You Want/Need

Once you’ve reviewed your financial situation and made sure that you really are in a position to make buying a home feasible, it’s time to think about what you want and need in your new home. 

This means first figuring out what type of home will best meet your needs and suit your lifestyle. “You have a number of options when purchasing a residential property: a traditional single-family home, a duplex, a townhouse, a condominium, a cooperative, or a multifamily building with two to four units. Each option has its pros and cons, depending on your homeownership goals, so you need to decide which type of property will help you reach those goals.”

Next, you need to consider the features you need and want. A good way to proceed is by compiling a list of must-have features and mere like-to-have features. Keep in mind that “you’re making perhaps the biggest purchase of your life, and you deserve to have that purchase fit both your needs and wants as closely as possible. Your list should include basic desires, like size and neighborhood, all the way down to smaller details like bathroom layout and a kitchen fitted with durable appliances.”

You’re {market_city] agent can help you assess home types and features. To find out more, just call (206) 578-3438.

Find Out How Much You Can Borrow and Get Pre-approved

You know your homebuying budget, and you’ve decided what type of home loan will work for you. Now it’s time to start shopping for a mortgage lender. There are lots of lenders out there, including big brick-and-mortar banks with familiar names, online-only nonbank lenders and smaller, local banks and credit unions that may offer more personalized service.

Your next step toward buying a home in Seattle involves the mortgage. Primarily, this means finding out how much you can borrow and get pre-approved.

“Before you start shopping, it’s important to get an idea of how much a lender will give you to purchase your first home. You may think you can afford a $300,000 home, but lenders may think you’re only good for $200,000 based on factors like how much other debt you have, your monthly income, and how long you’ve been at your current job. In addition, many real estate agents will not spend time with clients who haven’t clarified how much they can afford to spend.”

In addition, in order to be perceived as a serious buyer and to have more negotiating leverage, you should get pre-approved for a mortgage. Pre-approval ensures that you can get the mortgage (barring any financial changes) and exactly how much you can borrow. It’s an important step because many sellers “will not even entertain an offer that’s not accompanied by a mortgage pre-approval.” 

Calculate What You Can Actually Afford

But just because you can borrow a certain amount, doesn’t mean you should. So before buying a home, you also need to calculate what you can actually and comfortably afford.

“Sometimes a bank will give you a loan for more house than you really want to pay for. Just because a bank says it will lend you $300,000 doesn’t mean that you should actually borrow that much. Many first-time homebuyers make this mistake and end up ‘house-poor’ with little left after they make their monthly mortgage payment to cover other costs, such as clothing, utilities, vacations, entertainment, or even food.”

And do keep in mind that the monthly mortgage payments are not the only expenses involved in buying a home. You’ll have many other recurring expenses such as property taxes, homeowners insurance, utility bills, the cost of maintenance and repairs, and HOA fees.

Hire a Seattle Agent When Buying a Home 

Emily Cressey- Always Here To Help!

You’ve got your preapproval in hand and know what kind of house you’re looking for, so let’s find someone to help you look. The right real estate agent can make a huge difference throughout the process of buying a house, from knowing the ins and outs of the local market to providing moral support when the search feels endless to helping you negotiate with a seller.

It’s a good idea to interview at least three agents. Ask people you know who’ve recently bought a home whether they’d recommend their agent. There’s just one hard-and-fast “don’t” here: Don’t use the real estate agent who’s selling the home you’re hoping to buy. You want your own agent who will advocate and negotiate on your behalf.

A good agent can help you find a home that meets your needs and is within your price range, as well as assist with all the paperwork and negotiate the best deal possible. In fact, in today’s real estate environment, a good agent is right next to indispensable – and we have the agents you need. So if buying a home is your goal, be sure to contact us today at (206) 578-3438.

Emily Cressey

Emily Cressey is a real estate broker residing in Lake Forest Park, WA who services the Greater Seattle area including Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Brier, Lynnwood, Kenmore, Bothell and Edmonds, WA.

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