Whether you’ve spent years saving and preparing to buy a home, or are unsure if you can afford it, the questions surrounding a house purchase can feel endless.

Here are some tips to help you become your own landlord…

* Pre-qualify for a loan.

Your first step should be to get pre-qualified, which determines how much you can afford.  It allows you to move swiftly when you find the right home, especially when there are other interested buyers.  It also indicates to the seller that you are serious and really can afford to buy the property.

 

* Hire a real estate professional.

The second step is to select a professional to help you find your dream home and fine-tune your financial expectations.  Working with a buyer agent is worth consideration since he or she is legally responsible for representing the buyer’s interest in a real estate transaction.  Before making a decision, however have a Realtor explain the pros and cons of using a buyer agent versus a sales or dual agent.

 

* Shop for mortgage rates and terms.

A difference of even half a percentage point can mean a huge savings over the life of a loan.  For example, the difference in the monthly payment on a $100,000 mortgage at 8 percent vs. 7.5 percent is about $35 per month.  Over 30 years, that’s $12,600.

 

* Define what you want.

The next step is to create a realistic idea of the property you’d like to buy.  What features are most important to you?  Make two lists:  one of the items you can’t live without and one of the features you would enjoy.  Refine the lists as you house hunt.  It is also helpful to search online to see what is currently available on the market.  Your real estate professional can then show you houses that meet your expectations.

 

* Visit properties.

Now you’re ready to visit houses.  Ask your Sales Associate to arrange showings, and keep track of the properties you’ve seen.

 

* Know the features that help or hurt resale.

In some areas, a swimming pool actually detracts from a home’s value and makes it harder to sell.  In neighborhoods with two-car, attached garages, a single-car or detached garage may impact the home sale and future value.  Your real estate professional can point out features that hurt or help resale value.

 

* Rate the houses you tour.

After touring each home, write down what you liked and didn’t like.  Develop a rating system that will help narrow the field down.  For example, pick the house you like best on day one and compare all other houses to it.  When you find a better one, use the new favorite as the standard.