What are the 10 most important things everyone should do to make home buying as simple and stress free as possible?
Find a reputable, experienced Realtor. Today's Realtor will not only help you find your home, but also guide you correctly through the whole buying process. Real estate transactions are very complicated with a multi-page purchase contract and numerous disclosures. Your Realtor will make sure you are protected contractually and legally.
Find a reputable, experienced lender (your Realtor should be able to suggest a few to choose from).
Get "Desk Underwriting Approval" from the reputable, experienced lender. "D.U. Approval" basically is full loan approval from the lender with the exception of the appraisal. If you find a great deal and put in an offer, chances are you might be involved in a multiple offer situation. If you have D.U. Approval, your offer will stand a better chance of being accepted over the other offers.
Figure out a maximum total payment (including principal, interest, taxes, and insurance) that you do NOT want to exceed, and then shop for homes in the price range based on that payment amount. Many times, a lender will qualify you for a much higher payment because they factor in your tax benefits from owning a home and they want to push you to the limit to allow you to buy a more expensive home. While it can be flattering for the new homeowner to say to friends "Look at my lovely home!", that lovely new home can become a source of stress and resentment if you are "payment poor" and all you're eating is Kraft Dinner and wieners. Put a sensible maximum amount you want to pay per month and then shop accordingly.
Educate yourself on the values of the homes in the city you are looking. Look at open houses, ads, online, your local M.L.S. (Multiple Listing Service), etc. When you are very educated as to what values are, you will be able to recognize the great deal and feel confident that you will not overpay for a property.
Go out with your realtor and view every home in your price range, even if they are in different areas. Sometimes a buyer will say "I have to buy in midtown" and then they see an incredible home for less money in a different area of the city, and all of a sudden buying that midtown home isn't so important.
Don't look at homes that are priced out of your range. All that does is cause frustration.
Don't be afraid to pay list price or sometimes even higher than list price for a home. Some homes (foreclosures, shortpays, etc.) come on the market at a list price that is way below what the true value is. Example: If a home is worth $250,000 and it comes on the market listed for $230,000, even if you paid $235,000 for the property, you would still be up $15,000.
BUY NORMAL!! What I mean by "buy normal" is buy something that most people find desirable. Buy in a popular tract that has a history of being able to sell quickly. Don't buy something that has a freeway or a busy street behind the home. Don't buy a place where you have to walk through one bedroom to get to another. Don't buy something where the back yard is 5 feet deep. Your Realtor should be able to tell you where the "sizzle hot" tracts are and point out if the home is suffering from functional or economic obsolescence. If you "buy normal", when it comes time to sell, you will "sell normal" which results in a quick sale at a premium price.
Don't wait to buy real estate.... buy real estate and wait. Real estate is a long-term investment. Unless you are a very experienced real estate investor, you should be looking at a minimum holding period of 5 - 7 years. That time period will allow for enough appreciation to make your investment profitable. But with that in mind, timing of your purchase is equally important. Realize that there is a thing called the "Real Estate Cycle" where values will go up during the up cycle, and go down in the down cycle. Try to buy when the cycle is on the upswing. Your experienced Realtor will be able to educate you where your area is at in the cycle.
Thats it! Follow those steps to make buying a home as pain free as possible.