Ringing in the New Year with a New House in Houston

New Home for New Years

If you are wishing Santa deposits a new house under the tree in Houston, now is a good time to get prepared for what happens next--once he is up the chimney you're on your own for mortgages and moving. Even if you have bought a home before, it is not a bad idea to brush up on your home buying and moving skills so when the time comes, you handle it like a professional.

Financial Check-Up in Houston

First, get your finances in order. Unless you are paying cash for a home, you'll need to obtain a mortgage. While mortgage lending rules have relaxed some recently, you will still want to have all your financial matters organized and tidy before you talk with a loan officer (even a virtual one). Get a copy of your credit report to assure you haven't been a victim of identity theft, and double check that all your bills have been paid by their due date. If you see something that does not look true, contact the credit reporting agency to report erroneous information.

It is definitely a good idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage. In some parts of the country the real estate market never slows down, and you want to be ready to make an offer on a home when you find it. These days, many sellers will not even acknowledge an offer without a pre-approval from a lender. Don't mix up a pre-approval with a pre-qualification; the pre-approval reflects that your credit and income are already okay--sometimes already underwritten--with the lender, you just need to find a home. A pre-qualification shows that they pulled your credit report and if all other factors line out then they'll consider a loan.

I Want....

You want everything in a new house—the best schools, outdoor kitchen, open floor plan, mature landscaping, privacy, fabulous neighbors, and low real estate taxes. Most likely you are going to have to make some concessions somewhere, so start and assemble your wants list and your needs list, and see where the two intersect. Regardless of your budget you're not going to get every last thing that you want, so concentrate on your needs. If you need to be in a certain school district, or you need to be within a radius of the airport, or you have five kids and need lots of bedrooms, those non-negotiables need to be at the top of your list. House-hunting is the ultimate Goldilocks experience, so don't even bother with homes that are too large or tiny, 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 family should 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 mediator.

A Great Real Estate Agent in Houston

A wonderful 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 solid working relationship with--after all, you're going to be spending a lot of time together, and she will be acting on your behalf in a large financial transaction. Look for someone who's easy to talk to, that you can trust, and who really listens to what you are saying--if your limit is $350,000, she should respect that.

Your job when you're interviewing realtors is to be truthful about your budget and your expectations. If you have been pre-approved for $600,000, do not consume your time or your realtor's looking at houses in the $700,000s. If you're relocating and have one weekend to house hunt, plan so that your realtor has blocked out the weekend just for you.

The internet makes house hunting less difficult, you may even find yourself falling in love and making an offer sight unseen. If that is the case, ask Santa to put some boxes in your stocking.