If you are hoping Santa deposits a new house under the tree in San Antonio, now is a perfect time to get ready for what happens next--once he is up the chimney you're on your own for mortgages and moving. Even if you've owned a house before, it's not a bad thought to freshen up on your home buying and moving skills so when the time comes, you navigate it like a professional.
Financial Check-Up in San Antonio
First, get your finances in order. Unless you are paying cash for a home, you will need to have a mortgage. While mortgage lending rules have slackened a little recently, you will still want to have all your financial matters arranged and tidy before you sit down with a loan officer (even a virtual one). Get a copy of your credit report to make sure 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 seem right, contact the credit reporting agency to report inaccurate information.
It is definitely a grand idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage. In some areas of the country the real estate market never slows down, and you should be ready to present an offer on a residence when you find it. Currently, many sellers will not even look at an offer without a pre-approval from a lender. Do not confuse 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 house. A pre-qualification says that they looked through your credit report and if all other factors check out then they will consider a loan.
You want everything in the new house—great schools, outdoor kitchen, open floor plan, modern landscaping, privacy, friendly neighbors, and low real estate taxes. It is likely that you are going to have to make a few adjustments somewhere, so proceed 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 focus on your needs. If you need to be in a specific school district, or you need to be within a few miles of the airport, or you have five kids and need five bedrooms, those non-negotiables must be at the top of your list. House-hunting is the ultimate Goldilocks experience, so don't even bother with houses that are too big 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 needs to be on the same page 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 little details before your realtor turns into a mediator.
A Great Real Estate Agent in San Antonio
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 comfortable working relationship with--after all, you are going to be spending a lot of time together, and she will be acting on your behalf in a large financial transaction. Find 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've 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, make arrangements so that your realtor has blocked out the time just for you.
The internet makes house hunting so easy, you may even find yourself falling in love and making an offer sight unseen. In that case, ask Santa to put some boxes in your stocking.