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Real Estate 7-Step Process
Sign up for an MLS alert service to search on properties in your area. A Multiple Listing Service will give you a feeling for what is on the market in your price range. Your agent can do this for you.
Start looking for houses within your range. Allow your realtor to start working for you, but know what’s within your budget and what’s not. The general rule of thumb here is that you can afford a house that’s 2.5 times your yearly household salary. For example, if your annual combined salary is $85k, you should be able to afford at least a $210k mortgage and very possibly more.
Start to think about what you’re really looking for in a home. You probably already have a vague idea, but the angel’s in the details. There are a couple things in particular that you and your family should give good thought to:
Define the area you’d like to live in. Scout out what’s available in the vicinity. Look at prices, home design, proximity to shopping, schools and other amenities. Read the town paper, if there is one, and chat with the locals. Look beyond the home to the neighborhood and the condition of nearby homes to make sure you aren’t buying the only gem in sight.
Visit a few open houses to gauge what’s on the market and see firsthand what you want.
Pay attention to overall layout, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, kitchen amenities, and storage. Visit properties you’re seriously interested in at various times of the day to check traffic and congestion, available parking, noise levels and general activities. What may seem like a peaceful neighborhood at lunch can become a loud shortcut during rush hour, and you’d never know it if you drove by only once.
Look at comparable houses in the neighborhood.
If you are unsure about the price, have the home appraised by a local appraiser, who also look at comparables. When appraising a home, appraisers will look for comparables or “comps”, homes in the area which have similar features, size, etc. If your home is more expensive than the comps, or the appraiser has to find comps in a different subdivision or more than 1/2 mile away, beware! Never buy the most expensive house in the neighborhood. Your bank may balk at financing the home, and you probably won’t see your home appreciate in value very much. If you can, buy the least expensive home in a neighborhood — as homes around you sell for more money than you paid, your home’s value increases.
Becoming a successful real estate agent is a combination of investing time in education, researching a broker who can help you get your first clients and passing state and national licensing exams.