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The Early Bird’s Guide to Buying a Home

Planning to purchase a home this spring?

Then the last days of winter is the time to get rolling. Here, explains how to get way ahead of the pack before the busy spring home-buying season arrives.

  1. Find a buyer’s agent

Teaming up with a buyer’s agent during the winter offers several advantages. For starters, because business is slow, an agent can take the time to help you identify what type of home you want and to educate you on the local market so that you’ll have realistic expectations of what you’ll be able to find in a few months. Your agent also might hear of properties that are going to come on the market in the spring, which could enable you to get a sneak peek at homes before other buyers.

  1. Get your finances in order

Before you even lay eyes on a house, you should be looking at lenders. Why? Because lenders will help you get real about how much house you can afford. They will determine how much money they’re willing to lend you by checking out your financial details, from your income to your credit score and more. Plus, if your finances are less than perfect, you’ll be able to find out in plenty of time to make amends.

  1. Start previewing homes

You’ll probably do an initial consultation with your agent to identify what type of home you want to buy. However, you won’t really know what type of home you’re looking for until you actually step inside some properties. Your criteria can change when you begin seeing houses. For example, you might think you need a home with 2,500 square feet of living space, but that number could change after a few viewings. Your real estate agent can alert you to open houses to attend during the winter months.

  1. Scrutinize prospective neighborhoods

Have your sights set on a particular neighborhood? Winter is a good time to see whether the community will be a good fit. You can tell whether an area has good schools on paper, but there are a lot of things you can’t judge unless you go there in person. For instance, online research won’t show you what the noise level is during rush hour or what the neighbors are like. Those are things that you need to assess with your own eyes. And, if you’re concerned about traffic, go and test-drive your commute.

  1. Don’t rule out buying early

Even if you had originally planned to buy later in the spring, what if you find a home you absolutely love earlier? If you’re willing and able to move earlier, then keep an open mind with respect to buying a home during the winter. Granted, there are fewer homes to choose from, but there also is less competition.