Housing Counselor’s Corner: Tips for Navigating the Spring Housing Market

“My New Years resolution is to buy a home in 2019.”  “I want to buy a home in late spring so I can move during the summer and my children won’t have to switch schools mid-year.”  “Now that the weather is starting to warm up, I’m excited to go out and look at homes to buy.”  “I’m planning to use my tax refund money for my down payment.”

All of these factors and seasonal attitudes help explain why the real estate market heats up in the spring.  With an increased number of buyers, real estate professionals often find themselves with more customers in the spring than any other time of the year.  Typically, buyers will have the most homes to choose from in the spring because sellers know that there is usually an increased number of buyers during that time of year.  Looking at prospective homes to buy is fun and exciting, but your path to homeownership should ALWAYS start with securing the right financing. Working with a loan officer before you start working with a real estate agent is key in being able to put in an offer confidently when the right house comes along.

Here is a short list of the important people in the home buying process and a few tips for navigating the spring market:

You (aka the buyer) You may not be a real estate professional but you are the most important person in this process because it is your process. You know your budget and personal financial situation and you know what you can afford monthly for a mortgage.  If you need help working through your personal finances, you can always contact Piedmont Housing Alliance to meet with a housing counselor who will help you map out your credit, income, savings and debt.

Loan Officer (aka Lender, or Loan Originator) This person helps you get a loan (mortgage) to buy your home.  They may work for a bank or a mortgage company. He/she is the professional who knows what loans are available to you and what you need to do to qualify for them.  After you have a good sense of what you can afford to pay monthly for your mortgage payment, schedule a time to meet with a loan officer.  After you go through their qualification process, they will issue you a pre-qualification or let you know what you need to do before you are mortgage ready.

Spring Market Tip: A loan officer that makes time to meet with you in person during the “busy” season shows they are dedicated to providing you good quality service. 

Real Estate Agent (often called a REALTOR© ) A real estat agent will show you the inside and outside of homes you are interested in looking at that are in your price range. The real estate agent will not know what is in your price range until you have been prequalified with a loan officer.  Real estate agents often know a lot about home loans but they cannot provide you a loan – you must go through a loan officer to get a loan for your home.

Spring Market Tip: A real estate agent that encourages you to speak with a loan office before showing you a home is not brushing you off; they are making sure you make the right first step in buying your first home.

Home Inspector This is the professional you hire to inspect your home before you decide to continue with purchasing it but after you have a ratified contract to purchase.  Here is a fact sheet from HUD about home inspections and what to ask home inspectors before you hire them.

Spring Market Tip: Call your home inspector when you submit your offer to see how quickly they can inspect the property if your offer is accepted – a short timeline on a home inspection can make your offer more appealing to a seller. 

Settlement Agent (aka closing agent) – This is the professional or team of professionals who bring all of the different parts of the home purchase transaction together and provide you the paperwork to sign when you finally close on your home. They can be a real estate attorney or a settlement company.  The buyer can choose their settlement agent.  Fees vary so it is a good idea to shop around for this before you go under contract.

Spring Market Tip: Scheduling your closing with your settlement agent near the middle of the month can make your transaction less stressful in case it has to be moved back a few days for any reason.

The most important thing to remember: You can never get prequalified too early – a loan officer will work with you through any issues that might be keeping you from getting qualified and Piedmont Housing Alliance’s housing counselors can provide free one-on-one sessions to show you what to do to achieve homeownership.

Marcella Johnson – Townefirst Mortgage, Chris and Jenna Stiltner – Atlantic Coast Mortgage, Julia Roberts – Fulton Mortgage, Curtis White – M&T Bank, Ken Mextorf – George Mason Mortgage, and Alfonso Martinez – 1st Dominion Realty all contributed to this blog post.