Congratulations! You and your spouse have decided it’s time to purchase a home. That’s the first step. Shopping for a home can be exciting and educational, but it can also be stressful, especially in the Austin housing market. We recommend you follow these guidelines for a smooth shopping and home buying process.
Find the Right Real Estate Agent
Look for someone you trust and who you can depend on to be readily available, whether you’re visiting a home at noon on a Monday or spending an entire weekend exploring different neighborhoods. Homes for sale in Austin go very quickly, so you and your realtor need to be able to take action and make decisions without delay.
Get Pre-approved with the Right Mortgage Broker
Your realtor may point you in the right direction, but be sure to shop around for rates. Like your realtor, your broker should also be readily available to answer questions and prepare statements, including at the time of pre-approval, during the offer, and throughout the mortgage loan approval process. Your broker will help you understand how much you can afford to spend on a house given your debt-to-income ratio and existing assets. He or she will provide a pre-approval letter for the loan amount you can afford, which can facilitate a faster buying process and give you an advantage in a bidding war situation.
Decide What You MUST Have in a Home
It is important for you and your spouse to decide what you can’t live without before you enter this process. Think through issues like how many bedrooms and bathrooms you need, what kind of square footage you require, and whether you want to integrate custom features. You can talk through these needs with your realtor, so he or she shows you homes that fit these requirements.
Consider whether a new construction from a custom home builder would best meet your needs. There are numerous amenities and features of luxury, custom homes to consider. Amenities can include an open floor plan, energy-efficient building practices, an in-home gym, a pool, or a formal dining room. . They could also include a guest or pool house, a gated entrance to the neighborhood, or waterfront views.
If you decide to go with an already constructed home, remember that some aspects, particularly cosmetic ones, can be changed later. If there is carpet where you prefer hardwood floors, for example, you can plan home renovations for after closing day.
Start Visiting Open Houses in Austin
If you are unsure what you want or are simply looking for inspiration, visit open houses in your area. This will give you and your spouse ideas and can bring up discussions such as kitchen style, design choices, and which Austin neighborhoods appeal to you.
See the House in Person
Don’t trust the photos you see online, and don’t buy a house sight unseen. See for yourself how large or small the rooms are, how wide the hallways are, and whether the shower is too small when you stand inside. Can you and your spouse envision yourselves in your new home? Take the time to visit and get a feel for the neighborhood vibe and amenities, too. Is there a tennis court or fitness center nearby? Is the home near good schools, and does it provide access to green spaces? Maybe most important: do you feel a sense of home when you walk through the front door?
Make an Offer
Once you have found the perfect house, it’s time to submit an offer. Your realtor will represent you in this endeavor. You likely will already have discussed with your mortgage broker how much you will offer as a down payment. Your offer is more likely to be accepted if you’re prepared to pay a larger down payment, particularly in a competitive housing market like Austin’s.
Get the House Inspected
Your offer has been accepted! The contract is pending. Once you and your spouse reach this exciting milestone, it is time to set up a home inspection. This is incredibly important. Never skip this, even with a new contruction or custom home build. Inspectors will make sure major systems like your HVAC work, the plumbing and electrical systems are in good working condition, and will even note if a tree limb is too close to your roof.
Assuming no major issues appear in the inspection, you and your spouse will close on your new Austin home 30 to 60 days after the offer is accepted. You’ll meet the current homeowners, their realtor, and your realtor at the title company to complete the required paperwork. After closing, you will receive the keys to your new house! Time to celebrate!