The hubs, SJ, and I recently moved from the Seattle area to Colorado Springs, CO. We met and lived in Boulder previously, and always knew we wanted to come back to Colorado at some point, so when SJ decided his job wasn’t working for him anymore, and I decided I wanted to write full time, we decided it was time. We listed our house, packed our bags and headed out.
How did we get started finding a new home? Here are 4 things we did to make the process as smooth as we could
Figure out the Money
This is probably the most important thing, and it’s the one you do not want to skip. There are 2 options here, depending on where in your search you are.
One, you can get a pre-qualification letter. This is good if you are simply curious how much house you may be able to afford based on criteria you enter on a lender website. You basically put in an estimate of your income and expenses, then after some magic algorithms, you get an amount you may qualify for.
To be very clear: You are not approved for that amount. There has been no check by a lender, and this is mostly for informational purposes. We used this when we were first trying to decide if a move was feasible, and were curious what the possible loan amount might be. This pre-qualification is worthless to anyone but you and should only be used for tentative planning information.
Two, you get a pre-approval from a lender. This requires you to provide actual income and expense information and get a credit check. Once the lender or lenders you are applying with verify all your information, they will provide you with a letter stating an actual loan amount you are pre-approved for. This is what your realtor will require in order to make an offer on a home.
The pre-approval is still subject to final approval, which will happen after an offer is accepted by a seller and even more paperwork is submitted.
We obtained pre-approval from 3 different lenders. Each provided us a different amount and a different interest rate, so we can decide which one works best for us when we are ready to make an offer.
Familiarize yourself with the new area
We are already kind of familiar with the area, having lived close by for several years and having spent time in the Springs during long weekends. SJ also lived just south of the city, in Fountain, years and years ago, so he mostly knows his way around already.
Being familiar with the area was a huge help. We already had an idea of what neighborhoods we would prefer to live in, and what styles of houses we could expect to find in our price range (this is the land of split-level or two-story homes; single levels almost do not exist here. No idea why).
I also used the Redfin app, Realtor.com and Trulia.com to search for homes matching the criteria we thought we were looking for to get an idea of what those homes were selling for and any neighborhood information that was available, like HOA dues, nearby schools, walkability ratings, etc.
If you can, drive around the new area or city and see what parts you might want to live in or determine what areas you really don’t want. You can use Google Maps on satellite view for some information too, just remember the images may be old.
Determine Your Must (or Must Not) Haves:
Once we made it down to the Springs, we had a basic idea what was realistically in our price range and we had narrowed down our requirements for our future house.
Everyone’s list of must-haves will be different. Ours started out a lot longer, but as we realistically and honestly thought about what we really needed, it kept getting smaller, and now it’s this: 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, at least one fireplace, a 2 car garage, and no less than 1800 square feet of living space with a lot size of over 6000 square feet. We also wanted a single family home, no townhouses or condos.
Our must not haves were even simpler: no hoarder neighbors, does not sit on or back up to a major road, no open floor plan nonsense.
These are our basics, and we narrowed down the available listings quite nicely based on these, plus our maximum price ($350k if anyone is interested). This saves us time and money since we aren’t driving all over the city, wasting gas on homes that we know won’t work.
Find a Realtor
Yes, you can look on your own. You can even make an offer on your own. But I strongly recommend you don’t. I’m not a realtor, and I’m not affiliated with one either, so I’m not making anyone any money off this statement. But look, buying a home, for most people, is a massive investment. MASSIVE. The mountain of paperwork alone makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and cry for my mommy. But I don’t have to, because we found a realtor we really like, to work as our buying agent, and she takes care of most of the details for us. We just have to make the big decisions and figure out what we want to do. She pretty much takes care of the rest.
Ask around to friends, family, and co-workers. Then make a few appointments and meet with a few people. Let them know you are looking for a good fit and see how the meeting goes. Tell them what you are looking for, and what you expect from them, and LISTEN to what they tell you they will provide. Just like any other professional relationship, you should feel comfortable with your realtor and really know that they are working in your best interest.
My other tip for screening realtors is this: ask them to provide you with a list of homes based on your criteria, select a few from that list, and ask them to set up showings. I picked our realtor from the group we were considering because she was most responsive, actually listened to what we were looking for, and provided some insight into a few neighborhoods we were considering. This lady knows this area and it shows. She also didn’t flinch at my sarcastic sense of humor, and that takes a certain kind of person, the kind I know I can work with. She set up the showings based on our availability and didn’t rush us through or pressure us to make any decisions.
Those are my 4 tips for getting started on buying a new home in a new area. We haven’t found our home yet, but the screening processes is going pretty well since we did the above. Once we find our perfect house, I’ll post the details!
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