If you’re about to embark on the home-buying process, you want to know how to buy a house the quick and smart way. The process typically takes two to three months, but in a seller’s market with low inventory and strong buyer demand, it could take six months to a year—or longer. But what if you could cut that time in half, without having to make any sacrifices? You’d do it, right?
Of course you would.
Well, you’re in luck! Take a look at our recommendations for buying a home the smart way.
1. Let the government lend a hand
If you’re in the process of saving for a down payment, you might be able to scrape together the remainder of the money by qualifying for one of the more than 2,200 down payment assistance programs offered nationwide. These programs provide home buyers with low-interest loans, grants, and tax credits.
If you haven’t heard of down payment assistance before, you’re not alone. Many people don’t know about these programs or assume their loans are more difficult to get than they actually are.
You’ll have to meet certain eligibility requirements in terms of income, occupation, or credit, but buyers who use down payment assistance programs save an average of $17,766 between upfront savings and lower monthly mortgage payments over the life of the loan. Visit Down Payment Resource, which offers information on programs, to find a program you could be eligible for.
2. Stay on top of new listings
You can see what houses are currently for sale in your area using realtor.com®. To fully stay on top of brand-new listings in your preferred area, however, ask your real estate agent to set up an automated email through the local multiple listing service so that you’ll get pinged every time a new listing pops up that fits your needs.
Tracking new listings in real time can give you an edge over other buyers, because you’ll be in position to schedule showings right away and potentially make an offer before another buyer even steps foot inside the house.
3. Consider buying a foreclosure
Many home buyers overlook foreclosed and bank-owned properties often because they fear the condition of the home. That’s a valid concern, because foreclosed homes are frequently sold as is—which means the bank is not going to fix any problems (even if you uncover them during a home inspection). However, buying a home that’s in foreclosure has a couple of big advantages.
It’s often worth the investment, given that foreclosed homes sell for an average 15% below the home’s actual value—and foreclosed homes often sell for less than asking price. Also, because there is less competition among home buyers in this sector of the market, you’re less likely to go up against other bids when submitting an offer on a home that’s in foreclosure.
To begin your search you can browse listings of foreclosures on realtor.com, which might also be marked as “bank owned” or “real estate owned.”
4. Certify that your finances are in order
Closing times are getting longer: On average, it now takes 50 days to reach closing, up from 40 days in 2015, according to a recent report by Ellie Mae, a company that provides mortgage solutions to consumers.
To close faster, your best move is to get pre-approved for a home loan before submitting an offer on a property. A mortgage pre-approval entails a lender running a credit check and verifying your income and assets, followed by an underwriter doing a preliminary review of your financial portfolio. If everything checks out, the lender will issue you a written commitment for financing up to a certain loan amount that’s good for up to 90 to 120 days.
Meanwhile, getting pre-qualified simply means you’ve discussed your finances with a lender and received a verbal commitment for the loan. Consequently, a pre-qualification can cause a home seller to dismiss your offer outright. And even if you somehow manage to sign a sales contract with only a pre-qualification, it’s probably going to take your lender longer to get the loan approved than if you had pre-approval.