Ringing in the New Year with a New House in Atlanta
Financial Check-Up in Atlanta
First, get your finances in order. Unless you are paying cash for a residence, you'll need a mortgage. While mortgage lending rules have slackened a bit recently, you will still need to have all your money matters organized and tidy before you talk with a loan officer (even a virtual one). Request a copy of your credit report to make sure you haven't been a victim of identity theft, and double check that all your bills have been paid on time. If you see something that doesn't appear correct, contact the credit reporting agency to report wrong information.
It is definitely a good idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage. In some parts of the country the real estate market never slows down, and you need to be ready to make an offer on a residence when you discover it. Anymore, a large number of sellers will not even entertain an offer without a pre-approval from a lender. Don't confuse a pre-approval and a pre-qualification; the pre-approval reflects that your credit and income are already okay--sometimes already underwritten--with the lender, you just need to find a house. A pre-qualification shows that they looked through your credit report and if all other factors line out then they will consider a loan.
You want it all in your new residence—the best schools, outdoor kitchen, open floor plan, modern landscaping, privacy, friendly neighbors, and low real estate taxes. It is likely that you're going to need to make a few concessions somewhere, so go ahead and make your wants list and your needs list, and see where the two intersect. Regardless of your budget you're not going to get everything you want, so focus on your needs. If you need to be in a certain school district, or you need to be within a few miles of the airport, or you have five kids and need lots of bedrooms, those non-negotiables should be at the top of your list. House-hunting is the ultimate Goldilocks experience, so don't even bother with houses that are too large or small, too far off the beaten track, or too expensive.
It should go without saying, but needs to be said anyway, that your significant other must be on the same page with the needs and the wants. If you want a large yard and your spouse would be happy with a high-rise, work out those little details before your realtor turns into a marriage counselor.
A Great Real Estate Agent in Atlanta
A wonderful real estate agent is not the one who is a "million-dollar producer" (this could mean she sold ten houses in ten years) or whose ads are all over billboards. A great realtor is the one that you feel like you can develop a comfortable working relationship with--after all, you're going to be spending a lot of time together, and she will be helping you through a large financial transaction. Look for someone who's easy to talk to, that you can trust, and who really listens to what you're saying--if your limit is $350,000, she should respect that.
Your responsibility when you are interviewing realtors is to be honest about your budget and your expectations. If you have been pre-approved for $600,000, do not waste your time or your realtor's looking at houses in the $700,000s. If you're relocating and have one weekend to house hunt, make arrangements so that your realtor has blocked out the weekend just for you.
The internet makes house hunting less difficult, you might find yourself falling in love and making an offer sight unseen. In that case, ask Santa to put some boxes under the tree.