Ringing in the New Year with a New House in Atlanta

New Home for New Years

If you are wishing Santa leaves a new house under the tree in Atlanta, now is a good time to get prepared for what happens next--once he's up the chimney you are alone for mortgages and moving. Even if you've purchased a home before, it is not a bad plan to brush up on your home buying and moving skills so when the time comes, you maneuver it like a pro.

Financial Check-Up in Atlanta

First, get your finances in order. Unless you are paying cash for a residence, you will need to have a mortgage. While mortgage lending rules have loosened a little recently, you will still need to have all your financial matters straightened out and tidy before you sit down with a loan officer (even a virtual one). Request a copy of your credit report to make certain you haven't been a victim of identity theft, and confirm all your bills have been paid in a timely fashion. If you see something that does not look right, contact the credit reporting agency to report inaccurate information.

It's always a grand idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage. In some parts of the country the real estate market never slows down, and you want to be ready to make an offer on a home when you discover it. Currently, many sellers won’t even acknowledge an offer without a pre-approval from a lender. Do not confuse a pre-approval with 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 home. A pre-qualification reflects that they looked through your credit report and if all other factors line up then they'll consider a loan.

I Want....

You want it all in the new home—the best schools, outdoor kitchen, open floor plan, modern landscaping, privacy, friendly neighbors, and low real estate taxes. Most likely you're going to need to make one or two compromises somewhere, so go ahead and make your wants list and your needs list, and see where the two intersect. Regardless of your budget you are not going to find all of the things that you want, so pay closest attention to on your needs. If you need to be in a certain school district, or you need to be within a certain mileage of the airport, or you have five kids and need five bedrooms, those non-negotiables need to be at the top of your list. House-hunting is the ultimate Goldilocks experience, so don't even bother with homes that are too big or tiny, too far off the beaten track, or out of your price range.

It should go without saying, but needs to be said anyway, that your family should concur 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 specifics 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 acting on your behalf in a large financial transaction. Look for someone who's easy to talk to, that you can trust, and who really listens to what you are saying--if your limit is $350,000, she should respect that.

Your job when you are interviewing realtors is to be upfront about your budget and your expectations. If you have been pre-approved for $600,000, do not consume 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 so easy, you may even find yourself falling in love and making an offer sight unseen. In that case, ask Santa to put some boxes in your stocking.