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Buying and Selling a Home: The First Steps

Mary Ellen Vanaken

Mary Ellen was born and raised in Long Island, New York. After graduating from college, she worked on Wall Street for JP Morgan in New York City...

Mary Ellen was born and raised in Long Island, New York. After graduating from college, she worked on Wall Street for JP Morgan in New York City...

Jul 2 5 minutes read

Buying a home is such an exciting time that it’s no wonder buyers want to jump in and hire a real estate agent right away. However, if you don’t take care of a few key tasks first, finding your new home might be more frustrating than fun. To keep the process productive and stress-free, here’s what buyers and sellers should do before contacting the expert agents of the  Mary Ellen Vanaken Team.


Getting a pre-qualification letter from a reputable lender is the first step. Pre-qualification helps buyers determine how much home they can afford based on their finances. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau notes that lenders generally assess a buyer’s income, savings, debts, and credit history to estimate the mortgage they’d be approved for. Without mortgage pre-qualification, buyers might waste their time looking at homes that are too expensive or sell themselves short by shopping under budget. However, pre-qualification isn’t the same as pre-approval, which involves a deeper look into a buyer’s financial history and comes with a conditional commitment from the lender. You can learn more about the differences here.


If your initial pre-qualification or pre-approval inquiry indicates you won’t be able to get a favorable interest rate, there are a few things you can do to ultimately lower it. Strengthening your credit score by paying down debts, avoiding opening or closing credit lines, and disputing errors in your credit history can help, but this process will take some time. If you’re hoping to buy a home sooner than later, you can talk to your lender about paying for points on a mortgage. In doing so, you’ll pay your mortgage company a fee at closing, but you’ll lower your monthly mortgage payment. This option can be a good one for many, and you can use a mortgage points calculator to explore if it makes sense for you.


Once you’re pre-qualified at a rate you’re comfortable with, start browsing homes in your desired market. Online listings are a great place to get a feel for what you can afford in the local housing market, especially when it comes to square footage and amenities, but they don’t always provide the full picture. Research neighborhoods and school districts to narrow in on specific areas you’d like to live. If you’re nearby, spend time driving around and drop into a couple of open houses for a closer look.


If you’re selling before buying, your to-do list is a bit longer. Sellers who want top dollar for their home should complete deferred maintenance that will turn off potential buyers, like damaged flooring, rotted windows, and holes in the sheet rock. Anything you’ve been meaning to ‘get around to,’ do those things before listing. However, that doesn’t mean you should gut your kitchen or build a garage. Before spending money on expensive home improvement projects, talk to a real estate agent to learn if those improvements are likely to increase the resale value of your home.


Sellers aren’t always aware of issues that could prevent their home from selling. That’s why says it’s sometimes a good idea to schedule a home inspection before listing. A home inspector will assess your home from top to bottom, looking for defects and damages that would be caught during a buyer’s inspection. The pre-listing inspection gives sellers an opportunity to resolve issues before they stop a sale in its tracks.


Once you do hire a real estate agent, there are a few things you can do to make the most of the agent-client relationship. Always be clear and honest about what you want. As long as you communicate with your agent and trust that she’s working for your best interest, you’ll be able to sell your home and get into a new one with minimal stress.


Your real estate agent is your top asset when it’s time to buy and sell a home. However, that doesn’t mean calling an agent is the first thing you should do. Take care of these steps first so you can move quickly once a trusted real estate agent from the Mary Ellen Vanaken Team is on your side.

Article via Katie Conroy Image via Pinterest

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