If owning your own home made your list of resolutions, 2016 is already shaping up to be your year. While the Bayou City's real estate market held strong throughout most of 2015, the current forecast suggests that what has invariably been a seller's market may soon transform into a veritable buyer's paradise.
With new home construction remaining steady throughout last year and economic uncertainties causing some would-be homebuyers to cool their heels, home prices are dipping as Houston's housing inventory slowly increases. If these trends continue, which many experts predict they will, 2016 is poised to be the best time in years to purchase a home in Houston.
But favorable market conditions aren't all you'll need to keep your New Year's resolution. The right people and the right attitude will take you far in your pursuit of health, happiness and home ownership in 2016.
Find the Right Realtor for the Job
Sure, all Realtors have access to the same database of homes, but don't let that fool you into thinking all Realtors are created equal. To find the home you want, where you want it, you'll want to enlist the help of someone who understands your wants, needs and budget, and who specializes in the area where you are looking to purchase. Your realtor should come highly recommended by previous clients and have a proven track record of working with both buyers and sellers.
Use a Trustworthy Lender
Many first-time homebuyers don't begin the process of securing a home loan until after they've found the home they want, leaving little time to shop around. Before you start looking for a home, take the time to research and choose a lender who puts your best interest first. Your loan officer should be willing and able to explain the home loan process from start to finish as well answer any questions that arise. Rather than handing you a one-size-fits-all loan package, you should expect your lender to present you with all of the loan programs available to you and expound upon the pros and cons of each option.
Don't Assume You Won't Qualify
Many potential homebuyers are hesitant to set their hearts on the idea of a new home because they automatically assume they won't qualify for a loan. The truth is, while many big banks and other home mortgage options adhere to strict underwriting policies that can make it difficult for individuals with unique circumstances to get financed, there are alternative options. AmCap Mortgage, Ltd., for example, is a Houston-based company that operates using a philosophy of "making good loans to good borrowers." Their expansive list of loan programs, flexible underwriting approach, and customer service-oriented loan officers mean they can and will take extra steps to help deserving buyers secure the financing they need.
We all love watching HGTV and the magical transformations that happen in 30 minutes, but never lose sight of the fact these individuals are professionals with years of experience and teams of contractors on standby. A fixer upper or a complete renovation may not be the best bet for someone buying their first home.
And while everyone loves a bargain, remember that sellers sell homes to make money. You don't necessarily have to offer full price, but keep in mind that in a situation where there are multiple offers, your initial offer will likely be your one and only shot of purchasing that home.
While you can expect your lender to provide a list of required documents up-front (and should ask for one if they don't), your lender may need additional documents from you throughout the loan process. It's a good idea to get all required documents to your lender as quickly as possible in the process, because without them the loan process can grind to a halt.
Additionally, despite the recent increase in home inventory, the best homes still tend to sell very quickly — some sell the very first day they are listed — and sellers often receive multiple offers. The more flexible you are throughout the home buying process, the better the odds you'll come out on the winning end and your offer will be the one accepted.
The average buyer takes weeks and sometimes months to find the perfect home and execute a contract on it, with the average home loan taking 30 days to close from start to finish. Because the home buying and mortgage processes are highly interactive, your realtor or lender may need to meet with you periodically, whether it be for the initial inspection, final inspection or to sign your home loan documents. Avoid making any travel plans during the two weeks leading up to your scheduled closing and, if travel is unavoidable, make sure to be available by phone and e-mail at all times.
During the underwriting process, any changes to your finances or job status can impede your ability to get approved for a loan. Do not make any changes, including applying for new credit or taking on additional debt, that could affect your ability to qualify for your home loan without checking with your lender first. When in doubt — call your lender. After all, if you've partnered with someone from the AmCap team, your loan officer will be more than happy to take your call and illuminate the lending process.