5 steps to take before you look

Buying News
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Buying a house can be scary. It’s a lengthy process that involves several professionals, analyzing your financial situation, and even a little compromise. The property you buy isn’t so much a set of four walls and a roof as it is a place you’ll call your home for the next several years, if not for the rest of your life.

But worry not, we asked Boston-area realtors for help. Before you dive headfirst into the market, take heed and following these five steps:

Find a real estate agent

Surprise, surprise. Real estate agents want you to hire a real estate agent, but finding a home should not be a solo endeavor. According to Marie Presti of the Presti Group in Newton, your realtor cannot only guide you through the process, but should have a list of professionals at the ready.

“They would explain to you everything about the current market you’re buying in and put together a team: a lender, a home inspector, an attorney,” Presti said.

It’s easier said than done, however. Mark Triglione of Premier Realty Group in Reading suggests interviewing several agents to find someone who will help you get the most out of your home-buying experience.

One of the common mistakes home buyers is make is going with just any agent, Triglione said. “Make sure you’re getting hooked with someone that not only is familiar enough with the marketplace to lead you through it, but also knows you well enough to represent you personally.”

Establish a budget

A real estate agent will help you decide which neighborhoods or communities best suit your needs, but more important, what you can afford, according to Kimberly Allard of Century 21 Professionals in Braintree. Many buyers have an idea of what they can afford, but the calculation is much more complicated than looking at a monthly payment like rent, Allard said.

Shelley Sainato of Exit Family First Realty in Wilmington said buyers should also consider real estate taxes and insurance costs in their calculations. Pull information like your bank and pay stubs for at least the last two years, Sainato said, as well as check your credit score and see whether you need to improve it.

A lender will look at your credit score, assets, bank accounts, income, and tax filings, all of which can influence your loan amount, Presti said. Discussing these matters beforehand with a mortgage professional could untangle the complexities of the financial side of house hunting, she added.

Evaluate your criteria

“I tell my clients to make two lists: one is a must-have list, where they come up with a list of [needs] … ‘I need at least two bedrooms’ or ‘It needs to be in this neighborhood,’ ” Presti said. The second is a wish-list. “I tell them to come up with their top 5. If they have more than that, it would be too much criteria for what you can find in Boston,” she said. She cited things like location, central air, and a fireplace as examples.

Sainato said buyers should take their lifestyle into account. Do they plan on taking vacations? Do they want to contribute more to their retirement accounts? How long do they plan to live there?

There are external factors to consider as well, Presti said. If you have children, then evaluate the school systems. Also, see whether the community has what you love to do in your free time. “Your hobbies — people don’t think about those a lot. They’ll focus on schools, they’ll focus on price point, but they don’t focus on the extracurricular things,” Presti said. “Some towns have better amenities than others.”

Visit the area — more than once

If you’re considering a couple of places, visit them at different times.

“Do the commute,” Presti said. “A lot of people don’t realize that when they actually do it, the walking distance takes longer or the parking takes awhile because you can’t find a space, the traffic could fluctuate, etc.”

Presti also suggested evaluating the Walk Score. If you’re used to going shopping in malls or grocery shopping or stores, you might want to look at places that are close to them, she said.

“In the city, you walk to everything. Even in some of the suburbs, you can walk to certain things,” Presti said. But “you may not be able to afford the towns closer to Boston. If walking is something you still want to be doing, there may not be 10 things to walk to, but you could walk to maybe a Dunkin’ Donuts or the public library or even the post office.”

Be prepared emotionally

Searching for a home is rarely a smooth process. There are ups and downs, sacrifices, and lots of considerations that go into finding a property. Buyers need to go into the search process and be prepared emotionally for the journey ahead, Allard said.

“Buyers are at different phases of their life. Some people are expecting a family, some people are downsizing because the kids are off to college, some people are getting married, some people are getting divorced,” Allard said. “Some people expect it’s going to be fun, and there are really enjoyable parts, but I always tell my clients to be cautious.”

It’s a seller’s market out there, and buyers really need to be prepared.