So you think you may want to start house hunting in the Spring....Here are the first steps to take.

Know how much you can afford.  It's a waste of time to look at homes that are not in your price range. Talk to a few mortgage brokers to see who has the best interest rate and packages and what price range is best for your budget.

Contact me at www.homesnearnyc.com or talk to your real estate agent for mortgage recommendations. Besides from a low  interest rate, you want a mortgage company that uses local appraisers and has a reputation for being responsive. Once you make an offer on a home, the mortgage company will need to meet tight deadlines. You don't want a loan officer who can't meet the dates specified in the contract. If you have a few lenders pull your credit information at the same time, it should only count as one inquiry on your credit history.

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Once you decide to start home shopping, all other major purchases should be put on hold. Any changes to your credit rating can hinder the home-buying process. Do not apply for any credit cards, take out any loans or make any major purchases such as furniture or a car while you are shopping for your home.

Understand the timing.  Inventory is low right now. If you don't find a house that you love right away, you may be waiting a few weeks for more inventory. However, other buyers are waiting, too. When you see the perfect home, you need to be ready to make an offer complete with a good faith deposit and earnest money. Be sure to have the funds ready and waiting. Once a contract is accepted, plan for the closing process to take 45-60 days unless it is a cash transaction.

Go to open houses to help identify what you like and don't like about a home. 

Make a list of your must-haves and like-to-haves. Keep in mind that the longer the list, the longer your home search will be. It's highly unlikely that you will find a home that has everything on your list. Be prepared to identify what features are a necessity.

Find a real estate agent that knows the local neighborhoods and fits with your personality. You will be spending a lot of time with that person. You want to feel comfortable with him or her. Be sure to find someone who has the same communication preferences. For example, if you only respond to texts, then you want a real estate agent that primarily texts. If you prefer talking to someone, find an agent that answers your calls.

Select a real estate attorney. Some buyers assume that once their offer is accepted, the hard part is over. In many cases, the deal can fall apart during attorney review, the inspection period, and the appraisal process. Having a responsive detail-oriented lawyer who specializes in real estate will make the process easier and ensure that you make it to closing. Ask your real estate agent for recommendations. 

Happy house-hunting!

Shannon Severin is a long-time resident of South Orange, mom of 3, and real estate agent for Keller Williams Mid-Town Direct specializing in the sale of SOMA homes. Contact her at 703-304-7971.