In the real estate market, when there is low inventory, being a first time home buyer can be a frustrating experience.  We are going to give you some tips that will help ease the frustration by avoiding some of the problems that the unprepared buyer will run into over and over.

The first and probably most important step of the home-buying process is to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you even start looking at houses.  Pre-qualified is good, however, pre-approval is better since the buyer is further along the process and the lender will be able to let the buyer know what the proper price range should be.  This information helps you avoid the problem of looking at houses that are really out of your price range and  keeps you from being greatly disappointed.  Pre-approval also lets the real estate agent know you are serious.  In fact, most professional real estate agents will insist on a buyer being pre-approved before even showing a house.

Second, it is very important to know what you absolutely need to have versus what you would like to have.  Is that bidet in the bathroom really a deal killer, or is it something that would pretty cool.  Or do you really have to have a two car garage for your one car family?  Is a fully outfitted workshop necessary or can you plan on that for a future project?

The best way to hone in on the house that fits our needs is to prepare your list before you actually get started.  Create a chart and put the things that you positively NEED on one side of the chart. Then, itemize the things that you would really like to have, that are not deal breakers, on the other side of the chart.  Use this as a guide when looking at houses, and since you have already put in the effort to make the determination of what you need to have vs. what would be nice to have, it will be a great tool in your decision making process down the road.

The third thing you need to consider is the neighborhood you want to live in.  There are neighborhoods that are wonderful, except they are in the wrong location, wrong school district, or too far from work, or too near a highway, etc.  Look for the things you want in a neighborhood, such as shopping availability, convenience to highways, or cultural events, or recreation, or churches.  A wise idea is to drive around the area, or even on a Saturday morning take your dog for a walk through the neighborhood and talk to the neighbors.  They will be more than happy to tell you why they live there, and just might mention a plus, or a minus, that will impact your decision.

A fourth item on your home search preparation is to choose your house style and stick to it.  If you are OK with two stories, and climbing stairs, then focus on those types of homes.  If stairs are not your thing, stick to single story houses.  Is a split plan important, so that you can have the master bedroom away from the kids, or does it matter.  How much of a yard do you need?  If gardening is important to you, maybe a condo or townhouse with tiny yard won't work.  It also helps your real estate agent to find you the right properties.  Maybe you are looking for a 55-plus community?  That is the purpose of a buyer's consultation, where the professional real estate agent digs deep into what you need and want in a home.  

People with pets and small children have very different needs than empty-nesters or people who are retired. 

And a fifth thing for consideration, and very important, is to take notes on every house you look at.  Be sure your agent gives you a print out of the listing, with details on the house along with photos to help jog your memory.  After a day of looking at 5 houses, rooms start to blend and the red house with no fireplace actually may have been a white house with 2 fireplaces.  Write your notes directly on the sheet.  After each house, make the determination of which house you liked better, the previous one or the one you just saw. The one you like goes into the keeper pile, the other one gets tossed.  This way at the end of the day, you have one or possibly two houses for consideration, and not a hodge-podge of jumbled recollections.  Believe me, this will really help you in the end when coming time to make the big decision.

After all this preparation, when you see the house you want, since you already were pre-approved, and the house hit on every single one of your need to have items, you can easily sit down and write an offer.

Take all the time you need to find a house you really like and want, however, once you find it, move quickly.  If you like the house, there is a good chance someone else will too.  In a competitive market, your preparation makes a difference and every advantage you give yourself puts you closer to your dream home.