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In a ranking by Lending Tree, St. Louis made the top-ten list of desirable cities for millennials, and there’s no doubt that first-time buyers are finding St. Louis to be the perfect home base. If you haven’t yet made the leap to homebuyer though, it can sometimes feel like a daunting process. Luckily, if you get organized and prepare in advance, finding your St. Louis home doesn’t have to be so difficult. Here are a few tips prospective first-time buyers can use to make their transition to homeowners a bit easier:
This step benefits everyone involved in the equation — it allows you to form a relationship with a lender, it helps your realtor navigate with sellers, and it tells sellers you’re a serious buyer. Take your time finding a lender you trust, and use the preapproval process to establish your connection. That rapport is a great foundation for the mortgage process down the road. Pre-approval can also be the first big step of the home-buying process, but it doesn’t come with any strings attached. A pre-approval isn’t a commitment. It’s just preparing you for your mortgage application and showing you how much you’ll likely be able to borrow.
Set Your Budget
Getting pre-approved is a big help here, but you don’t necessarily need to use the amount you’re pre-approved for as your budget. While you certainly won’t want to go over, it’s important to really look at your finances and determine what you can afford. If you’re pre-approved for more than you can afford, you need to base your budget on what’s realistic. A mortgage loan may be a large number, but it’s important to know how to break that down to understand your monthly payments. Once you’ve established a budget, the key is to stick with it. Give yourself an absolute max to help make difficult decisions a bit easier. Being black-and-white with your budget will help you make a sustainable choice.
Know Your Must-Haves
While the list of things you’d like to have in your first home may be long, your list of must-haves should be much shorter. Like with your budget, getting crystal clear before you start shopping is essential. If you’re shopping with a partner, collaborate and refine your list until it’s something that feels right for both of you. Differentiate between things you’d like and things you’re not willing to go without. This will make the process easier for you and your agent. It will save you from looking at houses that just aren’t right for you, and it will help you narrow down your choices quickly.
Find a Great Real Estate Agent
Especially for first-time buyers, working with an agent can dramatically improve the house-hunting experience. As you search for your perfect St. Louis spot, you’ll have someone in your corner to offer support and advice and point you in the right direction. Develop a relationship with an agent you trust. Make sure you feel comfortable communicating and asking questions, and make sure they understand your specific needs.
Narrow Down Your Neighborhoods
St. Louis is a good size city, meaning there are many neighborhoods to choose from. While this is good news for buyers, too many options can quickly backfire. Just as you want to refine your list of must-haves, you’ll also want to refine your location preferences. Get specific with what you want in a neighborhood, and explore those that might be a good fit. Grab lunch, walk around, visit an event — spend some physical time in these places to see if you can truly envision yourself being a homeowner there.
For first-time buyers in St. Louis, organization and preparedness are the keys to success. When you’re proactive, enlist support, and get clear on your specific parameters, you’ll be off to a great start in buying your first place. For those homeowners already living in St. Louis, are there any other tips you’d offer prospective first-time buyers? Share them in the comments.