Also published on the Huffington Post.
You are so close to that roasted turkey you can practically smell it. Cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, you are looking so forward to this. Planning to enter the turkey-induced coma for the next several weeks, stopping at some holiday shindigs along the way, and landing at New Years sounds pretty good.
Not so fast.
Do you want to buy a house after the new year? Lots of people do. Those people will be your competition when it comes time. If you do a tiny bit of prep work now, you can alleviate your future crush of stress and get ahead of the competition so that when the houses are listed, you can respond quickly.
1) Find a Real Estate Agent
This one is the easy one, but it also takes a bit of time if you want to do it right. You’re going to be making what might be the biggest purchase of your life. You should ensure that your team has no weak links. There are plenty of agents out there but you don’t want to be stuck with one you have to replace mid-game. Ask friends and colleagues for recommendations, check online reviews, and make a short list. Then you should schedule times to chat, pre-holiday, when many agents are winding down for the year and gearing up for next year. You want to look for many things in an agent. Responsiveness, industry knowledge, strong negotiating skills - all of that is a given. But there’s also an element to this relationship that’s a non-tangible, as in, do you “click.”
2) Call a Lender
This is the scary one for a lot of people. But it’s so necessary. Most people wait until they see a house they love online before they make the agent and lender calls. But it’s often too late. How? Because remember all those other buyers who did their prep-work already? They’re ready to write an offer while you’re still lacing up your kicks to go to the open house. If you have the agent interviews mentioned in Step 1, ask them for their recommendations as they usually have contacts who close without a lot of hassle. You aren’t committing to anyone – just starting a conversation. Get their list of required documents that you will have to provide so that you can start looking for those now. And get a sense of what you need to do between now and purchase time. There may be a mistake on your credit report, it happens to all of us. It’s important to know now so you have time to fight it out with the credit agencies and get it cleaned up in time for spring.
3) Clean out Your House
I love throwing things out. I’m not sure why I had to read that tidying book to embrace how much I love throwing things out but it’s one of my favorite things. Don’t be shy in telling people now what your after-holiday plans are to buy a house and to not inundate you with fake wreaths or give your kids with more stuffed animals they don’t need. Just say no.
4) Call Mama
Or Dad. Or your Great Uncle Earl. And drop the hint that you’ll be buying a house. If they plan on giving you any gift money, now’s the time to pony up. Parental gifts are subject to less rules than receiving money from other relatives so it’s not as imperative to actually get the money in your account, but just know the amount that may be coming your way so you can figure it into your search. Typically, money from people other than Mom and Dad has to “season,” meaning, it has to be in your account for a specified time period. Otherwise, the lender will have to “source” the deposit, which means Great Uncle Earl has to provide proof that the money left his account and you have to show where it was deposited to yours. Poor Earl will spend an entire day at the bank and asking them for copies of his withdrawals, then to the post office to snail-mail them to you and they may not arrive in time for closing. Trust me on this. Unless it’s Mom or Dad, get the money from whoever is providing it, now.
I know, that last one is tough. If there’s anything I know it’s the complication wrapped up in families with money. But it will be more difficult to track later on, so have the tough conversation now.