Spring Home Buying: How to Prep Now
You’re probably still finding Halloween candy wrappers in your dryer’s lint tray right now, so it’s hard to think about next year—unless, of course, you’re a military home buyer planning to buy a home in the spring. Then, March, April, and May are certainly on your mind.
Traditionally, there have been advantages of buying a home in the spring. The warm weather is easier to navigate, and it's a bit less busy than summer, but the last three years' real estate cycle has been anything but traditional. Some spring home buying standards hold true, but you’ll also need a lot more flexibility to find a home on a timeline you need.
If purchasing a home is on your to-do list next year, the time is now to start preparing.
1) Assess your personal finances.
You may feel PCS orders are the official nudge you need to become a homeowner. The military says you must move, so there’s no better time to buy a house, right? Well, maybe. The purchase depends on so many things, but your finances are the most significant influence on your decision.
Check your credit score and correct problems.
Well before you start home shopping seriously (lazy weekend scrolling for fun doesn't count!), research your credit reports and ensure you won’t run into any surprises when it comes time to find a mortgage lender. Hopefully, you won’t find any major issues like identity theft, but you’ll also have to look for incorrect information like addresses, payment facts, and account closures. Inconsistencies can affect your credit score.
Wondering if you can buy a home with bad credit? It’s possible, but you’ll need to prepare.
Save your cash.
You’re probably tempted, especially if you’re a first-time buyer, to assume you can handle a mortgage payment equal to your BAH amount. This strategy works for some military buyers but isn’t a catch-all statistic for most, particularly if you’d like to own a home in high cost living areas like Washington, DC or San Diego.
We all know homeownership is expensive, but many expenses are “hidden” because they extend beyond the property’s initial list price. You’ll need these funds to complete your purchase.
- Earnest money
- Down payment
- Closing costs
- Immediate renovations
- Emergency fund
You’re also responsible for not just the monthly mortgage payment but other monthly expenses, too.
- Homeowners insurance and/or private mortgage insurance.
- Property taxes
- Homeowners’ Association (HOA) dues
- Landscaping/pool maintenance/pest control services
After you’ve compiled these costs, look online for home buying and cost of living calculators to get a better idea of what you can afford.
Read Home Buying 101: What You Need to Know Before Buying a Home for more in-depth information about financial readiness.
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2) Work with real estate professionals.
Unless you have previous real estate experience, buying a home without representation isn’t usually a good idea. The 2022 National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers confirms that the majority of buyers agree.
- 86% of buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker.
- 89% of buyers would use their agent again or recommend their agent to others.
The knowledge needed to buy a home legally is overwhelming for a homebuyer who already has a day job defending the country. So, interview a couple of veteran or military spouse real estate agents and let their expertise guide your purchase.
Start your search for a real estate agent here: MilitaryByOwner's Business Directory.
What shoud you expect from a real estate agent familiar with military homebuyers?
Since they’ve lived the military lifestyle, they can answer questions about BAH, PCS timelines, and popular locations near military bases. Experienced agents will also share their go-to real estate professionals like lawyers, lenders, and title companies.
Your agent should also have intimate knowledge and plenty of experience working with a VA loan buyer. They’ll discuss the pros and cons of the VA loan and explain your eligibility, loan limits, and how to apply.
Emphasize that you’re hoping for a spring season purchase so they can detail in their interview what to expect during that time of year in your location and how they’ll help you find a home that fits your budget and list of must-haves.
Choosing the Right Real Estate Agent: A Guide for Military Home Buyers will help you find the best real estate agent match.
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3) Discuss projected spring market trends.
Your agent will discuss with you what to expect during a spring market in your chosen location. You should feel comfortable broaching all the topics that concern you, from low housing inventory to high interest rates. If the agent is experienced, they’ll know how to prepare your buying strategy to compete against challenging factors.
Your agent will probably discuss these home buying challenges.
- Low inventory
- High interest rates
- Competitive market
- VA loan restrictions and misconceptions
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4) Revaluate your property’s priorities.
What are your family's must-haves in a new home? If you’re headed into a sellers market, you’ll probably have to compromise on a few key issues. You may need to rethink:
- Location: Consider further away from the desired location for more availability.
- Price point: Increasing or decreasing your price point changes housing options.
- Home type: A single family home isn’t the only choice. A townhouse or condo might work, too.
- Home size: Less square footage could present new listings.
- Number of bedrooms and bathrooms: Combining a guest room and a home office reduces the number of rooms needed.
- Move-in ready: Opt for more DIY projects to get more house for your money.
- Amenities: Reduce your wants like a garage, large yard, gourmet kitchen, or bonus space.
If the military has a PCS scheduled for you in the spring, there are some positives to consider, like moving before the crush of the summer PCS Season. But you’ll need to dial into your personal finances and home preferences before the SOLD sign goes up in the yard. It’s never too early to lay the foundation for buying a home in the spring.!