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Tips to Land a House in the Spring Market

Although each month is composed of roughly the same number of days from one to the next, some seem to come and go with lightning speed. There's no better example than December, which is frenzied with holiday hoopla.

But once January, February and March roll around, things definitely seem to slow down - and in more ways than the cold gripping the vast majority of the nation. This is also true in the real estate business.

No two ways about it, as documented by the National Association of Realtors and other real estate and home listing agencies, summer is the busy season for buying and selling homes. If you have any mobile apps that alert you to potential homes that are within your budget, you're no doubt well aware that this is the case. Open house announcements were particularly fruitful this past June, July and August as supply levels edged higher. Houses are also remaining on the market for longer stretches, as evidenced in October, the most recent month for which data is available (36 days, up from 32 in September).

However, almost as soon as the vernal equinox sets in - signaling spring has officially sprung - the housing market really starts to pick up steam once again. No matter where you may be house hunting, "first up, best dressed" may be the best phrase to describe the house shopping rush. With the national median existing-home price having risen on a year-over-year basis for 92 months in a row, high demand hasn't let up for a long time.

However, there are things you can do right now to ensure that you get ahead of the rush when April showers bring May flowers and the wide assortment of newly available houses are "in bloom" as well.

Here are a few things to consider if you're considering buying a home in the not-too-distant future:

Get pre-approved

As previously referenced, the housing market is a first come, first served industry. If sellers know you're serious about buying, they'll be more receptive to your interest. One of the best ways of going about this is with a pre-approval letter in hand. 

As its name suggests, pre-approval is a status you can obtain from a lender, which indicates you have the financial means to buy a property up to a certain price. In order to get such a letter, your mortgage provider will need a few things from you for corroboration purposes. Items typically include W-2 forms, two years' worth of complete tax returns, statement of available funds, pay stubs and a copy of your credit report. These particulars will provide your lender with an idea of how much you can afford.

Keep in mind, however, that a pre-approval letter is non-binding. In other words, you will still need to go through a more formalized loan approval process once you settle on the house you'd like to make an offer on.

Raise your credit score

There's no getting around the fact that home prices are notably higher these days than as recently as 10 years ago. The pace with which they're rising is now slowing, thanks to improving inventory. Additionally, interest rates remain near record lows, which can help you save on your monthly mortgage expenses.

The best way to obtain a low interest rate is by improving your credit score. Generally speaking, the higher it is, the lower your potential rate. To see where you stand, you can request a copy of your credit report for free from any or all of the credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Simple ways of improving your score include paying off all your bills by their due date, keeping credit card balances low and applying for credit only on an as-needed basis. Contrary to popular belief, opening new accounts purely for credit diversification purposes has more potential drawbacks than benefits, according to Experian.

Buy now to save later

You may have already gone through the pre-approval process, leaving you to hurry up and wait for spring to roll around. It may behoove you to jump into the home search before winter ends, especially if you want to buy a place at an affordable price.

According to analysis conducted by ATTOM Data Solutions, which examined single-family home and condominium prices over the past six years, winter was consistently the season in which asking prices were at their lowest. Ohio, prices averaged 7.4% below market value in January, -7.2% in February in Michigan, -6.3% in February in Delaware and -6.2% in Tennessee in January.

And in terms of the days of the year in which prices were their lowest, they all fell in the month of December (4th, 26th and 31st), the study found.

Settle on the style

From Victorian to colonial to ranch to split-level, the types of houses are almost as numerous as properties themselves. Each offers its own pluses and minuses when it comes to curb appeal, practicality and layout. If you have a few in mind, try to determine the one that you like the most. You may want to speak with a real estate expert so you can get their insight on the ones that are most in line with your goals and family composition. This will help you with the selection process once places become available.

Shop around for more than rates

As important as it is to do your homework when it comes to the house you intend to buy, the same holds true for the lender you select when applying for a mortgage. There are tons of providers you can consider, some national, local and even those that are exclusively online. Understand that there's more to a lender than just the interest rate. You should also consider their reputation and the type of customer service that others can speak to. Talk to friends for suggestions. You may also want to go online to do some of your own research. The Better Business Bureau is a great place to start.

It's true what they say: How you finish depends upon how you start. We can help you get the ball rolling at Residential Mortgages Services. Apply today or contact us to find out more about the loans we offer.