Tips for First-Time Home Buyers Moving to the West Coast
Is this your first time buying a home? Take everything you thought you knew about home buying and toss it out the window. The pandemic has brought about entirely new circumstances, guidelines, and processes. Houses for sale are getting bombarded with offers in minutes as the seller’s market pushes buyers to compete in bidding wars and pay higher prices for properties. More importantly, the new norm has buyers looking for more space in less populated areas, or simply relocating to more affordable, practical locations.
Secondary markets — smaller, sought-after cities that are within driving distance to big cities and attractions — are seeing a surge in new residents as well. Cities on the west coast like Portland and Sacramento, for example, are seeing their hottest real estate markets in years due to the availability of space, attractive lifestyle, and affordability. Priorities for many home buyers are changing, along with the typical ways in which we prepare for buying a home. For those making a big move to the west coast, read along for some must-know tips and tricks for mastering this major investment.
Get financially prepared
Before you dive into the home-buying process head first, be sure that your finances qualify you for a loan, given that a mortgage is needed to purchase one. In order to be approved for a mortgage, you’ll need to have an appropriate credit history and meet a minimum credit score depending on the type of mortgage you’re applying for. On top of that, you’ll have to be able to finance a long list of common home-buying fees like closing costs, moving expenses, and a down payment, which can add up to tens of thousands of dollars. That said, experts recommend saving close to 20% of the cost of your future home to be in the best standing to purchase.
Determine how much house you can afford
When you get preapproved for a home loan, a lender will analyze your financial situation to determine the amount you’re capable of borrowing. Knowing how large (or small) of a loan you can get will directly impact your selection of potential houses, and also give you a clear idea of what cities or neighborhoods in which you can afford to purchase a home. Remember that the amount of money you’re approved to borrow does not have to be the amount you spend; it’s wise to stay under your allotted budget in case of unexpected expenses throughout the house hunt or during the early years of homeownership.
Get to know the west coast
Did you know that some of the hottest real estate markets sit on the west coast? In fact, six of the top 20 cities with the highest demand for homes in 2021 are located in California, plus one located in Washington. A handful of western cities are cited as some of the best places to live in terms of quality of life, too; Santa Barbara, San Jose, Santa Rosa, San Diego, and even Reno, Nevada all made the list. Many of these places are a great place to live because of their progress in the environmental movement, beautiful weather, and career opportunities.
Finding the right neighborhood for you
The first step in deciding the right location for your home is pinpointing the neighborhoods you can afford. Surf the internet to discover the cost of living in some of the appealing areas you’d like to live. Then, research local home values to see how much houses are worth and compare them with the listing prices of other homes for sale to see if buying a home in that area is financially sensible, and a practical investment for you. When looking at west coast neighborhoods, take into consideration crime rates, school districts, commute times, and proximity to necessities like grocery stores, hospitals, etc.
Make a first home wish list
When searching for a home, create a list of your needs and wants. Things you cannot live without in a home might be a certain number of bedrooms, a fenced-in backyard, or a two-car garage. Characteristics you can sacrifice for the right home might be a pool, a home office, or air conditioning. Think of these as items you can add on or adjust your home to accommodate them later on down the road. Laying out what you need prior to the house hunt will help you filter out the homes that are a waste of time, and highlight the homes that have the highest chance of being the perfect fit.
Carry out an appraisal and inspection
When you do find a home that meets your needs, be sure to complete an appraisal and inspection before signing on the dotted line. An appraisal will give you and your real estate agent a clear idea of how much the home is worth using comparable homes nearby so that you know you’re paying a reasonable price. An inspection performed by a professional will identify any red flags in the structure of the home, allowing you to familiarize yourself with its condition and discuss any future repairs to negotiate down the price. Both will provide you with a safety net before making any major commitments with your money.
Make moving and storage arrangements
For those who are engaging in a cross-country move, it may be quite a haul to get all of your furniture, clothing, and prized possessions to your new home. Especially if you have a considerable amount of belongings, it can be highly beneficial to hire a professional moving company in order to maintain the safety of your belongings. In the case that your new home is not move-in ready when you arrive, consider utilizing a storage unit to safely protect your items throughout the waiting period.
If you’re planning to relocate to the west coast, it will likely call for months of preparation. From learning about the home-buying process to getting your finances squared away and trekking across the country, it’s critical that you take each necessary precaution. For more information regarding moving and storage, head on over to our blog.
About the Author: Derek Hines
Internet Marketing Specialist
Derek is originally from the great state of Wisconsin (go Badgers), but is slowly becoming a Pacific Northwesterner. As part of the Internet Marketing team, he writes extensively on storage, moving and life for West Coast Self-Storage, based in Everett, Washington.