CLEVELAND - According to Angie's List, homeowners have a lot of research to do before setting up home showings.
Finances: Secure pre-approval
Get pre-approved for a loan before you start your home search - that way you won't run into any surprises, particularly in light of increased government regulation in recent years to tighten runaway lending practices, including the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, which takes effect in January. Though aimed at protecting consumers, increased regulations mean would-be buyers need to meet more stringent financing terms, such as lower debt-to-income ratios, and pay more in closing costs.
Angie's List Tips: Hiring Professionals
- Real estate agents: All states require licensure for real estate agents and most have sites that provide information on any disciplinary action taken against those licensed agents. Look for a professional who belongs to the National Association of Realtors, which requires members to follow a code of ethics. Avoid using an agent who represents both the buyer and the seller.
- Mortgage lenders: Look for a responsive lender that keeps the terms of the agreement consistent, giving fair warning, if those should change. Look for a lender who reaches out early and often to secure paperwork in a timely fashion, experts say.
- Home inspectors: Look for inspectors who go beyond state regulatory requirements, do continued education and belong to organizations like the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). Regulations vary by state and not all require licensure for home inspectors.
So how can you protect yourself? Independently evaluate everyone involved in the home buying process before you start looking at houses. Don't go with a lender or home inspector just because your real estate agent recommends them.