online tools for home buyers

Buying a home can be more complicated than you might think. To make sure you avoid the pitfalls of things like unexpected costs or choosing a house that turns out to be wrong for you, it’s best to work with a realtor who knows the area intimately right from the start.

There’s a lot of research you can do on your own before you even reach out to a realtor.  Here are a few of our favorite tools:

  1. Check your credit score – it affects your mortgage interest rates. Use a free site like Credit Karma.  If your credit is not where you’d like I to be, check the reasons for the lowered score and make sure everything on the report is correct.
  2. The ‘rent or own’ calculator from the New York Times shows you how buying a home would compare to your current rent.  It’s interesting to see that your mortgage payment might be even less than it costs to rent a similar home.
  3. Use a mortgage calculator to figure out what you can afford to pay for a home and still stay within your budget. A good mortgage calculator (like shows you how much you would pay in principle and interest, but also includes things like private mortgage insurance, home insurance, property taxes and other basic expenses. Knowing all of that information can help you determine what purchase price you can afford. One number you need to add to the mortgage calculator is how much down payment you can afford.  There are many down payment options and programs available, so talk to your realtor before you decide what your down payment will be.  It can make a huge difference to what you can afford to buy.
  4. Neighborhood checks. Find a few different areas you would like to live in.  Check out the neighborhood’s crime rate with and to see what the neighborhood is like.
  5. Another good tool is the Trulia heat map.  This tool has a wealth of information, including market trends and places where you can buy affordable homes.

It’s smart to do as much research online as you can. But remember that an experienced realtor in Southern California can guide you through the process and help you find options you may not be aware of and are not readily available to the public.

Your realtor will help you find the right home for your lifestyle and make sure you have all the information you need about finances and other factors so you don’t have any surprises along the way.

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