Like the rest of the country, Bucks County has been experiencing a hot real estate market. This highly desirable region offers great schools, charming downtowns, world class health care, and proximity to Philadelphia, Central New Jersey, and New York City. Currently, the median sold home price in Bucks is $410,000, up about 7% year-over-year. If you are a buyer looking for a place to call home in Bucks County, you’ll have to grapple with the challenges of a seller’s market. In this article, we’ll help you organize your priorities and get clear about your budget so you can successfully navigate the Bucks County real estate market.
1. Get organized.
Start by capturing all your ideas. Then you’ll be able to cull them later on. If you’re buying a home with your partner or family, you’ll want to involve them in this process, too. Collaborate on a physical list (get creative by having everyone write their home wants and needs on a large poster or white board) or use a shared digital document that everyone can add to in real time.
Items on your home buying wish list will generally fall into these categories:
- Size (square footage, number of bedrooms) and architectural style
- Location (neighborhoods, school districts, proximity to amenities)
- Interior features (kitchen, bathrooms, fireplace, home office, etc.)
- Exterior features (landscaping, garage, size of yard, porch/deck/patio)
- Systems (central air conditioning, electric, etc.)
2. Calculate how much you can afford.
Once you’ve captured all your ideas, it’s vital to figure out how much house you can actually afford. No matter what your priorities look like, this budget is going to ultimately determine your price range, which will ultimately help you narrow down your wants vs. needs for your new home.
The best first step toward figuring out how much you can afford is to get pre-qualified for a mortgage loan. Most real estate agents will also ask for a pre-qualification letter before showing you homes. Getting pre-qualified signals your seriousness to sellers, as well, making you a more competitive candidate when you make an offer.
Contact our Residential Mortgage Specialist to begin the pre-qualification process. We’ll just need to collect some basic information from you and check your credit. Then we can provide you with a borrowing limit, valid for a certain amount of time.
Of course, just because you can borrow a certain amount to buy a home doesn’t mean you should. Look at your whole budget to determine what amount will be most comfortable for you to afford. For example, a family with young children that incur childcare expenses may want to borrow less than they’re qualified for. And you also need to account for your down payment, moving costs, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, closing costs, and saving for emergencies.
3. Determine your priorities.
Once you have a home price range in mind, it’s time to cull your initial list of wants and needs by deciding on your top priorities. This will help you narrow down your options and make hard choices if necessary.
Using the categories listed above, narrow down your wish list to the top one or two priorities for each category. For example, your list might end up looking something like:
Size and architectural style
- Second floor
- X number of bedrooms so you can have a home office
- Walkable to downtown strip of restaurants and shops
- In a particular school district
- Spacious kitchen
- Screened-in porch
- Two-car garage
- Newer HVAC with Central Air
Again, this is just an example–your list of priorities will reflect your life and circumstances. Ask yourself these questions to help hone in on your priorities:
- How long do you plan to live in this home?
- Is it your “forever home” where you want to spend the rest of your days, or is this just a starter house?
- Will you be able to live without some features in your starter house that you want to have in your forever home?
- What are your favorite and least favorite things about your current living space?
- If you’ve found a great home that meets most, but not all, of your needs, can this be remedied with a remodel?
- Consider the costs of what the remodel might run you, and determine if that is still within your overall budget. For example, if you’ve found a perfect house in a great neighborhood, but the basement is unfinished, you might want to consider the costs of remodeling at a later date rather than crossing that property off your list.
4. Research home loans.
As you compile your list of wants vs. needs and create a budget for your home, you may also want to start researching mortgage loan options. Contact our Residential Mortgage Specialist to learn more about fixed vs. variable rate home loans and other choices you have when applying for a mortgage. If this is your first home, you may qualify for our exclusive First-Time Homebuyer Program.
5. Talk to an experienced real estate agent.
When choosing a buyer’s agent to work with, look for someone with at least a few years of experience working in your local real estate market. An experienced agent can help you determine whether your wishlist is realistic or not and what kinds of compromises you may have to make in order to find a home in your price range.
Apply online for a Bucks County home loan!
Ready to apply for a mortgage in Bucks County? At The First, we have an easy application process with quick decision-making from our locally based team. Whatever stage of the homebuying journey you are in, we can help you buy your first or second house, leverage the equity in your home, or build your dream home. Contact us to learn more, apply online, or visit one of our 12 locations in Doylestown, Fairless Hills, Jamison, Langhorne, Levittown, Newtown, Richboro, Solebury, Warminster, Washington Crossing, and Wrightstown.