Q: My fianc and I both have jobs that look like they will be secure so our parents are saying we should consider buying a house. We are living in his parents' house now. We don't have a clue on how to start the home-buying process so we could use a few words of advice.A: That is a very big decision and it is great that you are asking for advice. There are some great websites out there, and Amazon.com and local bookstores have plenty to read, but sometimes it helps to have the information directed right to you, so here goes.As you may have read in this column before, your first step is to find a mortgage company and with their help you can determine how much home your incomes, debt and credit scores will allow you to qualify to buy. To find a mortgage company you may start by asking at your bank or credit union if they have a department that does home loans. Beyond that, ask friends or relatives who they used for a home loan. Since the loan products you will most likely be interested in are pretty standardized from one lender to another, the deciding factor on which mortgage company and which individual to use in obtaining your loan may be determined most by how comfortable you are with the individual you meet with; and, how much or what quality of service you feel you are getting.Once the lender has determined how much home you can buy, the next step is figuring out what you may want or need in a house. You can do that on your own, or you can sit down with a Realtor to perform this step. For your purposes now, I suggest the two of you make a date to sit down and determine what you want in this home you now have financially qualified to purchase.Here are some questions to ask yourselves. I suggest that each of you answer these questions on your own, without consulting each other; then after you are both finished, compare your answers.• Would I be interested in a new construction home? • Or, in Grand Junction, might I want an older, historic home?• Would I be interested in a fixer-upper?• Do I have a preference for where in the Grand Valley I want to live?• Is neighborhood a priority? How about stability, quiet streets, other neighborhood factors?• How much space do I need and why? How many bedrooms, bathrooms and what, if any, specialty rooms do I need (art studio room, home office, etc.)?• Would I be interested in a condo? Or a townhouse, where my house is connected to the neighbor?• What do I want to live close to (examples: the Colorado River, a dog park, bus route or bike trails)?• Which is more important to you - location of the house or size? A small house in the Redlands, for example, might cost the same as a much larger house in another part of town.• Do I want to live in a neighborhood with a strong and rigid homeowners association and covenants?There can be many other questions you two put on a list to ask yourselves. This list will get you started on the thought process. When you have merged your lists I suggest you also prioritize since no house, even if you had an unlimited budget, could give you everything. This will also be a good exercise for you to see how you work together on a major project, but that is a whole other subject.Now head to the internet to search homes for sale in Grand Junction and see how the dollar amount the lender told you meshes with your priorities list. In some cases this can be a great reality check that may cause you to revise downward or may allow you to go the other way in what you can expect to find in a home you can afford to buy.Do what I refer to as pajama shopping - look at homes online before you go to bed or when you cannot sleep at 3 a.m. When you have a pretty good idea of the real estate market realities and your needs and wants, another time we can talk about selecting a Realtor to help you buy the best home for you.Best of success to you and have fun!Doug Van Etten is an associate broker with Keller Williams Colorado West Realty and is also the founder/organizer of the Real Estate Investors Network (REIN). Van Etten has been helping homebuyers, sellers and investors with their real estate needs since 1992. Contact Van Etten at DougVE@kw.com or 970-433-4312. For information on the REIN, info@REIN-WesCO.org.
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