Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned home buyer, shopping for a new home can feel daunting. Buying a home is a big commitment of both time and money. Plus a home purchase has the power to improve your quality of life and your future financial security, so the stakes are high.

Follow these five steps to assess your priorities, streamline your search and choose your next Mammoth Lakes home with confidence.

Step 1: Set your goals and priorities.

The first step in finding your ideal home is knowing why you want to move. Do you want more space? Is this a second home? Would you rather live in a house than a condo (or vice versa)? Are you looking for something with less maintenance or a single-level floor plan? Figuring out why you want to move will help you nail down your priorities.

Don’t forget to think about how your life circumstances might change over the next few years. Do you plan to change jobs? Have more children? See your children off to college? A good rule of thumb is to look for a home that will meet your family’s needs for the next 5-7 years.

Step 2: Determine your budget.

Financial professionals often recommend following the 28/36 rule to figure out how much you can afford to spend on a home. This rule says you should spend no more than 28% of your gross monthly income on housing expenses (mortgage, taxes, insurance, etc.) and a maximum of 36% of your gross monthly income on your total debt obligations (housing expenses PLUS any other debt obligations like car loans, student loans, credit card debt, etc.)

The 28/36 rule only provides a rough guideline. Of course it you are purchasing as a second home and/or investment, the guidelines change especially if you plan on renting to generate cash flow from the property.  Getting pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before you start home shopping will give you a more accurate idea of how much you can borrow. Add your pre-approved mortgage amount to your down payment to figure out your maximum purchasing potential.

Step 3: Choose a location.

When house hunting in an urban area, this step often takes into consideration commute times, school districts, etc. But in Mammoth Lakes, the location factors you’ll want to consider are things like how close the property is to the ski mountain, the gondola, The Village, bus lines, schools, restaurants, etc. Luckily in our 4-square-mile town, nothing is too far away.

Since Mammoth Lakes is a resort town, you might also want to consider the re-sell or renting potential. Different neighborhoods have different zoning regulations, so if you think you might want to rent out your home on a nightly basis down the line, be sure your real estate agent can find appropriate properties for you.

Step 4: Decide what you need (and want) in a home.

Start with the basics like number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, and square footage. Do you want a one-story or two-story layout? Do you want other amenities like a hot tub/spa, a garage, etc.?

You might not find a Mammoth Lakes home with all of your “wants” or even all of your “needs” at a price you can afford. Most of us have to make a few compromises when buying a home. If you’re facing a tough choice about how or what to compromise in your home search, go back to Step 1 and consider your original goals and motivations for moving. Reminding yourself of your priorities can often provide helpful clarity.

Step 5: Meet with a real estate agent.

A good real estate agent can lessen the stress and uncertainty of buying a new home. From setting goals to securing a loan to selecting the best neighborhood, my job is to assist you every step of the way. It’s never too early (or too late) to get in touch with an agent about buying a home.

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