The Los Angeles housing market is one of the most volatile in America. In some ways, it’s possible to talk about the “American real estate market,” but you can almost never include Los Angeles in those discussions. LA is its own unique and wonderful situation—so how can you find your dream home in the fast-paced world that is the Los Angeles housing market?
Start With Pre-Approval
Your dream home journey must begin with pre-approval for a mortgage. Get pre-approved before you start looking at houses online, before you start driving around neighborhoods and dreaming, and definitely before you start calling owners to set up viewings. There are some key benefits that come with pre-approval:
You Know Exactly What You Can Afford
When you get pre-approved for a mortgage, the financial lender will go over your finances, your credit situation, and your assets with a fine-tooth comb. Your financial lender is an expert in helping people understand what they can really afford in monthly payments for a mortgage. With the lender’s expertise, you’ll be able to understand exactly what your price range is.
Once you know your price range, you know what houses to look at; but the benefits don’t stop there. When you know your budget, you can effectively make decisions about what items are non-negotiable.
You Look Like a Serious Buyer
Many homeowners won’t even consider showing to someone who hasn’t already been pre-approved for a mortgage. Your pre-approval letter shows that you’re in the market, you’re serious about buying, and someone is willing to lend you enough money to cover the price of the property you’re looking at. When sellers know you’re serious, they’ll be willing to negotiate.
You’re Ready to Jump
The housing market in LA is fast-paced. If you see a property you love, you must be able to make an offer on it quickly. On average, empty homes only stay on the market for two weeks in LA, and if you have to wait to get pre-approved, you’re almost guaranteed to miss out.
You Know if You Can Remodel
What if you find the perfect property for a great price, but it needs a new roof? If you’ve not been pre-approved, it gets tougher to work through these what-if situations. If you know your budget clearly, you’ll know whether you can consider a remodel should you find a home that’s otherwise perfect for you.
Craft Your List
Before you get too serious about looking at properties, and once you know exactly what your budget is, it’s time to build a list of things you must have, things you would like to have, and things that are deal breakers for you in a property.
These should be things you or your family absolutely require in a home. Must-haves can include something meaningful to you in particular, like an outdoor barbecue area where you can host friends. Or, they might be things that are necessary to family life, such as proximity to schools or no stairs, so life is simple for an elderly relative.
After the non-negotiables are decided, go ahead and dream about what you would like to have but would be willing to give up under the right circumstances. The more specific you are in all these criteria, the faster you’ll be able to identify a home that’s perfect for you. You might also be surprised at how clear your expectations are once you sit down and hash them out.
Deal breakers are things that make a property impossible for you to even consider. Examples of deal breakers might be too great a distance from local schools, no grocery store within walking distance, HOA restrictions that don’t allow you to use the property the way you want to, or even something as simple as elements to the kitchens or bathrooms that you hate.
Keep Track of Your Visits
As you look at properties, you will find yourself starting to get a little confused. Keep track of what you liked and didn’t like and anything that you learned or wanted to adjust about your list every time you look at a property. If you don’t, you may easily find yourself saying, “remember that Cape Cod with the pool?” only to hear your significant other reply, “Which one?” Here’s how to keep track effectively:
- Write down locations and distance in miles from highway exits, parks, schools, etc
- Take a picture of the front and any features you loved/hated
- Make notes when you’re done, including your first impressions and feelings
Choose Your Neighborhood
You should be able to find an area that ticks all the boxes of your must-have criteria in terms of commute, local shopping, nightlife, school district, etc. In fact, there may be more than one neighborhood that seems to fit the bill on the surface. Just remember that a neighborhood is a very personal thing, and only you can decide if it’s ultimately the right neighborhood for you.
Once you have an idea of a couple of neighborhoods that might work, your next step should be to spend some time in those neighborhoods. Drive through them and take a look at what’s going on. Visit in the evening, after work, and see what parking is like. Get out of the car and walk around, checking out some of the restaurants, looking at the schools right at the end of the school day, and even noting how heavy traffic is early in the morning. If you meet local people, don’t be afraid to ask them what they love, or don’t love, about where they live.
Narrow It Down
In all honesty, you probably cannot make a decision among more than three good properties. Don’t spend too much time saying, “well, this one would be perfect, if…” While any property will probably have one or two things that you’d like to change, there’s a big difference between wanting to touch up the interior paint colors or repave the driveway and having to do a complete remodel on several rooms of the house to make it work for you.
Either a property is suitable or not. Keep a list in your mind, or on paper, of the top three contenders. If something comes up that’s better than one of these three, bump one of the contenders off the list, so you never have more than three. This will make it a lot easier to make a decision when you’re pressed for time.
Get Professional Help
The best way to navigate the Los Angeles housing market to find your dream home is to put a professional to work for you. Instead of floundering about in the dark, hoping to land on a property that meets your criteria and falls within your budget, you could be making efficient use of your time and only looking at serious contenders.
When you choose a realtor with plenty of experience in the Los Angeles housing market, you have access to their expertise about properties, prices, and neighborhoods. In fact, a realtor will often know about properties that aren’t even listed publicly on the Internet. Because LA does have such a fast-paced, volatile housing market, it’s even more important to get professional help here that it might be in another market.
You Can Navigate the Los Angeles Housing Market
Your LA dream home is available. The Los Angeles housing market is fast-paced, but Teresa Mack is an LA real estate specialist with her finger on the pulse of the community and the market. Contact Teresa Mack today to get her on your side and find the neighborhood, and the home, that’s perfect for you.