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The first step in finding your perfect house

Published 12:29am Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The first step in house hunting may not be what you think. Yes, work with a Realtor who understands your needs and desires in a property and will represent your best interests. Yes, have an idea which neighborhood fits you. Yes, be flexible and open to different options.

But, first, contact a mortgage loan officer. This is the first and truly most important step in purchasing a home. Working with a loan officer will determine how much mortgage money you are eligible to secure, what programs or mortgage packages are currently available and which one best suits your needs. And, most importantly, what your monthly mortgage payment will be.

I recommend that the first place you start is with a local bank or credit union with which you already have a relationship. Simply ask if it offers residential mortgages, and, if so, make an appointment to sit with one of its loan officers. The meeting is generally informal, with you providing basic income and expense information. The loan officer will tell you what information to bring for your meeting. It usually takes about an hour. The loan officer will be aware of different packages and programs available that could help you buy the house you want, as well as at the monthly payment you can afford. Loan officers are an important resource, a knowledgeable advocate and a great ally who will work hard for you. And this recommendation is not only for first-time homebuyers. Current homeowners looking for a new property should also have a sit-down with a loan officer. Since their last purchases, circumstances have almost certainly changed for them, such as a larger or smaller family, a change in employment or income or just a desire for a new location.

Now in the digital age, I recognize that to “sit down” with a loan officer may mean over the phone or the Internet with national mortgage brokers. That’s fine as long as you’re comfortable with that arrangement and find that they have a program that works best for you. Explore both options. It’s a matter of personal choice which route you take.

Yes, now you’re ready to work with a Realtor and find the property that will fit your needs and wishes and, most importantly, with your wallet.


Scott Campbell works with Century 21 The Realty Group in Washington. Have questions about real estate? Email Scott at


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