This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.
Q. My fiancé and I are in the market to buy our first home. We currently rent in Arlington and are wondering how we should go about looking for a home from a timing perspective. Is it better to shop a few months before your lease is up so there is a clean break? If we buy a house and have six months left on our lease, what is the best way to get out of it? What are the best times of year to buy? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
A. I highly recommend getting the process started well in advance of when you actually want to move in to your new home. If for no other reason, it will create a more relaxed environment for you and your fiancé. It also gives you time to work out any surprises you may learn about during the mortgage pre-approval process.
Step 1 is to find the right Realtor for you. The Realtor you select should be able to provide you with some lender recommendations if you don’t already have someone in mind. The Realtor can also begin educating you about the homebuying process, current market conditions and what is available in your price range.
The lender will be able to help you understand how much you are approved to borrow. They will also break down how much it will cost you up front and on a monthly basis to purchase a home. If there is anything you need to address regarding your application, that can be taken care of now while you have time.
It usually takes about 30-45 days from the time you ratify a contract until you close and get the keys to your new home. It can take anywhere from a couple weeks to several months to find the right home. Therefore, I suggest getting started with the process at least three months before you would like to move.
Dealing with lease agreements can be tricky. They obviously vary from one situation to the next. In my opinion, the ideal situation is a landlord who will let you go month-to-month at the end of your lease. This will provide you with plenty of flexibility. In this situation, you don’t necessarily need to be out looking at homes quite as early, but it doesn’t hurt to begin preparing.
If you have a hard end date to your lease, then I suggest having a conversation with your landlord ahead of time. Despite the penalties outlined in the lease, they may be willing to let you out early, especially if you are willing to help find a new tenant to replace you.
The condo and townhouse markets tend to be pretty steady throughout the year so there is not as much seasonal fluctuation to account for. The exception is November through January when there tends to be fewer homes on the market and fewer buyers to compete with. The single family home market usually has the most homes to choose from and the most buyer activity from early spring through mid-summer. Sometimes we see an uptick in the fall as well.
You can either pick a time of year when there will be a greater supply of housing options and more competition, or you can pick a slower time of year when you have fewer homes to chose from, but fewer buyers to compete with. I’ve worked with happy home buyers every month of the year. I could say that it is a matter of preference, but usually it is more a matter of timing other events in your life, like the lease you mentioned.
The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.