Congratulations! You’ve decided to buy a house in New Jersey!
While this is one of the largest purchases you will make, it can be incredibly rewarding. Whether you’re looking to get out of the rental market, grow your family or upgrade your space, Peapack-Gladstone Bank can help you navigate the process.
To stay organized and minimize stress, use our handy homebuying checklist. These resources and tools from Peapack-Gladstone Bank will guide you through the house-hunting process and into the New Jersey property that will eventually become your home.
1. Determine Your Budget
Before heading to your favorite real estate website, estimate your budget so you know what to look for. To get started, compare your total household income after taxes to your average monthly expenses and debt. Use our free Mortgage Qualifier Calculator to determine your budget.
2. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage
You’ll need to get prequalified and pre-approved for a home loan if you haven’t already. Potential sellers may not even look at an offer from a homebuyer who isn’t prequalified. Once you’re prequalified, you’ll also need to get mortgage pre-approval.
According to Realtor.com, starting the house-hunting process before getting pre-approved may indicate to sellers that you aren’t really serious. Full pre-approval can eliminate risk when it comes to making an offer and will speed up the closing timeline. If you are serious about buying a home, Peapack-Gladstone Bank can help you check this off your list.
As your mortgage lender, Peapack-Gladstone Bank will consider your credit score, income, debt and other factors in determining how much we can lend you. Explore our mortgage lending page for details on the pre-approval process and a full list of the personal information and financial documents you’ll need.
3. Determine Your Ideal Monthly Mortgage Payment
You can now calculate and compare monthly mortgage payments while house hunting. Use our Bi-Weekly Mortgage Payment Calculator to estimate monthly payments on your desired properties. Be sure to consider both your overall budget and estimated loan payment when deciding what you’re comfortable spending.
Once you determine your ideal monthly mortgage payment, you can get to the fun part: exploring options within your budget and figuring out what you want and need from your new property.
4. Decide What You Need
Remember to constantly weigh your wants against your needs throughout this process. Think about how long you will be living in your new home. Are you looking for a starter home, a house to pass on to your children or a smaller home in preparation for retirement? Will this be your primary residence or a second home? The answers to these questions can have a big impact on your budget, the kind of home you consider and the type and term of your mortgage loan.
5. Research Home Values in Your Desired New Jersey Neighborhoods
For most buyers, location is everything. This is especially true when it comes to the price of a property. When to choosing a neighborhood, it’s important to balance the cost of living with the lifestyle it can afford you.
Consider important factors that will impact your quality of life. Think about your daily commute and any traffic you might encounter. Find nearest grocery stores, shopping centers and restaurants, along with any other amenities that are important to you.
If you have children, research the school systems in your desired area. School districts have a major effect on property values in New Jersey. Even if you don’t have school-age children or any children at all, there are real estate benefits to living in a reputable school district. According to real estate gurus, good school districts preserve home value, so you can expect a quicker resale.
Once you’ve narrowed down your neighborhood, you’re ready to consider the features of your new home.
6. Choose Your Ideal NJ Home Type and Features
When it comes to the style and construction of a house, everyone’s preferences are unique. It’s important to keep an open mind and explore all options, because each style has its own pros and cons. Modern homes with clean lines, simple proportions and open floorplans will generally come a higher cost than traditional homes that could use some upgrades and TLC.
Decide how many bedrooms you’ll need. If your family is growing, opt for more space than you’ll immediately use, or consider a property with room for expansion. It’s also important to think about how much outdoor space you’ll want. If you have pets or kids, a yard may be a priority.
Be sure to weigh the costs of a newly renovated home against a home that needs repairs. New windows, floors and a roof will come at a higher price than changing the color of the kitchen cabinets or putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls. Some homeowners prefer making a property their own and budgeting for future renovations over buying new construction. If you have a lower monthly mortgage payment, budgeting for those renovations may improve your financial health in the long run.
7. Discuss Your Wants and Needs with a Licensed Real Estate Agent
The next step in the homebuying process is to begin working with a licensed real estate agent. Once you’ve found an agent you trust, discuss your wants, needs, questions and concerns. Share your budget, neighborhood, amenities and desired style or structure so your real estate agent knows what you need.
You can also do an initial search on your own by browsing listings online, on social media or on mobile apps. This can help your agent get a better sense of what you’re looking for. Keep in mind that your agent has access to listings before they hit popular homebuying sites, and some key information may only be available to agents.
8. Tour NJ Homes with These Questions in Mind
A good realtor will guide you through the process and help you find a home that checks all your boxes. When you begin touring homes, work together to formulate a list of questions to ask about each of the properties you visit.
Consider the history of the property and ask many questions as you can. Find out when the property was built, the materials used, any renovations made and whether renovations were done by licensed professionals. These answers can help you identify any additional costs to factor into your budget and determine whether the home needs immediate or future fixes. Here are some thought-starters to help build your list of questions as you start touring homes:
- Is this in your ideal neighborhood?
- What are the nearby schools?
- How close is the property to your family and friends?
- How close is the property to your workplace?
- Do you like the style and construction of the home and its amenities?
- Are there enough bedrooms?
- Are there enough bathrooms?
- Is the property pet friendly?
- Does the property have the outdoor space that suits your lifestyle?
- Does the property have the privacy you need?
- Does any work need to be done (e.g., new roof, new windows)?
- Does the property have the heating and cooling systems you want (e.g., central air)?
- Are the plumbing and electrical systems up to date?
- How energy-efficient is the property?
- Does the property have sufficient parking or garage space?
- What is the repair history of the property?
- Does the house have the curb appeal you are looking for?