Financial Advice

Buy & Own a Home

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Tips for Navigating Austin's Competitive Housing Market

It’s no secret: Austin is one of the hottest housing markets in the nation right now. But with more people and companies flocking here every day, and houses in increasingly limited supply, the process of buying a home in the ATX area can come with a lot of uncertainties for aspiring home buyers. The good news is you’re not in this alone. As Austin’s #1 Mortgage Lender, we at UFCU have empowered Austinites to achieve their dreams for 80 years and counting. So let these words of wisdom be a guiding light as you navigate Austin’s competitive housing market.

1. Start Strong With a Pre-Qualification Letter

First thing’s first. Before you start seriously shopping for a home, get a jump on your mortgage approval by getting pre-qualified. A pre-qualification letter will help you rule out properties that are out of your price range and let you focus more time and energy on finding your new home. This important initial step will also prove to sellers that you’re prepared to buy (an offer without a pre-qualification letter is unlikely to be taken seriously). At UFCU, we can pre-qualify you for a mortgage based on your credit report, income details, and other information you supply. Once you’re pre-qualified, we’ll ask for additional documentation to officially approve your mortgage.

2. Find a First-Rate Real Estate Pro

With house hunting, bidding wars, and plenty of paperwork, the experience of buying a home can feel overwhelming for anyone. So even if it’s not your first rodeo, take a deep breath and consider hiring a seasoned real estate agent who will guide you from your initial home search all the way through Closing Day. An experienced realtor will have a strong pulse on the ATX market and will help you narrow down your home search to the neighborhoods that best fit your budget and lifestyle needs. Your agent will also help you make offers and negotiate like a pro, so you have a better chance of locking in an offer on the home you want. Need help finding a first-rate realtor? At UFCU, we work with many agents who have trusted us with their clients for years, and we’re happy to give you referrals.

3. Consider The Full Price of Ownership

When shopping for or bidding on a home, it’s natural not to want to budge on price. After all, this is already one of the biggest purchases of your life. But there are a number of instances where the home price may not actually be the best indicator of what you can expect to pay as a homeowner. For example, an older home that’s had fewer updates may come with a lower price tag but could cost you tens of thousands more in just a few years due to major unexpected repairs (think plumbing, electrical, roof, HVAC). On the flip side, a newly built or renovated home might appear to cost you more at first, but you’ll likely end up spending less in maintenance or utility costs. Our two cents? Don’t let price be the only deciding factor. Spending a few thousand dollars extra on a home you love may only make a dent in your monthly payment anyway.

4. Decide Where You Can Be Flexible With Your Wish List

If you’re like most ATX home buyers, you’ve probably spent a lot of time dreaming about your wish list — curb appeal, renovations, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, backyard features, schools, and even proximity to the best neighborhood taco joints. Realistically though, in a sizzling market like Austin, you’d be wise to decide beforehand which of these wish list items you can be flexible with and which ones you can’t live without. Say you value top-rated schools over new quartz countertops; if you’re willing to make the small trade-off, it may be worth going after a home that’s nearly perfect (and if you do, you’ll want to move lightning fast!). And hey, if the seller really likes your offer, there’s always the chance you can get some of those missing wish list items granted during negotiations.

5. Don’t Get Discouraged By “Offer Denied”

In the end, chances are you won’t get that first house you make an offer on in Austin’s competitive market, and that’s okay. Maybe you’ll get outbid. Maybe someone else will show up with an all-cash offer. Maybe you’ll just get there a little too late. Whatever the case — these circumstances are out of your control, and others are dealing with them too. The best you can do is get a head start on your financing, be prepared to act quickly when you find a great house, and if you do get that “offer denied”...well, keep at it. With some patience, perseverance, and an open mind, your dreams of owning a home in Austin are alive and well. And we’re here to help you see them through.

Ready to get serious about buying a home in Austin? Apply for a home loan with your locally trusted mortgage lender at UFCU.org/MyMortgage.