Mortgage rates have risen recently, and Seattle home prices have also increased. So now more than ever, Seattle-area home buyers need to be budget-minded and market-savvy.
Undoubtedly, higher housing costs make it harder for many people to buy a home. But “hard” does not always mean impossible. If you’re wondering how to save money when buying a home in Seattle, WA, read on to discover valuable and actionable tips.
Here are five money-saving strategies worth exploring:
Boost your credit score to get a lower rate
A strong credit score can help you qualify for a lower mortgage rate, which in turn, can reduce your overall housing-related expenses. This three-digit number also affects your ability to qualify for a mortgage loan.
Mortgage lenders use credit scores (among other factors) as a risk-measurement tool. People who pay their bills on time and manage their finances effectively tend to have higher credit scores. On the other hand, those who’ve had trouble paying bills in the past often end up with a lower score.
Your credit score does not reflect who you are as a person. It’s simply a data-based indicator of how you have paid your debts in the past. But when it comes to buying a home in Seattle, it could help you save some money.
Experts agree that paying your bills on time is the best way to increase your credit score. In this context, we’re talking about recurring debts such as credit card payments, car payments, student and personal loans, etc.
According to credit scoring companies, your “payment history” weighs more than any other factor when determining your credit scores. There is a direct and robust connection between these two things.
You could also improve your credit score by reducing your credit card usage and balances. In addition to improving your financial situation overall, this will lead to a lower “utilization ratio,” which can boost your score.
Regarding financing, a higher credit score could open many doors for you. It could also help you save money on a Seattle home purchase by reducing the interest you have to pay over time.
Boosting your credit score doesn’t happen overnight. It requires persistence and diligence over months. But the results are generally well worth the effort. Before you begin the house hunting process, you must understand how to save when buying a home, and keeping your credit score high is critical.
Ask the seller to make a concession
In a real estate transaction, a “seller concession” occurs when a homeowner contributes money to help the buyer cover the home’s costs. This concession can be applied to the home buyer’s closing costs, prepaid expenses, or repairs.
This strategy could help you save money when buying a home in the Seattle area. You can reduce your out-of-pocket expense by successfully negotiating for a seller concession.
Just know that the seller is not obligated to pay such concessions. Seller concessions are most common in buyer’s markets, where more homes are for sale than buyers seek. In a seller’s market, on the other hand, house hunters may have less negotiating power and cannot ask for concessions.
To request a concession, write it into your purchase offer along with the proposed price and other terms of the sale. Your real estate can advise you on this. Your agent can also tell you when it’s wise to seek such concessions and when it’s better avoided.
Study the market before you enter it
Real estate market conditions change constantly, which also applies to home prices. Before entering the market, spend some time researching recent sales activity in the area where you plan to buy a home.
This kind of research will show you what homes are selling for and what you can expect to get within your budget. And those are two things worth knowing in advance.
A real estate agent will perform similar research on your behalf. But it never hurts to be proactive. The sooner you start researching your local market, the better. It can help you make an intelligent offer without overpaying for the home.
Consider a longer commute
Home prices in the Seattle metro area cover a broad spectrum. Right now, the average price for a home in Seattle is $836,889, according to Zillow. Looking outside Seattle, you could save hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home.
For instance, the median home price in Tacoma is currently $470,122, about $366,000 less than the median price in Seattle. And the two cities are only about 30 miles apart.
Another alternative to Seattle, which is still relatively close by, is Everett, located about 25 miles north of Seattle and the biggest city in Snohomish County. The city’s average home price is $620,692, about $216,000 lower than Seattle’s average.
By expanding your search area, you could find a more affordable home and save money on your home purchase. It might mean a longer commute. It might be less convenient. But it could also significantly reduce your overall housing costs.
Buy during the “off-season.”
Real estate market activity tends to follow a specific seasonal pattern. During the spring, more home buyers enter the market. This increases competition and leads to more multiple-offer scenarios. In such times, sellers usually aren’t very willing to reduce their asking prices.
But during the slower times of the year, like late fall and winter, there are fewer buyers and, therefore, fewer offers. So, a Seattle home buyer is more likely to get a “good deal” on a house.
According to a report from Zillow:
“Since more buyers are shopping in the spring, a home you buy between March and May could cost you more than a similar home bought in November or December … The window between late fall and early winter is the best time for buyers on a budget.”
Of course, not everyone has the luxury of timing the market to their advantage. But if you do have some flexibility in this area, consider buying a home in Seattle during the “off-season” to save money on your purchase.
Get pre-approved for a mortgage.
Getting pre-approved for a home loan is a great way to help you determine your budget when purchasing a home. It’s also an intelligent way to help you save money when you find a home you love and take the next step to make an offer.
By getting pre-approved for a mortgage, the seller will see that you’re serious about buying a home and are financially qualified to secure a mortgage. This will increase the chances that the deal will go through without financing hiccups.
In some cases, sellers may be more open to accepting a slightly lower offer from a buyer with financing already in place than a slightly higher offer from a buyer who has not taken care of their financing. The peace of mind that comes with financing already in order may sway the seller in your favor.
Knowing how to save money when buying a home can keep more money in your pocket and maximize your purchasing power. Work with an experienced real estate expert and mortgage specialist to ensure your money is well spent.