If you’re about to embark on a Nashville homebuying mission, no one needs to tell you that you have to figure out what you really want and what you can reasonably spend. But how to thoroughly, sensibly figure that stuff out isn’t always quite as obvious.
The headers below might seem a little self-explanatory, but read on; we’re digging deep into the basics of how to prep for buying a home in Nashville, in hopes of arming future homeowners with a template for tackling their house hunt.
Define your budget
Start with the basics: You want to stay on the good side of what’s considered “cost-burdened,” so your monthly home spending should stay under 30 percent of your household earnings.
Here’s where the math gets trickier. When you’re connecting what you have to spend monthly with what a reasonable home budget should look like (online mortgage calculators can help), you need to consider all the variables.
Property taxes are a big one, and can affect your budget considerably. (County by county in Middle Tennessee, taxes can differ significantly, so if you’re looking in Davidson County and Williamson County, for example, your budgets can be significantly different. Here’s how to calculate property taxes in Davidson County. Here’s how to calculate property taxes in Williamson County. Wherever you’re looking, make sure to crunch and compare the numbers.)
Home insurance is another factor — historic homes can cost significantly more to insure, and that should figure in to where your financial comfort zone sits.
Your credit is, of course, going to affect your rate too, so having exceptional credit might give you a little extra wiggle room, while iffy credit does the opposite.
And don’t forget to think about HOA fees; those can vary wildly across Middle Tennessee communities/properties, and depending on where you’re looking, can tack hundreds of dollars on to your monthly costs.
It’s a lot to crunch, but digging into all the variables before you start looking goes a long way toward putting you in a home that doesn’t leave you financially stretched.
Gather your team
Buying a home can be a fairly intense experience, but you’re not in it alone — if you gather a great team around you, the process can be (at least comparatively speaking) painless.
The key members of that team: your Realtor, your lender, and your home inspector.
Why you’d hire a Realtor is probably clear to you, since you’re here. But ideally, your Realtor is an expert extension of you — someone who knows exactly what you want and need, has the resources and expertise to find it, and the know-how to walk you through every step of the process, from submitting a compelling offer to getting through closing day without a hitch.
Naturally, if you’re looking to buy a home in Nashville, we hope you’ll call or email ACRE. But whoever you choose, we hope they’ll a) know the area you want to buy in inside and out and b) connect with you personally. You’re working through something big together; it helps to have someone you trust, and that you feel good around, in your corner.
Going into the househunting process, it’s good to already be pre-approved for your mortgage, too. (Compelling offer!) All lenders loan money, but they’re not all created equal, so it’s worth doing some research. Some excel at dealing with non-traditional mortgages, some have a reputation for above-and-beyond customer service. (The latter can really be valuable if a curveball comes up close to closing day.)
Your home inspector is your key to really understanding the home you’re about to buy — the pro who’ll make you aware of issues new and old and potential, and who’ll paint all the intricate (and sometimes ugly) detail onto the rosy picture you have in your mind.
If you’re not sure where to start with the latter two, the former can be a big help — Realtors navigate the home-sale process every day, so we’ve worked with countless lenders and home inspectors, and heard all the glowing feedback and horror stories. We’re always happy to point our clients in the right direction.
Define your deal-breakers
This is a place where a lot of Nashville homebuyers — especially first-time homebuyers — get caught up.
When you’re looking for a home, there’s a lot of prioritizing that has to happen. Even buyers with budgets in the multi-millions will most likely have to compromise on a thing or two, so if you’re working with a budget that’s more toward the average, it’s key to differentiate between must-haves and sure-would-like-to-haves.
Our favorite way to do this: good old-fashioned list-making. Sit down and scribble/type out everything you can think of that you want in a dream home, from the location to a fenced yard for your dog. Get specific, and dig deep.
When you’re done, step away from that long list and turn back to it with a new mindset: With every line item, ask yourself, “If the home didn’t have this one particular thing, but did have everything else, would I pass on it?” If the answer is “no,” then it’s a like-to-have, not a must-have.
When you’ve whittled down your list once, step back again, and return with another new mindset: “Is this something I could reasonably change or add?”
Those HGTV buyers who get hung up on carpet color aren’t particularly unusual — househunters routinely write off listings because they don’t have a gas stove, or a fireplace, or a covered patio, or any number of other things that are changeable.
We’re not saying you should buy a home that needs a total kitchen overhaul, if renovations are way outside your priority zone. Just consider what level of adjustment you’re willing to make (keeping in mind that changing finishes and fixtures doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking), and be sure you’re clear on what absolutely has to already be in place for you to consider a home.
Must-haves tend to be more basic — neighborhood, number of bedrooms and baths, basements, garages — but it all really depends on what you value. For some buyers, a master bedroom that isn’t on the first floor is a deal breaker. For others, new construction is an absolute must.
It’s your home, your investment, your needs. It’s just worth taking the time to really define where you absolutely cannot and will not budge.
Still, you should absolutely tell your Realtor about your really-like-to-haves. It’s just that, if they know what the big deals are and what the fun extras are, you’ll get more listings that suit you, and you’ll have a better chance of catching great properties before they’re snatched up.
Have any other questions about buying a home in Nashville? We’re always happy to help. Reach ACRE here, or for an easy way to get your Nashville househunting process started, fill out this quick form.