A timeline for home buyers who want the tax credit
You have through April 30 to sign a binding contract and can wait until June 30 to close the deal. But that's less than two months left to get pre-qualified for a mortgage and find a good place.
Now, far be it from me to tell you when you should buy. Buy now, later or never, whatever suits you. But here's the timeline Realtor.com recommends if you want the tax credit and would like to avoid squeaking in at the last minute.
Immediately: Get pre-qualified for that mortgage. Shop around, make sure you understand all the terms and think carefully about what you can comfortably afford -- even in these more restricted times, it might be less than what a lender is willing to shell out to you.
By the middle of March: This is when Realtor.com suggests you find (what else?) a Realtor. Some buyers choose to work alone, of course, but either way you'll want to check out listings online to get a sense of what you can get for your money. (Or, at least, what sellers want you to offer.)
March 22th: Start going out to see houses. Realtor.com suggests this date with the assumption that you'll want four weeks to look and then a few days to get under contract. But it notes that "the shorter amount of time you take for house-hunting, the more time you allow to be under contract just in case something goes wrong." That's why it recommends that you actually get that contract in place by ...
April 1: Because if you have a contract at this point, you've got time to adjust if something goes wrong. Not to mention wiggle room for the home inspection, appraisal and other particulars. Appraisals can take as much as a month, Realtor.com says.
This might seem obvious, but don't rush to buy because of the $8,000 (or $6,500) and figure the actual house itself is secondary. Purchase in haste, repent in leisure.
Are you just getting started? What's your personal deadline for getting under contract?
And you folks who got the $8,000 when the deadline was Nov. 30: How much time did you allow?