@vorpalette: I got preapproved (no big deal, just some minor paperwork), found a realtor who I LOVED, and it took me about 6 months to find a place I also loved. I would suggest also finding a real estate lawyer at this time if its something you are interested in having (I did and thought it was $500 well spent)
The big pains are after you put in your offer. The realtor is very knowledgeable and will walk you through how to put in your offers and through the negiotiations process. If you have an attorney, they can help as well with drafting the offers and contingencies. Bring a checkbook with you – your realtor might want you to write a check for a small amount ($3-5k) to show you are serious when offering. Once your offer is accepted, your bank will likely become a huge pain in the behind. Here is my advice:
1. Don’t make any major purchases while home-shopping. I had to account for every deposit/withdrawal over $250 from my accounts. That is a lot of paper trails/receipts. Every paycheck stub, every purchase, every transfer from other accounts. Its a lot.
2. Make copies of EVERYTHING. My bank had me submit the same paperwork over and over. It was easier to maintain a file and just refax everything over than try to find stuff again.
3. The bank will pre-approve you for the very maximum they think you can pay. They don’t take into account the fact you likely will want to eat out at restaurants or take vacations in the future. Take this into consideration when deciding how much home you can truly afford based on the lifestyle you want to live.
4. Your mortgage payment will go UP. This is because most banks hold your taxes/insurance money in escrow and bundle it as part of your mortgage payment. My taxes just increase every year (im sure most peoples do) and my mortgage went up $100/month last year, which was substantial. This also ties into #3 because you don’t want to be at your payment limit with your mortgage and then have an unexpected tax increase.
5. Prepare for you or your Darling Husband to take some time off work during the process. Your realtor will work on evenings/weekends, but your inspection likely will need to happen on a weekday during the day. Also, your closing will happen during the day too. So have some days available to take off and its extra helpful if you/DH can be flexible with the times.
6. Maintain a certain amount of cash on hand (don’t empty your bank acct with the down payment). You will need it after the purchase. Even if you don’t think you do. Homeownership has a lot of costs associated with it, and its nice to have the cushion and avoid financial stressors.
6. Its a very emotional process. I cried a lot. Maybe thats just me though 😉
Good luck to you! You will find the perfect house in no time =) Let me know if you have any other specific questions!