Thinking of buying your first home on O’ahu? It may seem like a bit of an overwhelming process, but fear not! Buying a home can actually be pretty simple, if you’re property prepared and teamed up with the right realtor! Here’s your essential O’ahu home-buying checklist.
What Do you Need to Buy a Home on O’ahu?
There are three main things you’ll need:
- Enough income to cover mortgage payments, property taxes, and homeowners insurance.
- An ability to maintain the property (if you’re not that handy with a hammer, you’ll definitely want to have some savings or extra income).
- The ability to get a mortgage, which essentially means having decent credit, sufficient income, and low debt.
Got those three? Now, here’s what you’ll need to do.
Your O’ahu Home-Buying Checklist
1. Get Preapproved for a Mortgage
The first step to buying a home is always obtaining preapproval from a lender. You’ll need financial and income documents such as employment information for the last 24 months, W-2 forms, account numbers and balances, copies of checking and savings statements, and any other payment obligations.
2. Find a Realtor Experienced with First-Time Buyers
As a first-time buyer, you’ll want to find an agent who’s good at working with newbies. The right realtor should be an expert in the area you’re looking to buy, plus have great communication skills. Interview several agents to learn about their experience and availability, as well as how well you feel you can work with them.
3. Set a Budget & Find a Price Range
Getting preapproved will help you determine how much mortgage you’ll actually qualify for. And your agent can help you find a price range for your home based on this number. To make sure this is a number you’re comfortable with, it’s very helpful to adjust your current monthly budget to incorporate this payment.
4. Determine Where You Want to Be
O’ahu isn’t that big, but it’s got a lot of really unique (and fantastic) areas to choose from. From the beautiful beaches and charming small-towns of Windward O’ahu to the secluded North Shore to the thriving and affordable towns of West O’ahu or Central O’ahu, to the bustling Metro Honolulu area, there really is a lot to pick from.
However, there’s probably one particular spot that works best for you, based on what you need to be close to (like work, schools, military bases, stores and amenities) and what kind of lifestyle you’re looking for (urban, suburban, rural). So do some research to find out where you want to be.
5. Find Some Neighborhoods You Like
Once you figure out your general location, start narrowing down your search by neighborhoods. Consider price ranges, proximity to things like shopping, dining, schools, entertainment, and even major roads. You might also want to consider the types of homes offered in each neighborhood (i.e., you may like a neighborhood but if it offers only townhomes and you want a single-family home, it’s probably not the right fit).
6. Determine Your Wants and Needs in a Home
Start by listing out everything your ideal home would have—from the size and style to the type of flooring or number of closets. Then, narrow down your list to your top 3-5 must-haves, your 3-5 would-like-to-haves, and the remaining “bonus” features. When house hunting, be sure to keep your priorities straight and don’t forgo a “must-have” for a “would-like” or a bonus feature.
7. Make a Comparison Chart
It can be hard to keep track of all the homes you see, so be proactive and make a checklist to bring along on home tours. Make notes during or right after the tour while the home is fresh in your mind. Be sure to note details such as landscaping, condition of the home (including walls, windows, and roofing), natural lighting, and storage space.
8. Inspect Carefully
First impressions are lasting, but don’t let them be your only impression. Take an initial first-impression tour. Then go through a second time to really scrutinize. Be thorough—open cabinets and closets, lift rugs, run the water and flush toilets. Bring furniture measurements, or even sketch a floorplan to help visualize your belongings in the home.
9. Explore the Surroundings
A house is more than just what’s inside. So go outside and check out the backyard, patio, or deck. Walk through the neighborhood to inspect the condition of other homes and listen for unpleasant noises (like road traffic). Go back at different times of day to see what the area’s like during, say, rush hour, or late at night. Talk to the neighbors and get their impressions.
10. Always Get a Home Inspection
Once you find a home you love, be sure to get it inspected, even if it’s new. You want to root out any potential problems that may arise down the road before the home becomes your financial responsibility.
Choose the Right Realtor to Find Your Dream Home on O’ahu
Matching the perfect home with the ideal buyer is our specialty at RE/MAX Honolulu! Give us a call today to explore O’ahu and discover its beautiful cities, to learn more about buying a home in Hawaii, or to get started finding your dream home.