Traditionally, spring is considered prime buying season. Various factors contribute to the spike in real estate activity during the warmer months of the year. Some families may prefer to wait for school breaks, for example, before beginning their journey into home ownership. Some may wait for the usual uptick in inventory that happens during this time of the year.

Regardless of the reasoning, buying a home requires a lot of preparation, study and patience. Here are three steps you should consider as you enter the home-buying sweepstakes this spring and summer.

Step 1: Get Pre-Approved

When we talk about pre-approval and pre-qualification, it’s important to remember that each term means something different.

Many consumers consider getting pre-qualified as the first step in the mortgage application process. You may get a pre-qualification when you discuss your debt, income and assets with a loan officer. However, this process does not assess your credit standing through a full credit report. Therefore, a pre-qualification could lead to some confusion because it is not weighing your credit worthiness into the equation. In short, a pre-qualification is not a sure thing.

You also can get pre-approved, which carries more weight than a pre-qualification. When you fill out a formal application for a pre-approval, you will supply documentation so the lender can fully understand your financial standing. Pay stubs, credit reports and other financial documents will allow the lender to approve you for a specific mortgage amount.

If you get pre-approved with our Keys on Time program, your offer will be the most attractive in a competitive market. That is because we will work with you to get full underwriting loan approval to ensure your loan will close lightning fast, even if you have not yet identified the property. Keys on Time helps you to beat out other bidders, as a seller will know that you have already been pre-approved for financing and can guarantee you’ll close escrow on time. If you don’t close on time, you could receive a closing cost credit of $895.*

Following this path is particularly advantageous in the competitive Bay Area market. In fact, you may be hard-pressed to have an offer accepted here on a home without such a pre-approval.

Step 2: Start The Home Shopping Process

Now that you’ve gone through the pre-approval process, the real fun can begin.

Our mortgage professionals are experienced at every level and can help you navigate the exciting journey of finding a home, making an offer and clearing all the paperwork and disclosures before you move in.

As you begin this process, make sure you find a reliable real estate agent to partner with who knows the area you are interested in buying in well. You want to feel comfortable with the agent, so it’s important to do some homework before selecting someone. For example, it’s OK to ask a potential real estate agent for a list of recent clients. This will allow you to ask questions and learn more about the real estate agent directly from past clients. You can also research online for testimonials, reviews and look up official license/disciplinary information. Most importantly, an ideal real estate agent will have the pulse on the market. You can sense this by asking a few questions and listening for command and detail in their response.

In your search for a real estate agent, our mortgage advisors can share with you a list of qualified real estate sales professionals in your area.

Step 3: Do It Early/Don’t Wait

We advocate moving swiftly to ensure that you take advantage of relatively low interest rates when you apply for a loan. The market and the financial mechanisms that drive interest rates can move quickly. For example, the Fed announced earlier this month that it is likely to raise the benchmark interest rate. That decision may impact the terms of your loan.

Getting an early start will not only help you keep up with the changing market. You can also learn what you can do to improve your application. There are some short-term actions you can take to improve your credit standing, for example. And the only way to truly know where you stand is to allow our mortgage professionals to evaluate your application.

We will advocate on your behalf at every step of the way during the spring buying season. To learn more about our loan process, click here.

*Not available in Oregon. The “Keys on Time” program is a limited guarantee that APMC will provide a credit to the borrower of $895 after the close of escrow if, due to some fault on the part of APMC, its originators or other APMC staff, a purchase transaction does not close until a date after the originally stated close of escrow date. The “Keys on Time” limited guarantee does not apply if the purchase transaction fails to close on or before the anticipated close of escrow date due to events/circumstances beyond APMC’s control, including but not limited to, delays caused by: an unacceptable or unexpectedly low appraisal value on the subject property, acts or omissions by the escrow or title company, second lien holder approvals, short sale approval, or loan conditions imposed by the lender that, despite reasonable diligence by APMC, are not met by any party in a timely manner. The “Keys on Time” limited guarantee trigger begins when the initial loan package is received by APMC’s Fulfillment center. The complete loan package must be received in the APMC Fulfillment center a minimum of 20 days prior to the COE date. Exclusions: The limited guarantee does not apply to the HARP program, reverse mortgages, FHA 203k, non-delegated jumbo products or any loans that require prior approval from an investor. The limited guarantee applies to purchase transactions only. All programs are subject to borrower and property qualifications. Rates, terms, and conditions are subject to change without notice.