The frenetic Seattle real estate market has seen prices skyrocket in the last decade. A house in the Puget Sound area costs, on average, more than $815,000.
In the past few years, the Seattle home buying market has been on fire, and the most watched and sought after in the United States.
We know you're a person with work and family commitments, among other things. Buying a house can't be your full-time job — even though it might feel like it sometimes. Use our guide to learn about what you need to buy a house in Seattle.
Preparing for "the Big Spend" doesn't have to drive you crazy. We are here to help.
What You Need To Buy A House in Seattle
Before you even start thinking about buying a house, you've got to have your finances in order.
Having a large nest egg saved is crucial in the Seattle real estate market, as more than 20 percent of buyers will be paying all in cash.
The more you can pay up front, the more likely you are to get the house of your dreams.
Have a Six-Figure Cash Savings
You don't want to lose out on your dream home or the deal of a lifetime because you're not prepared. Have a nest egg of more than $100,000 if you can. In many cases in Seattle, this is the absolute minimum amount you need — in cash — to make you an attractive buyer.
In the mid-2010s, the average Seattle home buyer had just over $50,000 in cash. But that number has doubled and is on the rise, according to The Seattle Times. It might sound insane to the average American, but it's the norm in Seattle.
And prices won't be going down any time soon.
The more you can save up, the easier it is for real estate agents to recommend houses to you. If you're ready to pounce and have the dollars to prove it, buying a house doesn't have to be a headache.
Sellers will flock to cold hard cash.
Have a Stellar Credit Score
Before buying a house in Seattle, it's not just cash on hand you'll need. Your credit score needs to be impeccable. The best interest rates for mortgages start with a 740 credit score.
The higher your credit score and larger your nest egg, the easier it will be to get approved for a home loan or mortgage. There are so many different types of mortgages in the Puget Sound and Seattle region, you'll want to be the most quality buyer. You need to attract a quality mortgage.
But it's not just the mortgage rates you're after with your high credit score. If you walk into your real estate agent's office with a 750-plus credit score and a giant wad of cash, you'll look the part of the Seattle home buyer.
Don't discount how much these metrics entice sellers to close deals quick. And being first and best is a huge part of the Seattle real estate market. It's cutthroat out here, but you can do it and we want to help!
Pre-Approved versus Pre-Underwritten
One of the main qualifications to buy a home in the United States is the ability to get pre-approved for a mortgage. When you're pre-approved for a home loan, sellers often think you're a great bet as a buyer.
Pre-approved home buyers don't cause many problems and can often travel through the mortgage securing and closing processes with ease.
That's not enough for the manic real estate market in Seattle.
Hundreds of home buyers in the region are becoming pre-underwritten — a practice virtually unheard of in other American markets. Pre-underwritten doesn't mean that you're qualified to buy a home.
It means you're guaranteed to be a gold-standard buyer.
Pre-underwriting means your credit score, mortgage amount, bank statements, and other necessary verifications are completed and triple-checked.
It means you can virtually skip to the end of the home-buying process as soon as your offer is accepted.
This puts a lot of responsibility on potential home buyers, and makes it simple for sellers to screen bidders. While it might not seem fair, it's a sellers market in Seattle right now. That's just how this popular market has developed!
If you can get pre-underwritten, you are a highly attractive home buying candidate in Seattle.
Find Your Perfect Real Estate Agent
When deciding what you need to buy a house in Seattle, make sure you add "perfect real estate agent" to the list!
More-so in Seattle than in other markets, many real estate agents specialize in one or two neighborhoods. Territories are a real thing here, and you'll need to do some research before buying a house.
There are more than three dozen neighborhoods in the Seattle city limits alone!
Your real estate agent should know about the neighborhood you desire, and will be able to help you learn about schools, crime rates, and local flare. Pick an agent with a good reputation in the industry, as they will have to work with your broker, lender, and with the seller's agent.
Commissions for real estate agents in Seattle average around $25,000, and are usually paid by the seller. For that kind of money, make sure you choose wisely!
You can meet real estate agents at open houses, through friends, by doing research online, or asking the mortgage broker you are working with. It's more of an art than a science, but you'll know when you have found the right one.
Find A Workable Lender
There are so many things to remember and so many lists to check off when you're learning what you need to buy a house. Perhaps one of the most important should be to find the right lender for you.
If you're part of the three-quarters of Seattle home buyers finding a mortgage, you'll want to work with lenders that compete for your home loan.
The credit needed to buy a house will be different for each lender, and your personal profile will go a long way in helping you decide who to use. Lots of times, big banks and typical mortgage lenders are pricey and require mountains of paperwork.
A service like Seattle's Mortgage Broker is great to help you compare lenders. We can help them come to you!
Choose Your Neighborhood
It's not just what you need to buy a house, it's also where you need to buy a house. Neighborhood and street choice — also known as "location, location, location!" — are perhaps the most important decision you'll make.
Knowing where you want to live in Seattle can be tough. Take your time deciding where you want to live in this gem of a city! Don't be afraid to ask your real estate agent, or to do your own research.
There are wonderful suburbs and "city-burbs" for young families and retirees. But condos and apartments in downtown high-rise buildings are all the rage. Industrial lofts on the water are a perennial favorite of the up-and-coming monied set.
Before buying a house, you have to know where you want to call home. This can be a fun exercise, even for those on a budget. Queen Anne is a great spot for those wanting to find affordable housing, and so is Upper Rainier Beach.
Check out our top ten spots for Seattle home buyers on a budget. If there's one thing we know besides home loans, it's the Puget Sound area!
Pick Your Floor Plan
You've got your nest egg and you're pre-approved for a loan. You might even be pre-underwritten! And you've got your real estate agent, lender, and neighborhood in mind.
Now for the fun part.
You might know what you need to buy a house, but now it's time to pick what kind of house you want! Floor plans and square footage are crucial to your happiness once you move into your new Seattle home. Take some time deciding what works best for you and your family.
Do you need a nursery that can be converted into a children's room later? Do you want a town home style, or will an apartment do?
Are you hoping to entertain lots of guests?
The requirements to buy a house are so many, it's really only worth going through the trouble if you get what you want in your home.
It might not be where you lay your head forever, but you should have what you want!
If you would like to sign up, for free, to a private service that shows you how much house you can afford on your budget, Click Here
Have Fun With It!
One meaningful thing during this stressful time is to try to have a little fun with it. Knowing what you need to buy a house is multi-faceted, especially in Seattle. Keep a good sense of humor and roll with the punches as best you can!
We suggest "bad bid bingo" cards, or keeping track of all your rejections. Make sure to commiserate with friends when you get tough news. And share your joy far and wide when you've found your forever home!
Get the Loan You Need
For choosing a mortgage broker, SMB has you covered. For 15 years, we've been serving young families, single Seattle professionals, and those in their golden years. We know how to help you get the loan and learn what you need to buy a house!
Learn more about our loan products by clicking here to contact our dedicated team. We are looking forward to working with you!