With the housing market in Texoma considered hot by most accounts as Sherman and Denison report increased if not record numbers of new home sales, now is considered a good time to buy.

“This is a great time to list and buy a home,” Traci McCarthy, a real estate agent with the Ebby Halliday office in Sherman, said. “Interest rates are still great; growth is coming our way from Dallas. This is the place to be.”

According to McCarthy, there are definite steps to take when buying a house. First, get a real estate agent.

“There is so much to do in buying a house,” McCarthy said. “So, let a Realtor walk you through every step of the way.”

The next step is just as important, she said; shop for a lender to be preapproved for a mortgage.

“In my experience as a Realtor, not all lenders are created equal,” McCarthy said. “They each can do different things with your specific situation. Some have access to special programs, so do a little shopping when it comes to getting a mortgage lender.”

One of the major steps — if not the most important — is obtaining funding for the home mortgage. Local mortgage officers and originators work with potential homebuyers to meet this crucial step.

“It’s really a case-by-case process,” Afton Burkard, a loan officer assistant at Guild Mortgage in Sherman, said. “We don’t want to get hopes up; we want to set realistic expectations.”

The third step is simply to set realistic expectations for your house search.

“You don’t have to buy in the price range you are approved for,” McCarthy said. “Just be sure you can afford the monthly payment. Your highest loan amount doesn’t mean you can afford that payment.”

Then, once you are preapproved, start looking in that price range the lender has given you.

“Find the amenities you want,” said McCarthy. “Look for the right neighborhood; get the right size.”

Then, comes the fun part, according to McCarthy, making an offer to buy.

“This is a major benefit to having a Realtor; they can negotiate for you on price,” she noted. “It works.”

McCarthy listed the last steps as crucial: doing an inspection on the home and purchasing a home warranty plan for insurance against the house systems, like air conditioning, water heater and electric, from breaking down in the first year.

“The home warranty can fix or replace them if they go out; and you can continue it after that first year if you want, but it’s good to have it at least one year,” she said.

Finally, McCarthy gave helpful hints for perspective homebuyers including not to make big purchases such as cars, boats or the like during the home purchasing process; and not to change jobs — either job if a joint application for a couple.

“You’d be surprised how one of those things can ruin a lender application; so don’t do it,” she said. “And the big thing is not to over spend on a house; that can only get you in trouble in the long run.”

According to Burkard, there are two major steps in the mortgage application process: prequalification and full preapproval. Each step is relatively short in the overall process. Prequalification, which takes about one day includes an office visit and an application. The mortgage company looks at the credit history, employment situation, debt, credit score and budget of the applicants.

“We look at the information provided verbally and written to get a preliminary qualification,” Burkard said. “We don’t want to put people in a specific situation; we just want to see if it (the application) looks good.”

Burkard indicated that this was the point where the official work began: the full preapproval step. She noted that mortgage companies require tax returns, W-2s, bank statements, pay stubs and identification documents for this step.

“We verify what is verbally provided,” Burkard said. “We want to back up what we have been given. Once it checks out, we can issue a preapproval letter.”

Burkard added that this important step varies in time frame, but once the company has all the information and verifications, Guild Mortgage works to get the preapproval done in about three days. Burkard cautioned that people — especially in a hot market like Texoma — should not begin looking at houses until they are preapproved. She added that currently home sellers won’t even talk to potential homebuyers without a preapproval letter.

“This is important; the market here is hot right now,” Burkard said. “You can shop when you have that letter; it’s definitely better to be preapproved.”

Another benefit of going through the preapproval process for a mortgage is financial, according to Burkard. Many mortgage companies can work with applicants to obtain the mortgage or qualify for a higher amount mortgage.

“Sometimes, it’s as simple as helping someone qualify when otherwise they wouldn’t,” said Burkard. “It can be messy, but we want to work with our customers to get the best possible outcome. Some do come in and discover they qualify for more than they thought.”

Burkard added that simply paying off one debt can be the difference in qualifying for a mortgage or not. And sometimes, there are other funds to help with down payments; it’s important to be creative.

“We work with people all the time,” Burkard said. “There are grant programs and seller concessions that people don’t know about until they start the process.”

Buyers in Sherman, Denison and Texoma area should consider preapproval, according to McCarthy and Burkard.

“Being preapproved saves time overall; the Realtors want it, the sellers want it and ultimately, you want it,” McCarthy said. “I can’t say it enough — in this current market, you need it up front.”