Hoping to Buy a Home in 2015? Start Planning Now

At the start of a new year, many real estate agents’ phones begin ringing with calls from potential buyers who want to get in the market. If buying a home is on your agenda for 2015, now’s the time to begin working toward your goal. Here’s a guide to the home buying experience to get you started.

The dreaming phase

We are all more connected than ever, which makes researching a new home easy and convenient. The dreaming phase — which has no definitive start time or length — means thinking about what you want in a home, exploring neighborhoods and casting the widest net possible.

This phase includes looking at photos of homes online, comparing and contrasting listings or prices per square foot and understanding the price differential between two school districts.

Dreaming happens on your terms and your timing. It doesn’t require help from a real estate agent or mortgage professional. It’s a good time for you to play around with the market, start to get the real estate bug and develop a feel for what could be a reality in the future. Don’t rush, and don’t feel pressured.

Search and discovery mode

When you feel ready to make a reality of the dreaming phase, it’s time to move the process along. Search and discovery allows you to get the facts, build your team and begin to amass a strong approach to pushing ahead. Connect with a local real estate agent and a mortgage lender to get started.

Typically, buyers meet with a real estate agent first, who then refers them to a good local mortgage professional. Connecting with an agent means asking lots of questions about how the market works, school districts and the home buying process in general.

In the dreaming phase, you don’t know what you don’t know. But during search and discovery, you’ll start gathering solid information. A mortgage professional will run some numbers and do a full review of your finances, including pulling your credit. They will marry that data with available loans in the market and teach you about the different loan options.

Full steam ahead

After weeks or months (or sometimes even years) of dreaming, searching and discovering, you will know the market inside and out. You will have seen enough homes to know what you like and don’t like, and you’ll have prioritized your criteria based on what you’ve learned. You’ll have seen many homes come on the market, go pending and close, which will help you understand list price vs. sale price, and why some homes sell faster than others.

When you are full steam ahead, you’ll be online 24/7 and being a home buyer becomes a part-time job. You’ll be in constant contact with your agent, who may be texting or emailing you listings throughout the day.

When a home that matches your criteria comes on the market, get out and see the home in person. Don’t wait for an open house — go view the home ASAP with your agent.

At this stage, you’ll be ready to make offers, and you may miss out on one or two homes before getting one. Or you may move forward on a home, only to find out there are inspection issues. You might even experience a little buyer’s remorse.

All of this is to be expected. When the right home comes along, it will work out because you’ve done all the prep work and have your team in place.

More From Zillow:

Why You Should Get Off the Fence About Buying a HomeAgent, Broker & Attorney: Understanding Their Roles in Your Real Estate TransactionCan You Afford to Buy a New Home and Rent Out Your Old One?

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Brendon DeSimone is the author of "Next Generation Real Estate: New Rules for Smarter Home Buying & Faster Selling," the go-to insider’s guide for navigating and better understanding the complex and ever-evolving world of buying and selling a home. DeSimone is the founder and principal of DeSimone & Co, an independent NYC real estate brokerage providing individualized services and a fresh, hands-on approach. Bringing more than a decade of residential real estate experience, DeSimone is a recognized national real estate expert and has appeared on top media outlets including CNBC, Good Morning America, HGTV, FOX News, Bloomberg and FOX Business. Consumers often call on Brendon for advice and to help them find a real estate agent. You can follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.