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Whether you’re ready to stop renting in the Queen City or you’re relocating from out of state, buying a house in Charlotte isn’t easy. This is a popular market, and data from Redfin shows that available homes here typically receive three offers, so you’ll need to be prepared for the competition.
It’s not all doom and gloom for Charlotte buyers, though: In May 2023, median prices in the overall region dropped by 2 percent compared with the year earlier, according to the Canopy Realtor Association. Read on for everything you need to know about how to buy a house in Charlotte.
Deciding where to live in Charlotte
No matter where you decide to plant roots in this area, you’re going to enjoy one big benefit: a relatively affordable cost of living. Compared with many other East Coast cities, Charlotte is a bargain. Daily expenses here are more than 35 percent lower than in Washington, D.C., and more than 18 percent lower than in Miami, according to Bankrate’s cost of living calculator.
The entire metro area isn’t created equal when it comes to pricing, however. While the median price tag for a new home in the region was $385,000 in May, per Canopy, the buy-in cost looks quite different in different areas. For example, the median for homes within the city limits of Charlotte was $415,000, while in nearby Gastonia it was just $270,000. For comparison, the nationwide median sale price for May was $396,100.
Keep in mind that buying a home in Charlotte isn’t just about the asking price today. Think about your long-term plans for your family to make sure that you are looking at homes that will serve your needs for at least the next several years — ideally even longer, to avoid the hassle and expense of moving again soon.
How to buy a house in Charlotte
There are loads of routes toward becoming a Charlotte homeowner. With so many different loan options, lenders and assistance programs, it’s important to start the process with an understanding of the best path for your personal finances.
Saving for a down payment in Charlotte
Traditionally, the typical down payment on a home is 20 percent of the purchase price. On a median-priced $415,000 Charlotte home, that adds up to $83,000 — a sum that might scare you into thinking that buying a home is impossible. However, many mortgages do not require nearly that much, and you may be able to pay significantly less. If you have excellent credit, conventional loans can require a down payment of just 3 percent, which is a much more manageable $12,450.
Get preapproved for a mortgage
Once you have a firm idea in mind of how much you can contribute to your down payment, it’s time to get preapproved for a mortgage. This is an essential step that will serve you well in the house-hunting phase. You’ll know how much you can borrow, plus you’ll impress sellers with evidence that a lender has already scrutinized your finances and given you a preliminary OK.
Find the right lender
When you’re ready to sign a contract, you don’t necessarily have to stick with the lender that issued your preapproval. Make sure you compare a range of offers from different North Carolina mortgage lenders to find the best deal. Focus on securing the lowest mortgage rate you can, but pay close attention to the fee structure from each lender, too.
Find the best local real estate agent in Charlotte
Before you start browsing listings online, look for a real estate agent to guide your way. Buying a house can be a confusing, frustrating and anxiety-inducing task, but a local agent’s expertise will make things significantly easier. Since homes in Charlotte tend to receive multiple offers, the right real estate agent will play a critical role in helping you craft an offer that stands out from the crowd.
Start house-hunting and make an offer
Once you’re in a position to start looking for houses in earnest, it’s important to know what you must have in a new home versus what you would simply like to have. Remember that a new home doesn’t have to deliver all your dream amenities right from the start. For instance, while a finished basement might be nice, you can always renovate in a few years. Buying a house will likely involve some willingness to compromise, so think about what will make or break your decision.
Once you find a place you love, your agent can help you figure out the best starting point for an offer. Homes in Charlotte are selling for their full asking price, per Redfin, but that doesn’t mean you have to overpay. Look at comps of nearby recently sold properties to get a sense of a realistic bid that will bring the seller to the table.
Get a home inspection and appraisal
Once your offer gets accepted, your work is not done. It’s smart to get a home inspection, even though it’s technically not required: This is a crucial step to make sure the property is in good shape and isn’t harboring any hidden issues that will become problems down the road. If the inspection does uncover any problems, you can ask the seller to pay for repairs. They don’t have to say yes, but it’s very possible they will: A May Redfin study showed that more than 52 percent of sellers in Charlotte have offered concessions so far in 2023.
If you’re financing your home purchase, your lender will require an appraisal of the property as well. They need to make sure they’re not lending you more than the home is worth. If the appraisal comes back lower than your offer, be ready to either ask the seller to lower the price tag or make up the difference with your own cash.
Throughout this process, you’ll probably field questions and requests from your attorney, your agent and your lender. Make sure you prioritize these to keep things on track to meet your closing date.
Requirements to buy a house in Charlotte
Can I afford a house in Charlotte?
Some good news for buyers: Prices in the Charlotte region overall are dropping, according to Canopy data. Between May 2022 and May 2023, the median price here dropped by 2 percent to $385,000. While that’s a bit lower than the national median, it’s still a lot of money, and calculating how much you can spend on a home relies on a mix of factors. Consider how much you earn each month, how much other debt you have (like car payments or student loans) and how much you can spend on a down payment. The bigger a down payment you’re able to swing, the less money you’ll have to borrow.
Before you start doing the math, it’s important to know your credit score. Why? The higher your credit score is, the lower your interest rate will likely be, which can make a huge difference in your monthly payment.
First-time homebuyers in Charlotte
If it’s your first time buying a home, you may be in luck — check to see if you are eligible for any of the programs in North Carolina specifically designed to help you deal with the financial challenges of becoming a homeowner.
In addition to statewide offerings, look into House Charlotte, a program geared toward low- and moderate-income buyers who need down payment assistance. Note that you’ll need to look for cheaper properties: Existing construction is capped at a $300,000 price tag.
Closing day is the final step in the homebuying process, and it’s the point when money — and keys — actually change hands. The most important piece of the puzzle is how much cash you need. According to CoreLogic’s Closing Corp, closing costs in North Carolina tally up to 1.1 percent of the purchase price. That’s another $4,565 on a median-priced $415,000 Charlotte home. However, the final tab can vary greatly depending on each transaction, and the buyer does not cover the entire thing — some closing costs are paid by the seller. Before the big day, review your closing disclosure carefully to make sure that your actual closing costs are in line with your initial estimate.
At the closing table, you’ll sign a lot of paperwork and hand over a lot of cashier’s checks. When you’re done, the keys are yours — you’re a Charlotte homeowner.
It’s still a fairly tough time to buy a home in Charlotte, mainly due to high mortgage rates and a relatively low supply of housing for sale. However, there are some positive signals for buyers in the Queen City. In May, the median sale price for the region dropped by 2 percent versus last year, according to data from the Canopy Realtor Association. In addition, Redfin data shows that homes spent 10 days longer on the market in May than they did at the same time last year, so buyers have more time to make their decision.
A 2022 Redfin study showed that buyers needed to earn $70,235 per year to afford a median-priced home in Charlotte. However, the math isn’t quite so simple. Determining whether you can buy a house in Charlotte relies on looking at how much you spend each month to pay off all your other debts and how much you can contribute to a down payment. Many experts recommend aiming to spend no more than 28 percent of your income on housing, so do the math on your salary to see what you can comfortably afford.