It’s early in the year, but you’ve already decided that you want to buy your first downtown Boston condo or upgrade to a new one in 2020. January is the best time to kick things off—but first you need to be prepared for the Boston real estate market.

If you’re looking for a Beacon Hill condo or perhaps a Midtown high rise condo, inventory is still low in January and early February, and this is a good time to get your ducks in order. Here are five ways you can pave the way to a successful Boston real estate purchase:

1.Understand your financials.

 As we approach the tax season this is an excellent time of year to take stock of current incomes, projected bonuses, all assets, and how much cash you’ll have for a down payment on that Charles River Park condo that you’ve been dreaming about.

2. Decide what your needs for a new downtown condo are

Are you more about having a place to hang your hat in between work and travel? Will you need parking? Will you need space for future children, pets, or frequent guests? Take stock of your lifestyle and list your absolute must haves and wishes.

3. What Boston neighborhood do you want to live in?

 This can range from a desire to having high rise condo complex with city views, to a burning need to live in a historic neighborhood like Beacon Hill. Those types of fthought questions will help you create a short list of potential downtown Boston neighborhoods.

4. Consult with a lender or mortgage broker. 

Understanding what you’ll be able to afford will put the finishing touches on your search. There’s no point in visiting a series of North End condo listed for $500,000 if you end up being preapproved for a purchase with a max of $450,000. Once you know your price range, you can back into what property types and neighborhoods will be workable.

5. Consult with a Downtown Boston real estate agent.

Most importantly, you want work with a Realtor who understands what homes that would be right for you and your family. It’s also a good time to discuss the market and what you can expect when you make an offer. A Realtor will be able to recommend additional lender possibilities for you, as well, so you can shop around before you’re ready to make an offer.

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