Looks like that townhome was sold and closed on 12-30-08 for $399,000. The HOA dues were also extremely high for the price ($395/mo). I know of a townhome located fairly close by that location, is a bit bigger (1500) sq feet, has vaulted ceilings, and lower HOA's that include water, sewer, garbage, and cable for $350,000. It is a short sale, and a great deal! Let me know if you would like more information as I specialize in Townhomes and Condos on the eastside.
-Michael Dzurenko III AKA: TheTownhomeAgent.com
As you can see, from what other agents are telling you, getting pre approved is truly the first step. Note I did not say pre qualified as there is a big difference between these two steps. Pre qualification is an abbreviated version of finding out how much of a mortgage loan you can qualify for. This process can usually be done over the phone in about 15 minutes provided you have the requested information at hand.
To get pre approval you must provide proof of this type of information to a mortgage lender who then provides you with a document guaranteeing that you are authorized for a loan with that agency up to a said amount. This is a two fold benefit to you because it provides your agent with more leverage when he makes your offer. Plus the time to process the loan is already set in motion saving you time at closing.
At this juncture you are ready to select an agent whom can help you find that dream condo or townhome.
If you have any further questions or need help finding a loan resource you can contact me and I would gladly advise. It's what I do.
Keller Williams Rlty Bellevue
505 106th Ave NE, Suite 210
Bellevue, WA 98004
Primary: 206-719-5061 Secondary: 425-454-0911
Getting pre-approved is the first step. Then finding an agent you are comfortable with. There are many great agents to choose from. As a first time home buyer you definitely want representation, make sure your agent represents you and not the seller. In this market there are many great deals to be had.
Any one of us can help.
Then as others have mentioned, finding an agent to let you in is the most common option. You could also contact the listing agent to let you in, but that agent would be representing the seller, not you. Many people erroneously think that contacting the listing agent will save them 3% on the price. That is not necessarily true (I won't take a guess at the likelihood, because it doesn't matter when you're only doing one transaction), and in any case you wouldn't have anyone on your side representing you. Yet another way to get in is to find out when there might be an open house.
But again, the first step is to contact a mortgage broker to see what you qualify for. Without knowing that you might be wasting your time looking at properties you're not able to buy.