You don’t want to be caught unaware when making the big decision of buying a home. Here are 10 things to consider before you make your purchase....
1) Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage.
Just like you don’t necessarily buy the first home you look at, you don’t necessarily want to go with the first mortgage broker you meet. Ask your friends, family and realtor for suggestions, meet with each of them, and take time to make sure they understand your financial situation. If the broker won’t give you his fees in writing, hit the road! You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you find the home of your dreams without the ability to bid.
2) Be Prepared to Look Past the Small Stuff.
Not every home will look like the cover of a magazine. Come into each new showing with a positive attitude, and do your best to look past the furniture and personal effects. You can always change paint and lighting fixtures, but a good layout in a great neighborhood goes a long way. It is just as easy to be blown away by new paint or beautiful furniture. Try to keep everything relative so you aren’t putting too much emphasis on pretty details, and missing out on features that are important to you in a home.
3) Hire a Home Inspector.
I feel like most people know this, but it is such an important part of the process. Even in a new build I highly recommend an inspection. It is better to spend a couple hundred dollars upfront on an inspection, rather than potentially spending thousands when a pre-existing condition arises down the road.
4) Be Mindful of Spending.
Just because you are approved for $250,000 doesn’t mean you have to spend every penny. You don’t want to be eating ramen noodles every day just to live in a new neighborhood. Knocking off about 15% of the total amount you are approved for can give you a little more wiggle room in your day to day finances and allow you to save for retirement. You also want to have cash for things like your closing costs, HOA fees, property taxes and homeowner’s insurance so make sure all things are taken into consideration in your budget.
5) Know the Neighborhood.
When you find a neighborhood you like, try to visit it at different times of day. Is it a busy road during rush hour? Is there a lot of congestion on weekends? Park your car and walk around. If you see a neighbor out, ask them about the area. How do your kids like the school, what is the HOA association like? What do you love about the neighborhood? You may just get some surprising answers!
6) Use the Internet.
There are tons of great resources available to you if you just know where to look! http://www.city-data.com can give you great statistics on crime, home sales, income and more. https://www.greatschools.org is an amazing resource for education. You can even use https://www.google.com just put in the address and see if there are any news stories about the address or neighborhood.
7) Trust Your Gut (and Your Senses).
Sometimes you walk into a home and you just love it, but make sure you are using all your facilities to make the best choice. Listen closely. Do you hear traffic from 2 streets over? Is the ceiling fan buzzing going to keep you awake all night? Do you smell a lot of chemical cleaners from the owners trying get rid of some mysterious odor? Is the home musty from closed windows and doors that encourages mold growth? Do the carpets smell like urine which may have penetrated the floorboards? Can you see streaking paint? Do you see large cracks in the tile floors? Run your hands along the countertop edges. Are there any chips? Does the refrigerator feel cold? All these answers can help you make an educated decision about your home purchase.
8) Don't Underbid.
Everyone loves a good deal, but you can’t always get what you want. While it may sound appealing to come in under asking, especially on a home that has been sitting on the market, you could easily offend the buyer and they may not accept any counter offers. This is why having a good real estate agent is so crucial. Let them pull comps for the area, and get you the information you need to make an educated and competitive bid.
9) Avoid the Bidding Wars.
In a hot seller’s market, many houses are getting multiple offers. The problem is some people are getting so caught up in “winning” that they are doing themselves a disservice. Know your budget and know when to walk away. While an appraisal will help you from going way overboard, you don’t want to spread yourself too thin to live in a home you can’t afford.
10) Are You Ready to Move?
This seems like an easy question, but have you really looked at everything? Is your job stable? Are you prepared to stay in the area for more than 2 years? Are you ready to take care of a property? Are you going to have any other large purchases or life changes to consider in the next 6 months to a year? Before you leap into a new home, make sure you weigh all your choices. Not only do you need to be financially prepared, you need to be physically and mentally prepared for all that comes with owning a home.
I hope this helps you on your journey to home ownership!