What to Look for When Buying a House & Getting the Help You Need
What to Look for When Buying a House: It’s so easy nowadays to take the guess work out of being a consumer and let online searches find everything you need or want to know. But as slick and state of the art as online resources might be, they will never take the place of personal and professional experience. How much do you know about the home buying process, and do you have a great, experienced professional who is guiding you with better advice than a ‘Google Search’ or elsewhere?
Before you make what is likely the most expensive decision in your lifetime, take the time to consider these 10 important tips:
- Find and Hire an experienced Buyers Realtor®
- Your purchase is a minimum 5-Year Plan
- Stay within your means
- Home Warranties exist, and are helpful
- What’s the neighborhood like before you buy it
- Have a ‘New Home Book’ for all of your documents and receipts
- Understand your market, and the value of what you’re buying
- Get a Home Inspection
- Do your home improvements sooner rather than later
- And make friends with your new neighbors
Hire an experienced Buyers Realtor®
There is zero benefit to you when approaching the listing broker of the home that interests you, instead of having your own Realtor® – zero. A Buyers Realtor is working on your behalf, finding you potential homes that fit with your budget, desired location, and lifestyle. While you’re at work, they’re at work for you – handling every detail from searches, to writing offers, negotiating on your behalf, and being resourceful to minimize your stress and ensure a smooth closing. Not sure who to hire? Look for feedback from online reviews, family, friends, and co-workers. Ask your local lender if they have a recommendation for you.
Your new home should be part of a minimum 5-year plan
It’s typical, but not a guarantee for a home to increase in value over time. Buying and holding your home for 5 years or longer is best. Some questions to ponder when you decide to buy – Is your employer or business going to allow for you to stay where you are if you buy a home? Could there be another motivating reason that would cause you to have to sell in the near future? And even more important – Do you have job/income security that coincides with your 5 year plan? It’s vitally important to take the time to literally spell out a 5-year plan, AND make sure that the plan is one that both you and your spouse agree to. Location, size, room for growth, commute time, and maybe even the potential rental value are also very important factors to consider when you buy your home.
Live within your means
This mindset dovetails your 5-year plan. You may enjoy macaroni and cheese, but do you want to live on it? You may be approved for $300,000 to purchase a home, but is that your cap? Are you using that value with zero or minimum down and seller paid concessions? If yes is your answer to these questions, maybe you should consider putting more money down on a home, or at least borrowing less money. Your current salary may justify your payment, but what if your salary is reduced? Fortune favors the prepared, so plan ahead. Owing less on a home causes you to sleep better and helps you stay in control of your budget. If you can do a bigger down payment on a home, that could prove to benefit you in the future if your plans change and you have to sell your home.
Get a Home Warranty, and keep it renewed!
Ask your broker for recommendations on warranties that are effective in your area. Double-check what the policy covers, and keep it handy to refer back to when or if you run into a problem. A common Home Warranty policy will cover such things as plumbing problems, electrical problems, appliances, heating sources, and structural problems. When it’s time to renew the policy –do it! Most policies that I have encountered are valid for 12 months after the sale, and are totally renewable – so don’t let it expire! The one time you use it, the policy will more than pay for itself!
How’s the neighborhood?
Is the home close to town, shopping, or other amenities (grocery store, gas station, post office, etc.)? What about the neighborhood? Are most of the homes well kept, or is the condition and appearance of the surrounding homes average or less than desirable? What about the school district? Is there a school within walking distance to the home? School districts and their known performance is a very important factor to consider when buying a home, regardless of whether or not you have or plan to have children. What about an active Homeowners Association? You should receive a copy of the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions for a potential home that interests you, and take time to read it thoroughly. HOA’s can be a good thing – they are intended to help protect your investment from unwanted activity or behavior.
Keep a Home Book handy
You will likely go through a lot of paper in this journey – from listing sheets, to receipts for earnest money, Home Inspection reports, CCR’s, repair receipts, permits and so much more. It’s very helpful to either keep a Home Book, or create a file on your computer and save everything! The home you are buying will have manuals for appliances, or even warranties for improvements made (new appliances, windows, roof, etc.), make sure you obtain those documents.
Know values in your market
What does that mean? Simply put, you should know what the market trends are doing in your area of interest. Is it a buyer’s market or a seller’s market? What are homes selling for that meet with your interest? What is the dollar per square foot average, and how does that compare to the home you are considering buying? Your Realtor® should be ready to clarify that question before you make an offer.
Get a Home Inspection
Regardless of whether you are buying a new home or a used one, something about the home is not perfect. A great inspector will help find and note deficiencies in a home, so you can make an informed decision about repairs and improvements. Most inspection reports that I have read are not only very thorough about the homes’ current condition, but also offer tips on how to improve and maintain the home – for now, and for years down the road. Keep this report handy in your Home Book to help you keep your home in good standing order.
Do your home improvements sooner rather than later
You just bought a home, make it yours! Take the time to change the paint, flooring, pull knobs, whatever. Enjoy the home now, and turn those ‘someday’ ideas you have into goals to make it happen. All too often, when I talk to a potential seller about listing their home on the market, it’s when they’re in ‘sell mode’ that they suddenly take an interest in home improvements. Why? To me, it makes more sense to have had the time to enjoy those improvements that you invest in – they will still be there when it’s time to sell, and will likely be one less thing to stress about when prepping your home for the market.
Make peace with your neighbors
Your neighbors make a huge difference in your quality of life – and that can be a good thing, or a bad thing. All of us can think of examples of “this is where I would love to live, because it’s a great neighborhood”. What makes a neighborhood great? It’s you and your neighbors sharing a common desire of a quality life. So get to know who your neighbors are, and do simple acts of kindness to encourage a great neighbor relationship. Here are some ideas to break the ice and build relationships with your neighbors: Be part of the HOA; help keep up maintenance with neighborhood common areas; offer to keep watch on your neighbor’s home when they’re away for extended periods; see an opportunity to make a positive difference with your neighbor and act on it without being asked to.
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