Finding the Right Home
Buying a home should be fun, not stressful. Keep these tips in mind as you search for your ideal house to make the process as smooth as possible.
- Research before you look.
Decide what features you most want to have in a home (this checklist can help), what neighborhoods you prefer (here are some tips), and how much you’d be willing to spend each month for housing.
- Be realistic.
It’s okay to be picky, but don’t be unrealistic with your expectations. Use your list of priorities as a guide to evaluate each property. There’s no such thing as a perfect home. If it’s in the right location, the yard may be a bit smaller than you had hoped. The kitchen may be perfect, but the roof needs repair. Focus on things that are most important to you. Let the minor ones go.
- Remember your home doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
Don’t get so caught up in the physical aspects of the house itself—room size, kitchen, etc.—that you forget about important issues as noise level, location to amenities, and other aspects that also have a big impact on your quality of life.
- Get your finances in order.
Review your credit report and be sure you have enough money to cover your down payment and closing costs. Then, talk to a lender and get prequalified for a mortgage. This will save you the heartache later of falling in love with a house you can’t afford.
- Factor in maintenance and repair costs in your post-home buying budget.
Even if you buy a new home, there will be costs. Don’t leave yourself short and let your home deteriorate.
- Don’t ask too many people for opinions.
It’s natural to want reassurance for such a big decision, but too many ideas from too many people will make it much harder to make a decision. Select one or two people to turn to if you feel you need a second opinion, but be ready to make the final decision on your own. Focus on the wants and needs of your immediate family—the people who will be living in the home.
- Plan ahead.
Don’t wait until you’ve found a home and made an offer to get approved for a mortgage, investigate home insurance, and consider a schedule for moving. Presenting an offer contingent on a lot of unresolved issues will make your bid much less attractive to sellers.
- Decide your moving timeline.
When is your lease up? Are you allowed to sublet? How tight is the rental market in your area? All of these factors will help you determine when you should move.
- Remember, there’s no “right” time to buy, just as there’s no perfect time to sell.
If you find a home now, don’t try to second-guess interest rates or the housing market by waiting longer—you risk losing out on the home of your dreams. The housing market usually doesn’t change fast enough to make that much difference in price, and a good home won’t stay on the market long.
- Think long term.
Are you looking for a starter house with plans to move up in a few years, or do you hope to stay in this home for a longer period? This decision may dictate what type of home you’ll buy as well as the type of mortgage terms that will best suit you.
- Hire a real estate professional who specializes in buyer representation.
Unlike a listing agent, whose first duty is to the seller, a buyer’s representative is working only for you. Buyer’s reps are usually paid out of the seller’s commission payment.
- Make sure you can connect well with the real estate agent.
Home buying is not only a big financial commitment, but also an emotional one. It’s critical that the realtor you choose is both highly skilled and a good fit with your personality.
- Choose a home first because you love it; then think about appreciation.
While U.S. homes have appreciated an average of 5.4 percent annually over from 1998 to 2002, a home’s most important role is to serve as a comfortable, safe place to live.
- Don’t try to be a killer negotiator.
Negotiation is definitely a part of the real estate process, but trying to “win” by getting an extra-low price or by refusing to budge on your offer may cost you the home you love. Negotiation is give and take.
- Insist on a home inspection.
If possible, get a warranty from the seller to cover defects for one year.
- Accept that a little buyer’s remorse is inevitable and will probably pass.
Buying a home, especially for the first time, is a big financial commitment. But it also yields big benefits. Don’t lose sight of why you wanted to buy a home and what made you fall in love with the property you purchased.
Reprinted from REALTOR® magazine with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.