Tips For Buying A Home! (Part 2)
Hiring the Right Agent, Finding the Right Community and Buying the Right Home
Hire the Right Buyers Agent
You’ll be working closely with your real estate agent, so it’s essential that you find someone you get along with well. The right buyers agent should be highly skilled, highly motivated and, above all-knowledgeable about the area. With the internet it is very easy to do extensive research ahead of time to figure out which agent covers your area. Then, sit down and talk about the process and your home wishlist with an agent before you even see one house with them.
A common misconception is that buyers should go directly to the listing agent when purchasing a home because they may get a better deal. But who is the listing agent working for? The listing agent is working on behalf of the seller and has fiduciary responsibilities to the seller. Your buyer’s agent is working solely for you, the buyer, and has a fiduciary responsibility to you. The buyer’s agent is not collecting a commission from you. The commission is paid by the seller.
Pick the Right Neighborhood
Finding the right neighborhood is just as important as locating the right house. Research the schools, even if you don’t have kids, since that affects a home’s value. Look at local safety and crime statistics. How close are the nearest hospital, pharmacy, grocery store, and other amenities you’ll use? Also, drive through the neighborhood on various days, and at different times to check out traffic, noise, and activity levels. Also, does this community have everything that you are looking for - does it have cultural events, the right places of worship, plenty of restaurants and shops if that is important to you? Open houses are a great opportunity to scope out the neighborhood and your potential neighbors.
Now…Finding the Right House
Depending on the community you choose, there may be more single-family homes available to choose from which of course may be ideal if you want a yard or a more rooms. But if you’re willing to sacrifice space for less maintenance and extra amenities, and you don’t mind paying a homeowners association fee, a condo or townhome could be a better fit.
As your agent shows you homes, look for properties that cost a little less than the amount you were approved for. While you can technically afford that amount, it’s the ceiling — and it doesn’t account for a broken washer or dryer, or any other expenses that arise during homeownership, especially right after you buy. Rather than maxing out that amount, set a lower purchase budget to leave yourself wiggle room for unexpected costs.
Remember to look beyond the superficial things, like paint color, wallpaper, carpeting, etc. These features are easy to change! Make a comprehensive list with your agent beforehand what you’re willing to compromise on, and what you’re not. Perhaps no walk-in closet in the master bedroom is a deal breaker, but an outdated guest bathroom will be tolerable until you can renovate it. When you are looking at the house with your agent, you want to pay close attention to the home’s overall condition. Notice smells, stains, cracks. Ask a lot of questions. If you can, get ahold of the seller’s disclosure, which will have key information about when items were last replaced, and how systems like the air conditioning and the heating are.
Also, It’s easy to look at properties that meet your current needs. But if you plan to start or expand your family, it may be preferable to buy a larger home you can grow into. Consider your future needs and wants, and whether this home will suit them.
The Offer Process, Inspections, Insurance and Closing
Your real estate agent is your best source of information in the offer process - knowing what has sold in the market he/she can pull comparable properties to help you come up with the right price to offer. In a competitive real estate market with limited inventory, it’s likely you’ll be bidding on houses that get multiple offers. It is very hard to stick to your budget when this type of scenario presents itself - and often you may end up overpaying. Ultimately, you do not want to have a mortgage payment you cannot afford!
A lot can be up for negotiation in the home buying process, which can result in major savings. Again, your agent can advise you here as well. Are there any major repairs the seller is willing to cover or give a credit for at closing? Is the seller willing to pay for any of the closing costs? How long has the home been on the market and what is the seller’s motivation? In a buyer’s market (high inventory market), the longer a home has been sitting, the more negotiable the seller may be.
Once your offer is accepted, you’ll pay for a home inspection to examine the property’s condition inside and out. Attend the inspection and pay close attention, and ask questions. Make sure the inspector can access every part of the home, such as the roof and any crawl spaces. Not all inspections test for things like radon, mold or pests, so be sure you know what’s included. Once you have reviewed the report and negotiated the terms with the seller, it is then up to you to make the decision to move forward to closing day! Before you close on your new house, your lender will require you to buy homeowners insurance. Look closely at what’s covered in the policies. Compare them closely and shop around. Also, flood damage isn’t covered by homeowners - this is a whole separate policy.
Once all the above is finished and your mortgage commitment is in, title is cleared, and you have insurance - you can close and move in!