The process of buying a home can be one of the most exciting times of your life. A home purchase can also be one of the biggest financial investments in your life. It is important to protect your investment and save yourself some stress by following some important tips.
It is extremely important that you understand the financial logistics of buying a home. First and foremost, talk to a mortgage lender and get pre-approved for a mortgage. Even though the market is starting to show signs of balancing out, home prices have increased over 10% year-over-year. Mortgage interest rates have almost doubled in the past year. Your mortgage lender will help you understand financial aspects such as the price of a home you can afford, your monthly budget, your debt-to-income ratio, how much money you will need for a down payment and closing costs, and more. Other aspects to consider are your job security, how long you plan on staying in the home, and other local market indicators.
Find a Real Estate Agent
Find a local, experienced, real estate agent to help you find a home. It is important that your agent is a member of the local multiple listing service (MLS,) so she has access to all homes listed on the market in the area. She can sign you up for an automatic home search if the local MLS has that feature. If your agent is a Realtor, or member of the national, state and local Realtor boards, this may also be a plus. Realtors have higher standards they must adhere to.
Think about the location of the home. First, decide whether you want to live in the city or be a part of suburban living. Do your research on specific towns and neighborhoods that may suit you. If a certain school district is important to you, tell your agent. If you'd like to be close to work or anything else in particular, keep these in mind as part of your search parameters.
Another consideration is the size of your lot. If you want a big yard for pets to run around in, children to play in, or for a backyard oasis, keep in mind the maintenance cost and time that comes with it.
Size, Style, Features and Layout
Decide what size of home you'd like or need. Think about square footage, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and other rooms you will need. Keep in mind the style of home you'd like, such as a two-story, ranch or split-level. Decide whether or not you need a basement. Think about the layout and flow of your home, such as whether you prefer open-concept or not.
Age of Home
The age of a home is another crucial aspect to consider. A newer home may have fewer defects and safety hazards. A more contemporary home may not require as many necessary updates. An older home may have a lot more maintenance, updates and upgrades required. All of these cost money.
Big-Ticket Items and Systems
Be sure to look at the big-ticket items and systems in a home before you buy it. Start at the top and be sure the roof and siding are in good shape. Look at the windows to make sure they aren't leaking water or air. Inquire about how old the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is. Ensure the plumbing and electrical systems are up to code.
Maintenance and Other Defects
Look for possible neglected or deferred maintenance in the home. In other words, be sure the current homeowners have been keeping up with routine maintenance. Be on the lookout for water damage and possible mold in the home, especially in the basement, crawl space, attic, under sinks, and in other dark places. Find out if the HVAC system has been cleaned and checked recently. It is key to have a professional home inspection performed on the home.
Be sure the home has all of your needs and some of your wants. Make a list of amenities you're looking for such as a fireplace, chef-sized kitchen with an island and pantry, en suite, front porch, deck or patio, and the like.
Take a good look at the cosmetics in the home. For example, if it is in need of painting, flooring, and carpeting, know this will cost money after closing.
Exterior and Landscaping
A landscaping overhaul can be expensive. Be sure the patio or deck doesn't need too much work either. After you have taken into consideration all the tips before buying your dream home, you will feel more comfortable moving forward if all the boxes are checked.