Many of you who are considering buying a home for the first time will find the process very daunting, especially since it’s one of the biggest commitments you will ever make in your life. For this reason, I have put together a list of the key things to think about at the beginning and along the way.
The 1st thing I recommend for anyone/everyone buying a home and using a mortgage loan, is to get pre-qualified for the loan so that you understand the maximum home price you can afford and/or that you’re “comfortable” with. There are a lot of lenders out there to choose from, so ask around your friend or co-worker network and see if you can find a trustworthy one that is recommended by others whose opinion you trust.
Now you have your maximum purchase price in mind and a pre-approval letter to show the seller of any home for which you make an offer. Now make a list of the areas and/or neighborhoods you’re most interested in living, including only ones where you would feel safe, are close enough to work and to places you hang out for leisure, close to public transportation (if that’s important), and/or (assuming you have kids) ones with sufficiently good public schools.
Then make a list of your primary minimum requirements for your home or town home/condo. Some of the most common and obvious things include a minimum # of Bedrooms and Bathrooms, a minimum overall Square Footage, a minimum amount of included outdoor space (or Lot Size in the case of a house), a specific # of parking spaces and parking “types” (Garage, Carport, etc), Inside Laundry, Modern Construction (1990 or newer), Minimum “Condition” (such as only properties that are in “Move-In” Condition or only ones that are furthermore already “Recently Updated”), or (in the case of a Town Home or Condo) maximum monthly HOA Dues. Try to think about any other important considerations, such as how many levels the home has, what story the unit is on (in the case of a condo), what type of floor plan you prefer, etc. and include those on the list. Many of these “other important considerations” will be secondary ones, so be sure to list them that way.
Now, you’re ready for the next step, which is to choose a Realtor to help you with showing you properties of potential interest, get you information on the properties you’re interested in, and negotiate for the purchase of it. As with the mortgage lenders, there are a lot of Real Estate Agents out there to choose from, so ask around your friend or co-worker network and see if you can find a trustworthy one that is recommended by others whose opinion you trust.
If you’re working with a good agent, one of the first things they will stress to you is that you should try to focus on the 2 things that are most important, Location and Floor Plan. Location is the most important because it’s the one thing that you “can’t” change in the future. The 2nd most important thing, the Floor Plan, is also incredibly important because there are aspects of it that you will never be able to change (especially with a Town Home or Condo) and some of the aspects of it that you “can” change can be very “expensive” to change.
Buyers are often distracted by frivolous aspects of a property like the color of the paint, the type of flooring, and/or the way the house is decorated. In the big picture, those are things can easily be changed and not necessarily all at once. So it’s better to be focused on the desirability of the location and the floor plan, while considering other things only in terms of adjusting how much you’re willing to “pay” for the property in light of the money you think you will need to spend to get the home looking the way you want.
Regarding looking at properties, I recommend doing private viewings with your agent. Open Houses can be convenient in terms of being able to view properties without your agent when he/she is unavailable, but the truth is that with private viewings you will get a better feel for the property without the distraction of other buyers milling around. And it’s better for your agent to be with you during showings so they can best understand your needs and best understand the property if it ends up being one that you’re interested in to make an offer.
Before making an offer on any property, be sure to review any/all disclosures provided by the Seller(s) and have your agent give you an analysis of the most recent sale comps to help you understand the most likely “range of value” of the property.
Also, keep in mind that the more you like a property, the more “everyone else” seeing the property likes it. If there are competing Buyers, put your best food forward by choosing the strongest price/terms that you would be happy to get the property for, while not feeling that you would be disappointed if you “don’t” get it with those terms.
Happy House Hunting!