Thursday, January 13, 2022 / by Margie Wright
1. Figure out what you can realistically afford
The price tag on the home itself will help you get started, but it's imperative you know what you've been approved for and what you can pay comfortably on your mortgage each month. Principal, interest, taxes, and insurance make up your house payment. If you're buying closer to the top of your approved range, you may be making payments and barely scraping by. By taking into account how much you can afford on the house payment, you'll feel more comfortable moving forward in the home buying process.
2. Always get the inspections
Inspections may cost money, but the money you invest in them can save you so much more down the road. The general inspection is normally a given - home buyers know about it and jump on the opportunity to have it done as soon as possible. However, there's other inspectors too! Termite, HVAC, plumbing, structural, roofing... the list goes on and on. Don't be afraid to ask for these inspections before closing on the deal! You'll be thankful to avoid any potential dangers and expensive damages down the line.
3. Renovations aren't normally as easy as they are on TV
A fixer upper can be very enticing given the lower costs normally associated with them. However, renovating can be costly and doesn't always go as expected. It's best to go into it knowing that you might have to spend more than expected on the renovations. Time frames don't always match up as predicted as more problems can arise as the work goes on. It can be rewarding when you're done, but remember to keep a realistic view on the renovation process.
4. Get a real estate agent
Having an agent that wants to work for you and with you makes all the difference. They have access to listings that may not show up in your own searches. They'll also know about properties that are up and coming. An agent will help guide you through the paperwork, narrow down the search, and make the process so much less stressful. They can even help you negotiate the price of the home you want to buy! Since agents know the ins and outs of the market, they'll know the most important things about homes, what should be looked for, and any red flags.
5. Beware of strong air fresheners
If you're touring a home and it smells very strongly of air freshener, beware that there may be a smelly problem hiding away! Some people do prefer the scent of air fresheners, so it's not always an issue. However, don't be afraid to ask about any problems that may cause foul odors.
6. Never settle for the first mortgage company
Shop around! Get recommendations from your real estate agent, friends, and family, and then do your own research. Find the best option for you. By doing thorough research, you can save yourself lots of money (especially in interest).
7. Have extra savings
Make sure you have extra savings just in case! Problems with the house can appear months after you've bought it. You want to be able to comfortable be able to replace and fix what is needed. The little costs add up, as well. Decorations, kitchen supplies, shower heads, and any other little thing that you may not have had with you initially will add up quickly as you discover what you need.
8. Always inquire about property taxes
Know what the property taxes are, and also ask about how those taxes are trending. Whether they seem to be trending up or down can greatly impact your payments. If the area is becoming more popular and growing, expect property taxes to raise over time.
9. Think about trees being on the property
If there are trees on your property, they can be potential problems. Roots can come up through walkways and driveways. They can also cause foundation issues which is a costly fix. Storms could mean extra dangers of trees or limbs falling on your home and damaging it. Having them pruned and/or removed can also become very expensive over time.
10. Consider pizza delivery
If you're a pizza lover, check out if any of the local pizza places will deliver to the home. This has been a deal breaker for many home buyers! It's a simple luxury that you don't always think about until suddenly you don't have it.
11. Also consider cell phone service
...this is another thing some home buyers don't always think about. When you're touring a home, you're likely not on your phone to check the service. You're more focused on the house and its details. However, it's good practice to check your cell service throughout the home and the property to make sure you have the service you want and need.
12. Get pre-approved
This makes a major difference in your home shopping. It'll give you the most accurate price that you can work with when looking for a home. Have the paperwork for pre-approval, financial paperwork, and identification paperwork from the last few years uploaded to your computer for easy access. You don't want to be scrambling to find it at a crucial moment and miss out on a deal.
13. Look at the lawn upkeep
If you're shopping in the winter, you may not think about what the lawn care is like. Don't be afraid to ask the previous owners about what mowing the lawn is like. Do you plan on mowing it yourself or hiring someone to mow it? Walk across the lawn a few times to get a feel for what that may be like.
14. Always see if the neighborhood has an HOA
HOA fees should be stated in the listing and your agent should bring them up, but you may not commit to memory. Double check for them and see how much the fee is. There will likely be certain rules you have to follow, and people to deal with, when it comes to having an HOA. If it's something you want to stay out of, stay away from the HOA.
15. Older homes can have more problems
If you're looking at getting an older home, ask about any upgrades to the home. Have everything inspected, even if it means having to call specialists. Older homes may have issues that wouldn't be found except by a specialist. If problems are found, you can likely negotiate pricing or repairs prior to finalizing the sale. It may also mean that you don't want to buy that particular home if there are more problems that arise.
16. Drive by a property at all hours on different days
See what the neighborhood is like in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Drive through at peak traffic times. Make the commute to and from your work to see how that is. Are neighbors active on the weekends and evenings? Is it loud or quiet? You'll get a better feel for what the neighborhood is like by going around at different times.
17. Research home warranties
Just because one company is cheaper doesn't mean that they'll cover everything. Another company may be more expensive, but they'll cover most anything you may need to cover. Look at reviews to see how customer service treats the clients. See about response times and pricing. Don't be afraid to ask for second opinions.
18. Always ask questions
Keep a list of all the questions you have! Everyone you work with in the home buying process will be more than happy to answer the questions you have. Write questions down as you think of them. It's easy to get caught up in the process and paperwork, but do take the time to think of any questions. If you don't have any questions, turn to the internet for questions! There's very likely articles out there with questions that you previously wouldn't have thought of.