Advice for Home Buyers: Top 10 Tips
Buying a home is an important and exciting decision. Understanding the basic process of choosing a new home and its potential pitfalls is imperative for you and your family's future happiness and financial stability.
There are many questions that both first-time and repeat house buyers experience throughout the process of finding a home, negotiating the price, financing and moving in. Doing your research beforehand can save a lot of headache and the potential for buyer's remorse. The following important tips can get you started.
1. Decide If Buying Is the Right Option for You
If you don't expect to be staying in one place for at least a few years, renting may be a better option. Transaction costs of buying and selling a home can often leave you in the negative, even in a rising market.
2. Check Your Credit
Assuming you will need a mortgage to buy your house, ensuring that your credit score is clean and without errors should be one of the first steps taken when deciding to buy a house. A few months before starting your house hunting, get copies of your credit report and fix any problems you might discover. If needed, implement methods for improving your credit.
3. Pre-Qualification: Aim for a Home You Can Really Afford
Arrange a meeting with a mortgage broker to discuss how much you can afford to pay for a home. A good rule of thumb is that you can buy a house that is about two-and-one-half times your annual salary. For example - someone who earns $40k a year would do best to look at houses in the $100k price range.
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4. Get Pre-Approved For Your Mortgage First
In addition to simply knowing how much you can afford, you can get a much better guarantee of your buying eligibility by getting pre-approved. Sellers will be a lot more receptive knowing that you have been pre-approved and you can avoid the disappointment of going after homes that are out of your price range. Even if you know you had great credit the last time you bought a home, the lending world has changed dramatically in recent years. Mortgage guidelines change almost monthly, so it's even important for experienced buyers to have an updated understanding of your mortgage eligibility.
When you get pre-approved for a morgage, you are actually applying for the mortgage and the lender gives you an in-writing commitment. Thus, as long as the house you are interested in is less than or equal to your pre-qualified amount, the seller knows you are a serious buyer. Being pre-approved is not too costly and you can usually pay the nominal fee when you close the loan.
5. Representation by a Professional
Consider hiring your own real estate agent, one who is working for you, the buyer, not the seller. Even with the proliferation of internet-based home listings, most new and experienced buyers are better off with a professional agent who deeply understands the area and who can help you with strategies during the buying process. The housing market is kind of like politics - where each state, city, and even neighborhood has a thicket of local laws or customs that you need to understand.
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6. Hire a Home Inspector
While a home appraisal is required by your bank/lender, to guarantee the house is worth the price you've agreed to pay you should separately hire your own home inspector. Preferably you hire an engineer with experience doing home surveys in the area you are buying. Their job is to point out potential problems that could need costly repairs down the road.
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7. Make a List of Your Needs and Wants
Understanding what you must have verses what you would prefer to have in your new home is a good starting point to keep yourself grounded as you tour various houses. Make a two-column list with the first column listing things you need. For example - the number of bedrooms for your family size, if a one-story house is required for accessibility, etc. In the second column write down your wishes and things you'd like to have - for example pool, den, etc. - but that are not absolutely necessary. For first-time buyers, you will unlikely be able to get everything on your wish list, but this can help keep you on track for what you are really looking for.
8. Be Objective and Thorough
Don't let the emotional experience of moving and house hunting get the best of you. Remain objective and think with your head, not your heart. Stick to your previously written list of needs versus wants and continually ask yourself if this house is really what you need. With so many houses on the market, you don't need to make a hurried decision that you could regret later.
Spending a little extra money now might save you a lot down the road as unknown facts about your newly purchased investment appear. Don't forget such essentials as home inspections, mortgage contingencies, and multiple walkthroughs.
9. Buy In a District with Good Schools
This advice applies to most areas, even if you don't have school or college-aged children. Having a good university nearby usually boosts the value of its associated primary-school district as well. When it comes time to sell, you will learn that strong school districts are top priority for many home buyers. This will help boost your home's property value.
10. Maintain Your Perspective and Your Cool
House hunting can sometimes become stressful and nerve racking. You may find an acceptable house on the first day or on the tenth. The most important thing is to get the home that is best for you.