Every day, people call our office, look at listings on the internet, or stop in to talk to an agent about buying a home. They have stars in their eyes, whether they are a “newbie” homebuyer thinking about ownership for the first time or an old pro who can quote the contract language before you print the offer for them to sign. No matter the situation, each buyer goes through his or her own unique search, one that requires patience and time to find “the right next home.”
The first thing I do with prospective buyers before we start looking is to ask them to describe their perfect home. Location, square footage, and number of bedrooms are all high on the list. But there are other important characteristics that really make a home a great place to live!
How about you? Are you looking for a new place to call home? If you are, now is the time to dig in and analyze your likes and dislikes. Here are a few insider tips to help you!
Start by thinking about location.
Do you want to be close to where you work? Have you gotten online and looked at the schools to pick the one or ones that would be the best choice for your children? Drive around to see where the traffic is lightest and where it is heaviest at different times a day. What is that neighborhood like on Friday evening? Do you care about a home with a view? If you do, what kind of view do you want? Are you an outdoor lover like me who actually considers the deck or patio a room of the house? Do you love to garden? If so, you will want a southern orientation with at least half a day’s worth of sunshine. On the other hand, does the sight of green things make you itch and sneeze to the point that the thought of someone else cutting your grass is Nirvana? These are all super important items to keep focused on as you make the journey to you next home.
The quality of your life is so affected by your home.
Think of your childhood memories. I bet many of those memories – good or bad – revolve around the home you grew up in! So now is the time to take control and make the home purchase outcome as positive as possible for you and those whose lives you touch! Because it isn’t just for you, but everyone who comes over and sits on your deck and enjoys (or doesn’t enjoy) your home choice!
Before you get discouraged, let me share another tip – it isn’t about money. An expensive home can live very poorly and an inexpensive home can be the most wonderful place. (Just a little secret you need to know right now.)
If you are like most of us, we are living in a very compromised home.
So, not wanting to live in irritation and disharmony, we have come to accept many features that just don’t bless us. However, as you consider buying a new home, it is okay to be critical (if not down-right negative) of the one you live in right now. What don’t you like about where you live? But also ask yourself, “What do I like and what do I want to make sure I retain in the next house?”
I had a client once whose hot button was they didn’t ever want to see the washer and dryer from the kitchen. Your realtor will love you and so will those you are dragging around house shopping if you can eliminate some of the “I can’t do this!” items before you get there. If your health doesn’t allow you to navigate stairs, it would be great to take those homes off the go see list before we drive up to the tall house with a gazillion steps to get to the front door and for sure don’t forget to eliminate that one where the washer is visible from the kitchen window if that turns you off to buying the house. You can keep yourself from wearing thin and enjoy a positive home hunting experience if you can make that “no” list before you get started visiting properties.
Once we have established exactly what we are looking for (and what we are not looking for), the next step is to discuss resale value.
We always tell ourselves, “This is going to be the last time I move!” But, life happens. We change jobs and need to move. We outgrow the house we are in. Kids grow up and move away so we decide to downsize. When I am helping my buyers find a house, the resale potential of the homes we look at is something I always keep in mind because the last thing I want to see happen to them with their home is being unable to sell it when the time comes that they need to move on. This is one of those items that you need to trust a seasoned realtor about. Ask the question: How is this home positioned for resale?
Determining your price point and getting pre-approved can save you from heartache.
So now you’ve determined what you want. Before you can go further with the home buying process, you need to know what you can afford and what a bank will do to help you. Getting preapproved is so important, so I always encourage buyers to talk with a lender, and recommend several for them if they aren’t working with someone already. In fact, when you are in the process of buying a home, don’t make any financial decisions without talking to the lender you’re working with first. Don’t let anyone pull your credit unless it’s for something related to your home purchase. Don’t make big purchases such as a new vehicle, and don’t use your credit card to buy something that will affect your debt-to-income ratio before you get to the closing table to buy the house. Be honest with your lender and let them guide you. A lender can give us a feel for the payment you are comfortable with. They can also tell us if there are any additional fees like PMI (Primary Mortgage Insurance) that will raise the payment. PMI is an insurance that protects the lender from foreclosures. If your down payment is very low, the lender may require PMI, until the house value is in a place they feel their risk is lower. Your realtor can make an educated projection as to how long it will take before the house will appraise for enough to drop that PMI. (It is usually when you owe less than 80% of the appraised value of the home.) Our website has a mortgage calculator on it so that you can play around with different scenarios to see what your payment will be and how long it will take to pay off something. All this lender homework empowers you to know the parameters for going home shopping and stops you from going to look at houses that you will have to walk away from when you sit down and have a “heart to heart.” It’s much easier to just go see houses that meet your goals!
Defining goals can help you find the right home faster.
Finally, I’ve found that going through this process of home buying can really speed up the physical search for a home as well. Most of my buyers have a house picked out after looking at eight to twelve, and usually within a week or two of concentrated looking. If it takes more than twelve, you either aren’t happy with the price point you are working in, you are just having fun speculating in real estate, or you are struggling to find a compromise on all the features you love! I understand. Don’t tell anyone, but I looked for years before finding my farm! Of course, that is not our desire for you. I have been a realtor for about ten years now and at some point in my personal home shopping, as I attempted to navigate all this personally and help my sweetheart, German born, engineer perfectionist husband, he cried out, “I need a realtor!” I thought he is firing his realtor, me! Can he do that? Then he turned slowly and winked at me.
It’s okay. Don’t be afraid to get professional help from an agent who knows the market and can help you work out the challenges of compromise to make what you find just the right home for the next season of your life! By the way, I have the most amazing farm! Just ask my husband who trusted his realtor.