Finding a house you love and can afford requires hard work.
If you’re buying your first house, the process may seem daunting. It’s most likely also the biggest investment you’ll make. To start off on the right foot, do your homework, find a professional to guide you, and take time to factor in all your priorities.
These days most buyers start by locating a real estate professional, and then describing their wish list. Criteria should include everything from your price range to size of the yard, neighborhood, age and square footage of the house, number of levels, amenities, taxes, and your time line. Most salespeople will send daily or weekly email links of available housing stock that fit your exact parameters. Your salesperson will also help you learn the lingo–cozy may be used to imply charming and warm while the reality may be very small and even cramped. Your salesperson will also inform you about an area’s school ratings, neighborhood services, and crime rates (which could mean higher homeowners insurance rates). Look to other sites like bestplaces.net and city-data.com can for data.
Nothing compares to seeing bricks and mortar in person. And nobody will be a better guide than a licensed real-estate professional. Pick one based on recommendations, experience, a specialty that’s good for you–Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) if you’re 55 and older. Don’t overlook that illusive chemistry factor since you’ll spend lots of time together.
A real estate professional knows what’s important in general–checking a few year’s worth of heating bills in a colder climate to know if more insulation or new windows are needed, which will add expense, as well as what’s important to you–a dry basement with natural light for the private home office you put high on your wish list.
Once you find the home of your dreams, the Realtor(R) will look at the comps, help negotiate the best purchase price, and maybe suggest the seller pay closing costs if it’s a "slow" or buyers’ market with inventory surplus. Holly Bry, a residential sales specialist with Gladys Manion Inc. in St. Louis, says a seasoned real estate professional can save the buyer aggravation, time, and money. "A first-time homebuyer might be enamored with a house that has all the bells and whistles and is priced well, but ignore the fact that the furnace is old, the roof is in bad shape, or the location may not be the best. Perhaps, it backs up to a creek or a highway making future resale difficult," she says.
Don’t let pressures such as being tired of looking or a salesperson who seems weary of showing you more listings push you into a decision. If nothing seems a fit, keep looking, but know that you’re unlikely to get everything and will need to prioritize. If the market heats up and there’s a dearth of inventory, you may miss a sale. The good news? Real estate is cyclical, and new houses will emerge. Buying a home is not like buying an outfit you can return easily. Your goal is to find the right house, move in, and make it your home.
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