Searching for your first home can be a bit overwhelming. Many new homebuyers don’t really know what to expect and may even be intimidated by the process. The truth is that a good agent can be your best friend during this important time of your life and finding a great home can be a lot of fun if you know the right way to do it. Here are 20 of my favorite tips (or words of advice) for first time home buyers.
1. You owe it to yourself to look at a number of homes before you make a decision. Take your time and find the best home for your needs.
2. Basements are great story tellers. Be sure to check the water heater, furnace or HVAC system for rust or other signs that they might be in need of repair. Check for any signs of water damage and/or mold. If a home has these problems they are often found below ground level.
3. Don’t let “ugly” deter you from a good deal. A little paint and patch work can go a long way to beautify a less than perfect home and you could save thousands.
4. Finding a home that is move in ready is a great convenience but if a few weekends of hard work can get it done and the price is right, go for it!
5. One of the biggest mistakes that new homebuyers can make is to judge a home simply by the color of paint. I have seen many people refuse to consider a very nice home because they couldn’t stand the “purple bathroom”. Don’t allow such a small dislike form your entire opinion of the home. If it meets all of your needs consider picking up a paint brush! This is an opportunity to make it what you really want.
6. Living in an area with good schools is important even if you don’t have children or they are already grown. Why? Because when the day comes to sell others will be looking to buy in an area with good schools because they do have children.
7. Square footage can be a good guide when comparing different homes in the same area. Calculate the price per square foot in the homes that you are most interested in and you will be able to compare the true cost of each one.
8. All repairs are not the same. Keep in mind that when you see homes that may need a little work that there is a big difference between a broken door knob and a leaky roof! Be realistic about how much money it will take to make small repairs versus major ones and don’t allow “small” problems to stop you from a home that you really love.
9. Consider the true value of any home improvements that the seller has made in the past. Yes, that is a great deck in the yard but if the asking price is $25,000 more than comparable homes in the area without a deck, is it really worth the difference?
10. Remember, you’re not just buying a house, you’re buying a home. Take the time to visit the neighborhood and night and during weekends and be sure to make friendly with the closest neighbors. This is the best way to find out the true “flavor” of the neighborhood and if it is a place that you will be happy.
11. Being pre-qualified is not the same as getting pre-approved. You can save a lot of time and move into your new home more quickly if you are pre-approved by your lender.
12. Be flexible. Insisting on too many specific features in your new home can really limit your choices. Be willing to view homes that may not have everything that you want. It’s always possible to make a few important home improvements at a later time – especially if the price is right!
13. Always, always, always check the price of comparables in the area before you make an offer. Finding out that you paid too much for you home 6 months after you move in is not a good feeling.
14. Patience is a virtue. Finding a home that suites most of your needs and wants can take time and it’s a decision that you will have to live with for a long time.
15. Take your home search seriously. Take the time to make notes of each home that you see so that you can compare them when decision time approaches.
16. Understand that your house payment is not the only important number to consider. Before you make an offer don’t forget to add the insurance and tax payments together with the mortgage payment so that you have a clear understanding of the true cost of your new home.
17. Regardless of your financial situation it’s always better to have a long term mortgage. If you can afford to pay off your home in less time that’s fine too but if you experience financial difficulty it’s best to have as low a monthly payment as possible.
18. .It’s a good strategy to have more than one pre-approval. In this way you are able to bid at different price levels.
19. Don’t forget that there will be some fees at closing that will need to be paid by the buyer. Each real estate transaction is somewhat unique but possibilities include title insurance fees, survey charges, escrow fees, and loan origination fees. Your agent can help you to understand what you will need for a successful closing.
20. Have fun! Looking for your first home is an exciting time and you should enjoy it! Most of us don’t buy a home every day and the search can be a lot of fun so don’t forget to make the most of your search. Some day you will look back upon what it was like when you bought your very first home; make sure that you remember it with a smile.