Are you dreaming about a big house with a white picket fence and yard for the kids to run around in? Or maybe you’re looking for a cute townhouse in the city close to your favorite restaurants and shops? Any way you slice it, buying a new home is a big deal.
You’ve considered location, attended open house events and scoped out property listings. The hunt for the perfect home can be overwhelming, but we want to help make it a little easier, so we put together a list of five things you should consider when buying a home.
1. Stay Within Budget
It’s important to factor in all of a property’s possible expenses, such as the cost of utilities, commuting and any upgrades you’d like to make, in addition to mortgage payments and taxes. If the cost of the house stretches your financial limits, there will be little or no wiggle room for unexpected expenses later.
If you don’t plan to move into a new or recently updated home, it’s important to be realistic about any renovations you’d like to make and how much they’ll cost before committing to a mortgage. A great deal on a fixer-upper might end up costing you a lot more in the long run depending upon the modifications you’d like to make, but you shouldn’t feel pressured to remodel everything at once. Prioritizing and tackling projects over time will help you get into your new home without blowing up your budget.
2. Ask the Experts
Most of us don’t know a whole lot about real estate purchases, so it’s a good idea to seek help from a professional. The first step is to find a realtor you like and trust. Your realtor will help you find the perfect property, fight for you during negotiations, and help you navigate potential problems. A realtor may even be able to recommend reliable contractors other clients have worked with before.
Home inspectors are another great resource because they can evaluate a residence’s engineering, structure and damage. A thorough home inspection might reveal damage or potential risks and hazards that you should be aware of, like leaky water pipes or cracks in the foundation. These professionals can also inspect the roof for vulnerabilities, look for water damage, check the electrical system and alert you to any issues that could potentially cause problems later on. Identifying these issues ahead of time may also give you a bargaining chip for lowering the purchase price or even having the current owners perform repairs as part of the purchase agreement.
And don’t forget the creepy crawlies…because if the home is infested with terminates, that’s something you’ll want to know so you can get it fixed before completing the sale.
3. Location, Location, Location
The age old adage in real estate, “location, location, location,” really rings true when you’re looking for a new home. If the house itself is perfect but in a bad area, you might decide to keep looking. The location will also influence the resale value of the property. That’s why it’s critical to research the area before signing on the dotted line.
Online searches can help homebuyers obtain detailed information about neighborhoods and uncover useful facts relevant to the decision process, like access to recreation and entertainment, the quality of the school district, community activities and the general pace of life. It’s also a good idea to check the crime reports to assess safety. Sites like NeighborhoodScout and CrimeReports can help you determine the relative safety of the neighborhoods you’re considering.
4. Insurance Costs
It might be tempting to ignore homeowners insurance altogether when you’re in the midst of the home-buying process, but there may be some factors, such as proximity to brush, that determine whether the property can be insured.
Requesting a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) report is also helpful. This report lists every insurance claim ever made on the property, whether inquired about, accepted or denied. The CLUE report will disclose any damages that warranted possible insurance payouts and provides repair details. Even if you’re shopping in a state that requires sellers to disclose past repairs and damage, requesting a CLUE report is a smart move.
Other things that can affect your home insurance rates are the size and age of the home, type of roof, quality of construction materials used in the kitchen, bathrooms and flooring, the presence of a swimming pool, and the coverage limits and deductible selected.
And remember if you’re getting a home loan, the lender will require that you get homeowners insurance, so be sure to factor this cost into your decision-making process.
5. Does the Home Fit Your Needs?
No scenario for purchasing a home is worse than discovering a few weeks or months after moving in that you’ve made the wrong choice. Remember, it’s critical to think about the future while you’re shopping for a new home. Are you planning to start a family? Do you have a green thumb for gardening? Putting some thought into these questions might save you from second guessing down the road.
And don’t forget to test the commute to and from work. It might be a lot longer than you thought, so it’s good to know that before you buy the home.
Recognize that purchasing a house is a stressful process. Keeping these tips in mind will help equip you in your home search and give you a better chance of finding the perfect fit.
Happy house hunting!