Looking for a Home

A home is usually the biggest investment you make, and there is a lot of work in selecting the best one for you and your family. If you don't do your homework, you can make an expensive mistake. Here are some techniques that you can use to making a smart investment.

Finding the Right Real Estate Agent

Since the home search can be difficult or overwhelming, use a professional to help you out.

What Does the Agent Do?

Real estate agents can help you clear up your needs and wants, narrow your focus, and arrange home tours for you. They will negotiate in your best interest and help guide you through navigating your way through the proper financial services and other areas of the purchase.

Where to Find the a Real Estate Agent?

If your friends or family have purchased a home, you can ask them about their experience and whom they worked with. You can also find them available at open houses when they are showing one, or shoot in the dark by calling the phone numbers on "For Sale" signs, and maybe even ask a local agent whom they recommend in another town, if you're relocating.

Choosing a Real Estate Agent

You will be working with this person while navigating through the home buying process, so make sure they keep you at ease and don't pressure you, they are highly familiar with where you want to live, are able to answer your questions, and get you new listings as they become available.

Check the Agent's Abilities

Having said that you want a professional, you need to investigate a few things. Are they full-time, licensed and in good standing, and familiar with the area? How many years of experience do they have, are they a realtor or a broker, and will they be working for the seller? They should be able to provide a list of homes they have sold that you can talk to their previous clients as a reference.

Working with Real Estate Agents

When working with someone, you need good communication. This only works in your favor as you look for a home.

Clear Communication

When working with the agent, set forth your priorities, set some guidelines, and be opinionated. It is a big purchase, so let them know what you want. And since you have the agent available, take advantage of the tools they have access to.

Different Types of Agents

There are different types of agents, where they work totally in your favor, and some where they work for you and the seller. A buyer's agent works only for you, a dual agent works for you and the seller (though you both must agree), and a transaction broker, who really deals more with the final price and paperwork, not house searching. There is also a seller's subagent who can work for you, but they can disclose confidential information legally to the seller. So make sure you know who you are getting.

On the Off Chance

Sometimes issues arise, and this is how real estate agents can help. Agents can refer you to another agent in a more distant area if that is where you look to move, your agent can end the deal if they find negative information had been concealed, and they will present all your offers to the sellers, even if the seller believes it is too low. Keep in mind, your agent cannot disclose to the seller how much you can spend on a home, unless they are a seller's subagent, so be aware.

What Kind of Home to Buy, and Where?

You desire a home in a general area, and you want it to have certain features. Make yourself a wish list and work from there. You may find that some things will change as you go along, but you should have a basis.

Study the Housing Market

Things you should compare among houses are the prices of similar homes in the neighborhood, seasonal sales within a neighborhood, average days for sale in a neighborhood, and the local job market.

Don't be confused by a potential bargain. A cheaper home may have problems that need to be uncovered, and that is why it is cheaper. Always have the homes you are sure you will consider purchasing inspected by a professional, and estimate those repair costs and add it to the total.

Researching the Neighborhoods

If you are moving locally, you have a great opportunity to visit open houses. You can also use the internet to check a multitude of statistics such as average house prices, crime stats, schools, and a few other things that you can imagine.

Potential Resale Value

You are likely to live in the house for a while, but things change in life that could lead to the need to move. If you move, you will want to get something out of your investment. Resale values can change if a freeway is going to be built nearby or new shopping centers popup.

Cooperatives Vs Condominiums

These places are different from single-family homes, but they have their own perks and may be an option should you choose to live in one of these.

Differences in Ownership

In a co-op, you own a stake in the corporation that owns the property, and you have the rights to a single apartment. When you own a condo, you are paying for ownership in property, but you must also pay a share for the common areas.

Condo

There is usually a board of directors or representative associated with a condo, and you will need to abide by the bylaws, house rules, and the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R). You should be able to get you hands on the documents and read them before signing any kind of agreement. The purchase agreement includes information on contingencies that let you back out of the purchasing deal if it isn't going to work out.

Co-Op

There are things to also keep in mind when buying a co-op, and you may want to ask some of these questions. You should check if the prices are rising or falling in the sales records, what will be the per unit value, are property taxes expected to change, how are big repairs and renovations funded, and are there adequate reserves to cover those costs?

Things to Consider

Depending on the rules of the co-op or condo, residents can usually vote on issues, and the voting power is usually related to percent ownership, units owned, or square footage owned percentage. If a third to one half of a condo is rental property, it may be considered investment property by lenders. Make sure to find this out when looking into a condo.

Home Buying Checklist

Should you choose to focus your attention on a single-family home, there are things to compare there when determining which house is the best to purchase for you.

Who all is living with you, driving cars, work and school locations. This may give you an area or neighborhood to focus your attention, and then think about how close police stations, fire departments, and hospitals are and how needy your family is in this regard.

Now focusing on the house, how many rooms and bedrooms do you need, where will the cars park, and how well maintained is the house. Then start looking into the operation of the bigger home appliances like the HVAC system and hot water heater. How is the yard, house structure, foundation, interior and exterior, and what would you replace when you move in. This gives you an idea of what you would need to spend on top of purchasing the house.

Then you can look for extras like is there a swimming pool, clear view of the rising sun, and anything else you can think of. You can narrow down what houses to look at by determining which of these you need, what is most important, and what can be done without.

Either way, when narrowed down to a very few homes, you should absolutely hire a home inspector to find all those things you can't without the experience to do so.

Making Your Home Choice

Know all the positive and negatives before making the offer, including the comparable parts.

Analyze Your Offer

The offer you will make depends first on the house you choose. Does it have everything that you need and some of those things that you really want? This comes about by ranking the houses in the order of which ones you want most. For the offer, you can ask your real estate agent to compare a market analysis of your home choices and see the recent sell prices of similar homes. If you can get the home in a buyer's market, you can save money.

Making Your Purchasing Choice

When it comes negotiating with the seller, determine ahead of time what must be in, what you would like, and what you would like but probably isn't worth it. Then when you know the market and how much you really, really, want the home, you can determine the most you will spend and the least you may be able to offer and win out.

Closing the Home Buying Deal

When you make an offer, the seller either accepts, rejects, make a counteroffer, and you go from there.

The Offer

When you are ready, you'll provide a written purchase offer to the seller. This will include the price and any other conditions you need met in order to complete the purchase.

The Counteroffer

If the seller doesn't like your offer but is willing to negotiate, they can submit a counteroffer to you. This can go back and forth until there is an acceptance or rejection.

Deposit

You can then place a deposit (which will be part of the down payment later) to show how serious you are about the purchase. A standard written purchase offer should have that if you can't get financing by a certain time frame, you get that money back.

Contingencies

Your offer probably has conditions that need to be met before the house is purchased. The typical conditions relate to obtaining financing, home inspection, requested repairs, and getting the title to the property.

Binding Contract

The offer becomes binding when either the buyer or seller signs an acceptance of the other's terms.

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