Tip #1- Know what you're shopping for before you start.
It's important to understand the difference between the home that meets your needs and the home that fulfills your desires. You are going to have to make some tough decisions, and you will fall in love with different homes for different reasons. Consider making two lists- one with your "needs" and one with your "wants."
We don't want you purchasing a home for all the wrong reasons. It's important to us you don't regret your purchase! Satisfy your needs first.
Tip #2- Pre-Qualify for your Mortgage.
Getting a loan preapproval is probably the smartest choice you can make. It not only tells sellers you are a serious prospect, but it helps you know in advance what you can afford. Check out our Mortgage Information page for a directory of trusted lenders. Make sure you get the preapproval in writing too!
Tip #3- Communication is critical.
Please, please, please do not hesitate to ask us any question, concern, or thought about prospective homes. We are here to answer every question you have. We want you to feel 100% comfortable buying your new home, and that means understanding the entire process. No question is stupid, and with 30 years in the business, the chances are we have heard it before!
Tip #4- Location, Location, Location.
This is the single greatest determinent of the resale value and desirability of your home.
Carefully examine the neighborhood- do people take care of their yards and homes? Are the yards fenced? Do children play in the streets? Are there many homes for sale in the neighborhood? Consider taking a long walk or talking to neighbors to gain a better feel for the area.
Also, remember extremely large homes surrounded by smaller ones tend to appreciate less than a large home among other large homes. Conversely, the smallest home in the neighborhood tends to be "pulled up" by the other homes on the block.
Natural boundaries are also appealing to buyers. Homes hold their value better when the neighborhood is bounded by woods, park land, a golf course, or other open space.
Look for factors that might negatively affect the property values, such as traffic, sounds, and smells. You might find the perfect home, but it won't be worth much in the future if the neighborhood has problems.
Tip #5- Don't ignore Red Flags.
Cosmetic problems- peeling paint, worn carpeting, and ugly wallpaper- are easy fixes. These problems might even be useful for lowering the asking price during negotiations. Don't be nit-picky, though. You don't want to alienate a seller.
Other problems, such as foundation cracks, evidence of previous water damage, signs of serious dry rot or termite damage, or antiquated electrical systems or plubing, should cause you to seriously think about your interest in the property. Don't let positive attributes blind you to very real problems. You don't want to be spending large sums of money in the future fixing these serious problems.
Tip #6- Hire a professional home inspector
The few hundred dollars you might spend could be the best investment you'll ever make. Not only can you learn a lot of important information about the property you are interested in buying, but you can use the written report as a negotiation tool.
Tip #7- Do Your Homework.
Knowledge is power- know your seller and know the property you are interested in. Compare the home you are interested in to comparable homes in the neighborhood. What did these homes sell for in the past? What are homes in the neighborhood selling for now? Obviously, differences in size, features, etc. must be taken into consideration. Make sure your asking price is in line with this comparative market analysis.
Also understand your seller. Why is the home for sale? Does it need to be sold quickly? This information is important during the negotiation process. A vacant home or home that has been on the market for several months with several reductions in price might be signs of a motivated seller.
Tip #8- Don't let emotions affect negotiations
Don't let a seller know how much you love a home! It could cost you a lot of money! If the other side knows you are motivated, they will see this as an opportunity to squeeze a little more money out of you even if you've made a reasonable and fair offer. No matter how much you love a home, keep it to yourself!
Tip #9- Avoid bidding wars
If a seller tries to threaten you with "another serious buyer," don't fall into the trap. Know the value of the home, and adjust your offer accordingly. In a bidding war, the winner also loses because they end up paying too much. Make a fair offer and wait to see if the other deal falls through. If the seller decides to pursue the other buyer's offer, let them know you are interested if that deal does not work out.
Tip #10- Know the Hidden Costs
There's more to buying a home than the list price and the mortgage. Don't forget to factor in mortgage insurance, appraisal fees, inspection fees, transfer taxes, title insurance, and every other dollar you will have to spend. This is the only way to know what you are really paying for your new home.
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