Buying a home should be one of the most fun times of your life, not stressful. As you look for your first home, next home, or dream home, keep in mind these tips for making the process as peaceful as possible.
- Find a real estate agent who you connect with. Home buying is not only a big financial commitment, but also an emotional one. It’s critical that the Buyer’s Agent you chose is both highly skilled and a good fit with your personality. One thing to look for is responsiveness.
- Remember, there’s no “right” or perfect time to buy. When you find that perfect home, don’t try to second-guess interest rates or the housing market by waiting longer — especially if your purchase timeline is for 3-5 years or longer or you risk losing out on the home of your dreams. In a low inventoried market like we are in right now with less than 4 months of housing supply in much of our market, this can cause others to jump in and make offers and you might miss out! Zillow is predicting housing prices up 4% nationally this year so the 2014 housing market probably won’t change fast enough to make that much difference in price except for up, and a good home won’t stay on the market long. Last fall mortgage rates showed us just how quickly they can go up! Rising 150 basis points or so from the lows of last summer, we now see rates in the 4.5%-4.625% range and probably moving higher over the next six months. As the economy perceptively improves so will mortgage rates move higher!
- Know that no house is ever perfect. I have built homes before that I still saw things I would change or do differently next time. If it’s in the right location, the yard may be a bit smaller than you had hoped. The kitchen may be perfect, but the roof needs repair. Make a list of your top priorities and focus in on things that are most important to you. Ask the seller to address them upon inspection and prior to closing or if unimportant, let the minor ones go.
- Don’t try to be a killer negotiator. Negotiation is definitely a part of the real estate process, but trying to “win” by getting an extra-low price in a market like this one where inventory is so low we are back in a “Seller’s Market” or by refusing to budge on your offer may cost you the home you love. Negotiation is give and take and meeting in the middle! This is a distinctly different market than it was 2-3 years ago when there was 15-18 months’ supply of housing sitting on the market and aging rapidly with high days on market. Seeing in certain areas of our market homes going under contract in “days” once again!
- Plan ahead and “first things first!” Buyers contact me every day wanting to know when we can go see a specific property! I always try and educate Buyers I work with that the first thing that needs to be done, is to get pre-qualified for a mortgage. Takes minutes and hours not days anymore! Most of the time it can be done online without ever having to go to a mortgage company or bank! Don’t even need financial docs most times to get pre-qualified! The lending process is drastically different than it was 6-8 years ago. If it has been that long (or longer) since you last purchased a home, don’t assume because it was no problem before to get financing that today is going to be the same. Also, and this is important for first time home buyers, getting a mortgage is more than having a good credit score and a job! It is about a combination credit score, “documented income,” access to down payment funds, and falling into a precise range of “debt to income” ratios that determine how much house you can afford! Waiting until you’ve found a home and made an offer to get approved for a mortgage, investigate home insurance, and consider a schedule for the home inspection is too late! Too, it makes your offer weaker, and in the presence of this being a “Seller’s Market” once again with multiple offers, low inventory, and homes not staying on the market long it might cause you to miss that purchase you are looking to make on that next, first, or dream home because you weren’t ready to fully make the strongest offer you could. Presenting an offer contingent on a lot of unresolved issues will make your offer much less attractive to sellers.
- Factor in maintenance and repair costs in your post-home buying budget. Even if you buy a new home, there will be costs. Don’t leave yourself short and let your home deteriorate.
- Look at differences in MI or Mortgage Insurance. Most are still going FHA. FHA mortgage MI has gotten much more expensive over the past six months. Look at differences between FHA and a Conventional mortgage as to whether you can qualify and the cost of doing both!
- Accept that a little buyer’s remorse is inevitable and will probably pass. Buying a home, especially for the first time, is a big financial commitment. But it also yields big benefits. Don’t lose sight of why you wanted to buy a home and what made you fall in love with the property you purchased.
- Choose a home first because you love it; then think about appreciation. While U.S. homes are expected to appreciate at an average of 1-2 percent annually above inflation between now and 2020 from one report I recently read, a home’s most important role is to serve as a comfortable, safe place to live.
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