As every college freshman will tell you, it’s those “Introductory” classes that can wind up being the most time-consuming. Since they cover a lot of territory dealing with subjects that are new to you, they can be the hardest to keep up with. If Big Rapids and Mecosta County real estate had its own college department, its “Introduction to” class might be a lot easier than some of the other departments’ — but there would still be a few basics some of the freshmen might need to master before proceeding much further.
When it comes to local real estate, the equivalent of the freshmen are the first time home buyers. They don’t need a whole class to be prepared to dive in, but they should be aware of some basics. Some financial preparation comes first:
- For openers, find out what your credit report says. If there are mistakes, it takes time to get them corrected, so this is Job One.
- Then, before even starting to discover what properties are available, you should sit down and work out how much you can afford. That will point you toward the portion of the area’s real estate offerings you should spend your time and effort examining. If you do it the other way around, you are too likely to waste time visiting houses that would put too much strain on your budget.
- There are many different kinds of home loans — with differing cost and cash flow implications. The difference between variable and fixed interest rate loans and the difference between down payment percentages will have major impacts on your monthly family operating budget, and what you can comfortably afford. An important part of being an informed buyer is making sure you know what loan types are available — and the financial implications of each.
Then comes the search — the house hunt. If you haven’t already made contact with the local real estate agent who will help with your search, it’s time to do so. Most of the basics are pretty much common sensical:
- Knowing that sellers pay the Realtor® fee, locate a licensed area real estate agent with a good reputation, experience in the area, and with whom you can communicate easily: one who “speaks your language.” (Hint: call me!)
- Instead of planning to just go out to “see what’s out there,” first get as clear a picture as possible of what features you know you require. Make a list with both “wants” and “must haves” — and stick with it. Remember that allowing the “wants” to become more important than the “must haves” will usually prove to be a bad idea.
- When you make an offer on the house you’ve been looking for, be sure the contract specifies that you can request repairs or back out of the deal based on the inspection results… and be sure to have that inspection!
If I’m your agent, I’ll be sure to remind you!