Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Five Lessons from Buying My First House

I just bought a house!!  It’s been a long process, and we still have to wait a month before closing / moving in.  We actually tried to buy three houses before we finally achieved success with this one.  That’s okay though, because this one is AWESOME.  As a first time homebuyer, there was a lot to learn.  So, I came up with a list of five helpful tips that might make another new homebuyer’s life just a little less stressful.

House1.       Know Your “Must Haves” – Sometimes, you don’t know what you want until you see it.  That said, there should be a few things you know you HAVE to have or REALLY don’t want.  We saw so many houses, it made our heads spin, and most were complete wastes of our time.  It would have saved us a lot of time if we solidified our “must haves” ahead of time.  For example, we realized we really couldn't live in a house with no large dining space.  We like to entertain, and a small breakfast nook just wasn't going to cut it.  It helps to be a little critical so you don’t end up flooded with choices.

2.       Taxes are Really Important – We may not have been too critical with house features at first, but we knew exactly how much we could pay each month for our mortgage.  That number, though, needs to include taxes and insurance.  So, a house costing 300,000 may have the same monthly payment as a house for 330,000 if the taxes on the second house were lower.  This was a BIG realization for us.  We almost passed up our house because it had a higher purchase price than we thought we could afford, BUT with its low taxes, it ended up costing less than our maximum monthly budget.  So, don’t ignore the property taxes!  They are public information and many times listed right on the house’s listing.  If not, ask your realtor to find them out.  It really pays to do the math and estimate the monthly payment for each house you consider.  Need help? Try a mortgage estimator like this one from CNN Money (http://cgi.money.cnn.com/tools/mortgagecalc/)

3.       Take a Second Look – Sometimes, one walk-through of a house isn't enough to notice any potential issues.  It’s always a good idea to see about taking a second look.  If possible, try and bring along a helpful friend or relative who can give a good second opinion – bonus points if they know something about home construction, appliances, etc.

4.       Get Pre-Approved – It makes a world of difference when putting in offers.  Sellers want a buyer whose loan will close.  If you get pre-approved, you’re already a mile ahead of everyone else.  When you are competing against other bidders, you want to do everything possible to get yourself ahead.  So, if you’re looking to buy, it makes sense to speak to a mortgage rep about getting a pre-approval letter right away.

5.       Get a Great Home Inspector – The home inspection is essential to identify potential maintenance problems and negotiate costs with sellers.  Unfortunately, though, not all inspectors are created equal.  There are numerous horror stories out there of major damage inspectors did not catch.  So, you want to find someone who complete a thorough inspection, provide a quality report, and does it all for a reasonable price.  How can you find such a person?  Start by asking friends and relatives who have purchased homes in the area.  You can also ask your realtor, attorney, etc. as they have all probably worked with home inspectors in the past.  Finally, check out online reviews for your area.  Before you make a decision, call the inspector and ask lots of questions.  If anything sounds off, or they seem impatient, find someone else. It’s your house and your money, so you want to be picky here.  It may even help to start searching for an inspector when you begin your house search.  You often need an inspection within a week or so of going under contract, so you don’t want to wait too long.

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