And the double-edged sword that is the internet can be filled with all sorts of confusing and often conflicting information. Even with the information highway at your fingertips, you may still be confused.
Fortunately, there are several ways that you can find the perfect home. Even in a location that you’re not familiar with. Start with these questions.
1. Where do you want to be?
There are plenty of videos, blogs, and websites dedicated to different areas across the country, and while you can get a general idea of what it would be like to live in those areas, nothing beats “boots on the ground” to narrow down places to move.
So…get in the car and drive around those areas to see if they’re right for you.
2. Use tech but curb your emotions
You’re probably already using real estate websites such as Zillow, Trulia or Landwatch to find homes within your budget and location. However, don’t go with the first few homes you see.
It’s important to tour at least 10 homes before you put in any offers. While you do want to enjoy the home you’re living in, it’s important to set your emotions aside to determine if a particular home is right for you.
Sit down and make a list of things that are “must have” and those that are nice to have. Nice to haves are items that you can live without. Take the lists with you to help you stay on track and avoid getting seduced by a beautiful home that doesn’t meet your needs.
As you tour each home, write down the pros and the cons of each and assign each of them a rating from 1 to 10.
You’ll need this information later when you sit down to consider the home you want to purchase because after a long day of looking at homes they can tend to blend together in your mind.
3. Keep your money in place
Your loan was approved, but that doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed.
If you make large purchases or shift your money from one account to another three to six months before you buy a home it can raise a red flag with a lender.
They want to see that you’re stable in both your employment and financial life so keep everything in place, just as it is before you buy a new home.
4. Get a pre-approval
Get a loan pre-approval, not a pre-qualification…there is a big difference.
A loan pre-approval assures both the seller and their agent that you’re a serious buyer, which can help your case when you submit an offer to purchase.
In fact, many realtors won’t even show you a home unless you have a loan pre-approval in place first.
It can also help you as a buyer because you’ll only be looking at homes that you can afford. And if you opt to go with the lender who gave you the pre-approval it could mean a little faster loan approval when you do obtain a mortgage on your new home.
Learn as much as you can about the lending process and common costs such as processing fees, points, and junk fees to avoid being blindsided at closing.
5. Avoid border problems
Get a survey done to ensure that you’re getting what you’re paying for and that you won’t have any border disputes with your new neighbors.
You’ll also learn where any easements are located, preventing you from accidentally building over one and potentially causing issues down the road when the easement’s owner (e.g. power company) wants to access the easement.
6. Forget about timing the market
Don’t worry about wondering when it’s the best time to buy. The best time for you to buy a home is when you find one that’s perfect for you that you can afford.
The market is cyclical so even if you bought at the top of the market if you plan to stay in your perfect home for some time, your home will appreciate in value.
7. Bigger doesn’t always mean better
Yes, it may be tempting to buy a large home if you love it and can afford it, but unless you have a big family that needs a huge home and you plan to live in the home for the remainder of your life you may be making a mistake.
Because, if you buy the biggest, best home on the block you narrow your pool of potential buyers. Not everyone needs or wants to buy a huge home.
Also, your home will only increase in value in comparison to other homes in the area. So if you’ve purchased a home for half a million dollars in an area where homes are only worth a quarter million or so, you’ll limit your home’s appreciation.
8. Bidding secrets
Don’t be intimidated by the bidding process.
You need to factor two things into your opening bid:
- ⬥ How much home can I afford?
- ⬥ What is the property really worth?
Make your opening bid a fair and reasonable offer that won’t insult the seller. Factor in current market conditions when determining your offer by looking at what similar homes have recently sold for.
Getting an average price per square foot is a good way to equalize the homes you’re looking at. But make sure you’re comparing apples to apples (i.e. homes with similar square footage, features, etc.).
Also, consider the surroundings. Is the home close to amenities or would you have to drive an hour to get the basic necessities? This will play a key role in your ability to sell the home at some point in the future.
The county clerk’s office is a good place to find out whether or not the seller is behind in their property taxes. Having this information can help you in your negotiations for the perfect home.
Finally, opt for an oddball number rather than a round number to set your offer apart from others. This will encourage the seller to take your offer more seriously because they will think you’ve given the offer a lot of thought instead of just throwing out a number to see if it sticks.