Buying a house can be a daunting process for a first time (or even repeat) buyer. With close to two decades worth of experience, here are seven of my top insider tips for a successful home purchase.
Treat the Process Like A Business
That's right...create business plan of sorts. To avoid getting overwhelmed, the first thing you need to do is make a list of the features you won't compromise on. You may have decided there is one specific town you must live in. Or you've determined that you MUST have a least 3 bathrooms, a fireplace and a two-car garage, for example. Learning what a buyer MUST HAVE assists me in building a criteria list and work efficiently for my client. After you've got the primary list done, I can assemble your search and send you homes that would appeal to you.
You may find as we work together that your ideas may shift a bit...instead of avoiding ranch-style homes, you may decide they can work for you, for example. But a written "game plan" is extremely helpful for targeting the right homes.
Organize Your Paperwork
...so you can be preapproved in time for offer submission! Don't lose your ideal home to the better-prepared buyer. Organize your financials: tax returns, bank statements W-2's, which will be needed for your home loan application. I can make a referral to an excellent and thorough mortgage lender who will work with you to ensure you're prepared to make your best offer within a realistic budget.
Get Comfortable With The Process
Buying a home can be intimidating but much less so when you have an idea of the steps and process. I make it a practice of providing a Buyer Consultation so my client develops a comfort level with not only the process, but with our relationship. We'll go over the contract, the potential pitfalls and the different professionals you'll need on your home buying team.
Ask Your Gut...Are You Being Sold or Guided?
A perceptive REALTOR® knows the difference between a 'red flag' and a cosmetic issue. One thing I will relay to my clients...I'm not going to try to 'sell' you on every home we walk into UNLESS it's a great prospect to pursue. As we walk through the home, I'll point out the good, bad and ugly. Ugly usually translates to cosmetic issues. Bad, to a potential money pit situation. Having an educated ally can save you not only time, but a good amount of money...money on home inspections and attorney fees.
Cover All The Bases
I've introduced several of my buyers to properties that just weren't available on the open market. Either through my own detective work, putting the word out to my colleagues of a buyer's needs or watching the Coldwell Banker Buyer Exclusives list, I'm on a constant alert for a great match for my client.
Know the Hidden Costs
Not only are there extra costs associated with buying a home (closing costs and mortgage escrow fees for example) but there are also some unexpected costs you'll face. Is there an application fee involved in buying into that neighborhood? How about yearly or monthly association fees? Knowing the whole picture brings a higher level of confidence to you and avoids unexpected (and usually unpleasant) surprises.
How's the Neighborhood?
Do the neighbors in your new community take care of their property? If you're buying a condo, what's the ratio of renters to owners? How is the neighborhood in the evening? The fact is, you don't have control over your neighbors so best to direct your attention to the homes surrounding the subject house, as well. It's also a wise idea to drive the area during different times of the day (and night) to get a realistic feel for where you're buying into and avoid disappointment after it's too late. Do your research so that you can be a happy, enthusiastic home owner.
Antoinette Scognamiglio (licensed as Maria) is a REALTOR® with Coldwell Banker Realty in Mountain Lakes, NJ. Her market areas include Morris, Sussex and areas of Passaic county. To discuss your individual homeownership goals, contact her at AntoinettesellsNJ@gmail.com.