Searching for a home is a daunting task whether you are a first time home buyer or whether you have bought and sold a few homes. Here are a few tips to help make it easier to succeed,
1. Research before you look. Decide what features you most want to have in a home, what neighborhoods you prefer, and how much you want to spend each month for housing.
2. Be realistic. It’s OK to be picky, but don’t be unrealistic with your expectations. There’s really no such thing as a perfect home. Use your list of priorities as a guide to evaluate each property.
3. Get you finances in order. Review your credit report and determine whether you have enough money to cover your down payment and closing costs. If you are a first time home buyer, check into the state, federal and local programs that may help with down payment assistance. Talk to a few lenders to find out what programs they sponsor. Then, get prequalified for a mortgage. You really can’t make a serious offer on a property without a lender letter (unless, of course, you are paying cash).
4. Don’t ask too many people for opinions. It will drive you crazy. Select one or two people to turn to if you feel you need a second opinion, but be ready to make the final decision on your own.
5. Decide your moving timeline. When is your lease up? Are you allowed to sublet? How tight is the rental market in your area? All of these factors will help you determine when you should move.
6. Think long term. Are you looking for a starter house with plans to move up in a few years, or do you hope to stay in this home for a longer period? This decision may dictate what type of home you’ll buy as well as the type of mortgage terms that will best suit your needs.
7. Get a home inspection. Even if the home is new construction, get a home inspection to know what problems exist and the likelihood of majors repairs in the future. If possible, get a warranty from the seller to cover defects for one year. You can buy one yourself, if the seller will not pay.
8. Get help from a real estate professional. Hire a real estate agent who will represent you in your transaction. Remember that the listing agent’s duty is to the seller. A buyer’s representative is working only for you. Buyer’s agents are usually paid out of the seller’s commission payment.
Call me when you are ready to look for a home in the Washington DC area.
[While not reprinted verbatim, the idea for this article came from REALTOR magazine with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved].