Local Buying Tips

Buying Advice

First Steps

The Internet and real estate professionals are the top two resources most buyers turn to when searching for a home.I am ready to make a full-time commitment to help you capitalize on current market opportunities and assist you in making an informed decision.

Finding the right real estate agent can make you a savvy consumer and improve your overall experience.

Looking for a Home

What's Right For You?

Before deciding which house to buy, consider your lifestyle, current and anticipated housing needs and budget. It’s a good idea to create a prioritized list of features you want in your new home; you'll quickly discover finding the right house involves striking a balance between your "must-haves" and your "nice-to-haves."

Next, think about what you might need in the future, and how long you are likely to live in this particular home. If you're newly married, you might not be concerned with a school district right now, but you could be in a few years. If you have aging parents, you may want to look at homes that offer living arrangements that could accommodate them as well.

It’s important to think about your new home’s location just as carefully as its features. In addition to considering the distance to work, evaluate what matters to you in terms of services, convenience and accessibility, such as shopping, police and fire protection, medical facilities, school and daycare, traffic and parking, trash and garbage collection, even recreational facilities.

What Can You Afford?

Now that you know what you're looking for, the next step is figuring out what type of home you can afford. A review of your income, savings, monthly expenses and debt will be necessary.

Early in the process, you'll want to get pre-qualified for a mortgage loan. It enables you to move swiftly when you find the right home, especially when there are other interested buyers. It also indicates to the seller that you are serious and can afford to buy the property. A pre-approval is a simple calculation done by a mortgage lender that tells you the amount you'll be able to finance through a loan and what your monthly payment will be.

The price you can afford to pay for a home will depend on several factors, such as:

  • Gross income
  • The funds you have available for the down payment, closing costs and cash reserves required by the lender
  • Your debt
  • Your credit history
  • The type of mortgage you select
  • Current interest rates

Know Your Neighborhood?

When you buy a home, you're investing in a community. You'll spend a significant amount of time and money supporting the schools, community organizations and commercial centers in the area. Before you make the final decision, take a good look at the location and make sure it fits your lifestyle. For example:

  • Evaluate the property’s proximity to other important locations in your life. How long will your commute time be? Is there a hospital or doctor's office nearby? What about schools, childcare, shopping, family and friends?
  • Consider all of your transportation options. A new home could lend itself to public transportation options or carpooling. Depending on the type of community, you may be able to find alternative methods of transportation. Take the time to drive from the new home to your commuting destinations, to get a sense of what your daily life will be like.
  • Make sure you feel comfortable in the area. Drive around the neighborhood at different times of the day and night on multiple days of the week to observe activity and noise levels. An educated buyer is a happy one!

Already Have a Home?

Buying a new home and selling an existing home at the same time has its own set of challenges. With knowledgeable planning, you can ensure everything goes smoothly.

Before putting your house on the market or committing to buying a new one, take a look at the prices of houses in the areas where you'll be selling and buying. You'll need a realistic idea of sales prices for similar houses, so you can assess both your buying and selling position.

What if you're unable to time the sale of one house with the purchase of another? You may own no houses for a time, in which case you'll need money in the bank and a temporary place to live. Or, you may own two houses at once. That's why it's important to have a backup plan. Here are some options to consider:

  • Research short-term rental and storage options (family, friends, storage facilities, containers).
  • Bridge financing (a short-term loan) for the down payment on a new home backed by the equity in your old house.

Buying a Second Home

Buying a second home isn't all that different from buying a first home. Affording it usually depends on your ability to qualify for a mortgage on the second home. Benefits include a getaway for the family on vacations or holidays, a future retirement home, or renters making your mortgage payments for you.

Keep in mind that if you declare it as a rental, your mortgage might be slightly higher and your down payment requirements higher than a standard mortgage. Work with your lender to create a customized loan program with the best combination of rate, points, and closing costs to meet your needs.

Shopping for a Home

Buying a home is one of the most important decisions you will make. That's why it's in your best interest to choose an experienced real estate agent who listens to and understands your needs, and has detailed knowledge of the area in which you want to want to live.

After touring each home, write down what you liked and didn't like. I can help you develop a rating system to narrow the field. For example, pick the house you like best on day one and compare all other houses to it. When you find a better one, use the new favorite as your standard.

Buying Your Home

Making an Offer

Once you’ve found your ideal house, it’s time to get started with the financial and contractual side of the purchase. Let me guide you through this process. Purchase contracts vary in length and terms from state to state, and sometimes within a state. I’ll bring order to the process, and will know what questions to ask to help you reach a desirable outcome

Multiple offers on the same home are not uncommon, so you may only get one chance to make an offer that the seller will consider. That's why it's important to think carefully about your strategy.

If you have any personal interaction with the homeowner, avoid sharing any information about your move, your current housing status, financial status or your feelings about their property - positive or negative. This could work against you in future negotiations.

How Much do You Offer?

I will help you find out what other homes have sold for in the area, and how much money you might have to put into repairs or renovations. These considerations should be a factor along with the amount you're comfortable spending.

In addition to sale prices of other comparable homes, there are several ways you can come up with a winning bid. For example:

  • The condition of the house. Is the home in move-in condition, in need of paint and other cosmetic improvements, or a fixer-upper that needs real work?
  • The market. If you are in a buyer's market — where there are more homes for sale than there are people to buy them — prices are probably stable or falling. If you are in a seller's market — where there are more buyers looking for homes than there are homes for sale — prices are probably moving upward.
  • Your ceiling. If you have a credit pre-approval, you know how much you can borrow for your home purchase. Of course, you may not be comfortable paying as much as you've been approved to borrow, so think carefully about your financial situation before making an offer.

Next, decide how much you are willing to pay for a home. Remember, the advertised price of a house is just a starting point – it may take quite a bit of negotiating to arrive at a final cost.

All Cash

Though most buyers don't buy a home with all cash, anyone considering such a move may be wondering how it’s done. Because all cash buyers sidestep the time-consuming loan qualification process, the deal can close very quickly. The primary advantage of buying a home with cash is completely avoiding mortgage interest. Buyers also save money that would be spent on loan origination fees, required appraisal, some closing costs and various other charges imposed by the lender.

After Your Offer Is Accepted?

Home Inspection

Congratulations! You've made an offer, and reviewed all the documents the seller has provided regarding the condition of the home. But, one important step before you finalize your real estate offer could help you avoid costly home buying mistakes. Hire a professional home inspector to give the house a standard inspection that includes:

  • Room-by-room review
  • Exterior home components
  • Electrical systems
  • Foundation and structural components – both interior and exterior
  • Heating/air conditioning systems
  • Plumbing systems
  • Attic/basement/crawl spaces

Once you have arranged for a home inspection, plan to accompany the inspector for the entire procedure. You have the right to be there, and leading home inspection companies will encourage your presence. It helps you to better understand the findings in the report and will reduce post-closing surprises. Don't forget your list of questions and items of concern.

A thorough home inspection covers more than 1,000 items, everything from foundation to roof, and takes two to three hours depending on the size and age of the property. The report should reflect the condition of about 400 items. A typical inspection can range from $300-$600

Some common items a home inspection could uncover are:

  • Maintenance problems such as rotting decks, paint chips, water damaged ceilings, etc.
  • Electrical problems (even faulty fuses can lead to bigger difficulties in the future)
  • Drainage problems, which could include water intrusions below the home
  • Roof leaks and defects from aging
  • Poor ventilation, especially in an attic; this is the time to assure that all vents are clean and working properly
  • Excess air leakage due to poor weather stripping and subpar caulking around fixtures
  • Failed window seals, which are routinely found with dual pane windows
  • Environmental contamination caused by asbestos, mold, formaldehyde, lead paint, radon, soil contamination and/or water contamination
  • Faulty lines in water heaters, overflow piping and/or hazardous flue conditions

Home Owners Insurance

Protecting your new home with insurance is a must. How well you do that depends on the details of your policy. And while you are not required by law to have homeowners' insurance, mortgage lenders require that you do.

Replacement-Cost Endorsement

You can also cover the depreciated value of personal property, such as televisions and furniture, by purchasing a replacement-cost endorsement. This is an extension of coverage that can enable you to replace the item with one of comparable material and quality.

Timeline and Paperwork

Closing can also be referred to as settlement or escrow.   In general, ownership of the home is officially transferred from the seller at the closing meeting. Most of the people involved with the purchase of your home will attend your loan closing.

In advance, a title company is usually hired to conduct a search for any recorded documents that affect the deed to the property. Examples include easements, liens, tax assessments, covenants, conditions and restrictions, and homeowner association bylaws. The buyer and lender must approve the preliminary title report prior to closing.

Once the conditions of sale have been met and the preliminary title report has been approved, all parties will agree to sign closing documents. The preliminary title report then becomes the final title report, on which any applicable title insurance is based.

If everyone agrees that the papers are in order, the buyer submits payment to cover the closing. If the lender will be paying your annual property taxes and homeowners' insurance for you, a new escrow account (or reserve) is established at this point.

Finally (and here’s the best part) you receive the keys to your new home!

 After the documents have been signed, notarized copies will be forwarded to the lender, funds will be released, and the sale will be recorded at the local recorder's office. This legal transfer of the property may take a few days. It is at the point of deed recordation that you become the official owner of the home.

Moving In

Home Moving Checklist

6 to 8 weeks prior:

  • Purchase or rent moving supplies: tape, markers, scissors, pocketknife, newspaper, blankets, moving pads, plastic storage bins, rope and a hand truck. Free boxes can usually be obtained at a local supermarket, but consider purchasing wardrobe boxes for clothes.
  • Have a garage sale to clear out unwanted items and plan accordingly. Consider donating unwanted items.
  • Keep a detailed record of all moving expenses. Your costs (and donations) may be tax deductible depending on the reasons for your move.

2 weeks prior:

  • Hire a reputable mover or rent a moving truck. Be sure to get referrals or references, check with the Better Business Bureau, get estimates and purchase moving insurance.
  • Two weeks before moving day, contact your telephone, electric, gas, cable/satellite, refuse and water companies to set a specific date when service will be discontinued. Contact utilities companies in your new town about service start dates, including Internet and telephone services.
  • Notify healthcare professionals (doctors, dentists, veterinarians) of your move and ask for referrals and record transfers.
  • Register children for school and ask for school records to be transferred.
  • Notify lawn service, cleaning and security companies when service should be terminated.
  • Advise the post office, publications and correspondents of change of address and date of move.
  • Check your homeowners’ insurance and make arrangements for new coverage.

Moving day:

  • Have tools handy for breaking down beds and appliances.
  • Give every room a final once over. Don't forget to check the basement, yards, attic, garage and closets.
  • Have the final payment for the movers and money for a tip.
  • Don't forget to check in with your local CENTURY 21® Agent – he or she may be able to provide useful local advice and/or referrals.

Move valuables (jewelry, legal documents, family photos and collections) yourself – don't send them with the moving company. Make sure you have a complete home inventory of all your possessions.