Buying a home is a thrilling but daunting prospect, especially for first-time homebuyers. Your home is likely your most significant investment and one of the most significant purchases you will make in life. Not to mention, it’s the place you will spend most of your time. The realtors at Century 21, Purdum Epperson, have put together this guide to help you with your important descision.
Location, location, location. This adage still rings true; the location is still the most critical factor in any real estate purchase. A "good" location is one that meets the needs of your lifestyle and your reasons for purchasing a home. Someone looking to flip a property may choose an up-and-coming neighborhood, while families may want safer, more established areas with good schools. Location criteria to consider include:
Neighborhood appeal is highly personal. Consider the school district, commute to work, and the local lifestyle.
Maybe you want a fixer-upper. Think of improvements that you are willing to yourself or contract out.
Be sure to get an expert property inspection. This could save your a lot of big headaches later.
Neighborhood appeal is highly personal. Are you looking for a buzzing neighborhood with plenty of shops, nightlife, and attractions? Or, would you prefer a quieter area with lots of families, parks, and schools? Consider your neighborhood carefully; is this somewhere you can see yourself or your family living?
Schools will be a significant factor for families when buying a new home. Even if you don't have school-aged children, it's an important factor to research, as you may expand your family in the future. School districts will also be a factor for buyers when it comes time to sell the property, so the quality of schools in an area will often affect the price - both now and in the future.
Commute time is often a consideration that must be balanced with neighborhood appeal. Want to walk or bike to work? You may find a downtown condo is more suitable than a ranch on the outskirts of town. Test the commute at rush hour from any serious property prospects.
Lifestyle is a highly personal consideration every homebuyer must make. If you love to hike and be in nature, you will likely prefer a different location to someone who loves downtown's bustling nightlife.
Once you've determined your ideal location, you will want to start considering the type of property you want to buy. Condos or townhouses can be more affordable than a single-family home, but they come with compromises. Shared walls with neighbors often mean more noise and less privacy, while homeowners association fees (HOA fees) can increase monthly costs.
Many first homeowners may consider buying a fixer-upper — a single-family home that needs updates or repairs. Fixer-uppers will usually sell for less per square foot than homes that are move-in ready or recently remodeled. Older homes such as victorian or craftsman bungalows often need some updating. When buying a fixer-upper, remember to budget extra for repairs and remodeling. Doing the bulk of labor yourself can save money, but not everyone is a natural at DIY, and even material costs can add up. The highest house repair costs are usually plumbing, roofing, furnace, and air conditioning repairs or installations. If you are outsourcing most of the work, consider both the house and renovations' real cost.
A home inspection is strongly recommended for any house buyer. A property inspection is a thorough assessment of both the structure and mechanical systems of a house. You should use a professional inspector to look for potential problems and use their report to make an informed decision before buying the property. Your Real Estate Agent will usually provide a property inspection. Anything visible in the property can be inspected, so make sure the whole house is reviewed, including hard to reach areas such as the roof or crawl spaces. You should also note that a standard inspection won't test for things like mold, pests, or radon. Be sure to find out precisely what the test includes and get other assessments if needed to fill any gaps.
House prices are almost always negotiable. For example, your house inspection may surface issues which you can ask the seller to pay to fix in advance or lower the price to cover the cost of repairs. It's also possible to negotiate with the seller to get them to pay for some of the closing costs. How much negotiating power you have will depend on how hot the local market is. You'll find it harder to drive a hard bargain if you're in a competitive market with more buyers than sellers. Your agent can help you understand your options in the local market and strategize your negotiations accordingly.
It's essential to educate yourself on the home buying process and local market. First time home buyers have no experience with real estate, and even homeowners can learn as they purchase their second or third properties. Markets can change from year to year, and you may have more or fewer opportunities to negotiate than when you previously bought a house. Lean on your real estate agent for advice, and read plenty of articles to stay-up-to-date. The more you learn about the process, the less stressful it will be, and the more confidence you will have to negotiate this major step in your life successfully.