Top Questions You Need Answered Before Buying a Home
Buying a home is a huge milestone, and it is important to educate yourself about the process of buying a home before you dive in headfirst. After all, this is likely the largest investment that you will ever make, not to mention the place you will come home to each day. It is important to choose a house and a mortgage that you don’t regret. We’re going to review what you need to think about before you start the exciting home buying process.
Does Homeownership Fit Your Lifestyle?
To answer that, you’ll want to first reflect on your income. Is it reliable? A mortgage is a huge commitment, and having a steady income is something that will give you peace of mind that you can continue to make your mortgage payments on time.
You’ll also want to consider if you’ll be staying in the same area for the next five years. This is, on average, the amount of time that it takes to break even on a home purchase. So, if you think you might want to move out of the area within the next five years, ownership might not be right for you quite yet.
The next point you will want to think about: Whether you’re ready to maintain a home. This means regular upkeep and maintenance on the interior and exterior. No calling your landlord when something breaks. Instead, you’ll have to fix it on your own or hire a professional.
What Do You Want in a Home?
Consult with friends, family, and your real estate agent to create a list of “must-haves” and a “wish list.”
Typically, must-haves include location, bed and bath count, square footage, yard size, kitchen size, and layout.
When considering location, ask if you’d like to be near parks, restaurants, shopping, your workplace, friends, and family or other places that are integral to your everyday life?
You’ll also want to consider school zones if you have or plan to have school-aged children in the next several years.
You can break down certain amenities into either the “must-have” list or the “wish list.” This would include office space, multipurpose rooms, fireplace, patio, deck, etc.
When making this list, consider your personality and how you want to spend your time. Do you see yourself adding pets or children to the family soon? Do you cook, or prefer to eat out? Do you like to entertain guests? Are you ok with doing yard work on the weekends, or have a budget that allows you to hire a lawn maintenance team?
What you must have and what you wish for deserve some thought before you start looking at a home to purchase.
Do You Want to Buy New, or Resale?
The age of your home will likely make a difference in the regular maintenance and upkeep. For example, an older home might come with more issues with mechanical equipment or plumbing, whereas a new home will have brand new systems that often come with a warranty.
New homes also tend to be more energy-efficient. Yet there could be some downsides. They may be more cheaply made than an existing home, depending on the price point and the builder. An existing home may need some fixing up, repainting, or new carpets. Some may even require more renovation. But the property may have mature landscaping, and you’re in the neighborhood that you want to be in.
How Much Can You Spend?
Once you’ve figured out what you want and need in a home, it is time to speak with a local lender about what you can afford based on your circumstances.
You will discuss how much you are comfortable putting down on a home, and how much you’d like to spend on a monthly mortgage payment.
That not only gives you a great sense of comfort in shopping, it will also help your negotiation with the seller.
Once you have worked with your lender to figure out a monthly payment and approximate sales price, and you’ve started the process of finding a great agent, it’s time to take a look at what properties might be available in the areas you are interested in.
While browsing online is easy and convenient, it is important to note that these sites are not always up-to-date and with a hot real estate market, a real estate agent will be much more valuable in helping you to find properties as soon as they come available on the market. They also have a pulse on the local market and know of homes that are not on the market yet but are soon to be listed.
Should You Hire a Home Inspector?
An inspection is an evaluation of the home’s condition that will help to uncover any visible or hidden issues.
It’s not mandatory to hire a home inspector before purchasing a home, but neglecting to do so could blindside you to issues in the house that are undetectable to the untrained eye, even if you are buying new construction.
An inspection typically costs anywhere from $200-$400, depending on your area and the size of the home. Keep in mind that spending a couple of hundred dollars upfront might save you hundreds of thousands in the long run.
An inspector will evaluate the house’s plumbing, walls, ceilings, floors, foundation, basement, roofing, drainage system, garage, heating, and cooling system, and electrical system. Some—but not all—inspectors look at kitchen appliances to ensure that they’re working.
If possible, buyers should attend an inspection so the inspector can point out any issues in person.
Once finished, the inspector will create a comprehensive report of their findings and recommendations. The report is typically presented to the buyer no more than two days after an inspection. Keep in mind that no home is perfect, even a new home. An inspector’s report will have a myriad of issues, ranging from major to minor.
If problems are found, you can negotiate with the seller to either repair some of the problems, have the seller issue you a credit to repair some problems themselves, or lower the purchase price. Or, if stated in the initial contract, you could also back out of the deal penalty-free.