Congratulations! You and your spouse have saved enough money for the down payment on a house and the extras such purchase might entail. How do you now go from looking online at dozens of houses for sale in your price range to actually making an offer? We have seven steps to get started:
- Before house hunting, get pre-approved – Pre-approval gives you great information about how much house you can afford and allows you to move quickly if you find the right house.
- Get professional help – Find a realtor you can trust. Yes, you have unprecedented internet access to sellers’ information, but a realtor has years of experience that can help you with everything from the area, the appraising of a dwelling, the paperwork, the comparables, and negotiation on price.
- Check out the schools – What is the reputation? Can the kids walk to school? Is there an alternative school available, like a charter school or parochial school if the public school doesn’t work out?
- Always hire a home inspector – “You should hire your own home inspector, preferably an engineer with experience in doing home surveys in the area where you are buying. His or her job will be to point out potential problems that could require costly repairs down the road.”
- Beware of sleeper costs – Comparing the monthly mortgage payments to paying rent is only part of the story. The bank may require property taxes and insurance to be part of the monthly mortgage payment. Then there’s the unexpected. When a couple I know first moved into their house, the front, cement porch collapsed costing them $1.500 to repair.
- Walk the neighborhood – Look at the houses in the neighborhood. Are the homes well maintained? Are the lawns mowed and edged? Where are cars parked? Talk with your neighbors. Are they friendly? Do they have kids? Do they have anything good or bad to say about your house of interest?
- Only a fool signs papers without reading them. Read the papers. Make sure you understand your obligations. If you feel insecure, hire a real estate attorney. This is the biggest purchase you may ever make. Do it the right way.
What is your experience buying your first house? Anything you would care to share?