Buying a house – whether it’s your first or fifth – is not only one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make, it is also one of the most emotional. After all, your house isn’t just another purchase. It’s buying your home where you will live and maybe raise children. Here are 10 tips or things you need to know when buying that house.
1. If you can’t stay in the house, don’t buy it
Home buying is probably not for you if you don’t believe you can stay in it for at least several years. When you add up all of the costs associated with buying and selling a house, you could end up losing money if you have to sell sooner than this. This is especially true when home prices are falling.
2. Clean up your credit reports
Unless you’re a member of that fortunate 1%, you will need to get a mortgage to buy that house. So, make sure your credit reports are squeaky clean. Most experts say that you should check your credit at least three months before you start looking for a house. The way you do this is by getting all three of your credit reports from the three credit bureaus. Go over them carefully to see if there are errors. If do you find problems, make sue you get them fixed.
3. Buy a home you can afford
Have you ever heard the expression “house poor?” This is where people make the mistake of buying a house with a mortgage so big they have a little money left over for anything else. One good rule is to never buy a house that costs more than about two-and-one-half times your annual salary. However, it’s better to use one of many mortgage calculators available online as they will give you a better idea of what you can afford given your debts, income and expenses.
4. Get a loan even if you can’t put down the usual 20%
Even if you can’t put down the normal 20%, you may still be able to get a loan. There are many private and public lenders that offer low-interest mortgages where you would have a smaller down payment.
5. Choose a district that has good schools
This applies even if you don’t have kids in school. The reason for this is that when you sell your house, you’ll see that an important priority for many homebuyers is a strong school district. Living in one of these school districts would help boost the value of your property.
6. Get professional help
You have an extraordinary ability to access real estate listings through the Internet. However, if you were a first-time buyer or even an experienced one, it would probably be better to use a realtor. Try to use what’s called an “exclusive buyer agent” as he or she will put your interests first and will be able to help you strategize during the buying process. There are some other good reasons why it pays to have a real estate agent as described in this video.
7. Make a careful choice between rate and points
When you choose a mortgage, you typically have a choice of paying extra points in return for a lower interest rate. These points are part of the interest that you would pay at closing. If you feel you will remain in the house for three to five years or longer, it’s usually a better idea to take the points. This is because a lower interest rate will save you a lot of money over the term of the loan.
Preapproval can save you from the heartbreak of looking at houses you can’t afford. It can also put you in a better position to make a strong offer when you find the right home. Do not confuse pre-approval with prequalification, which is usually just a superficial review of your finances. In comparison, preapproval from a lender is based on your debt, credit history and actual income.
9. Don’t submit an offer until you’ve done your homework
The first offer you make should be based on comparables – or the sales trend of similar homes in the same neighborhood. So before you make an offer, check out the sales of similar homes in the past three months. The reason why this is important is because if you were to learn that they recently sold at 5% less than their asking prices, you could make a bid that’s maybe 8% to 10% lower than what the seller is asking and then negotiate from there.
10. Be sure to get a home inspection
A home inspection typically costs from $150 to $225. This could be the best $150 or $225 you ever spend as it could turn up problems such as mold or foundation issues that you might not ever be able to spot on your own. The best home inspectors are engineers who have experience doing home inspections in the area where you would be buying. Don’t confuse a home inspection with a home appraisal. A home appraisal is just how the bank determines whether or not the house is worth the price you’ve agreed to pay. It has nothing to do with the condition of the house, which is what a home inspection is all about. The last thing you want to do is tie up 30% or more of your monthly income in a house only to find that it will require thousands of dollars in repairs. Plus, a home inspection can turn into a good bargaining chip. For example, if it were to discover problems with the foundation or structure or with drainage or the roof, you could probably use this information to extract price concessions from the seller.