Tips For First Time Home Buyers

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Real Estate Tips For Home Buyers

Table of Contents

Navigating the homebuying journey can be challenging, particularly if you’re a first-time home buyer. Small missteps can cost you money, stress, and frustration; so I’ve put together the most comprehensive tips for first-time home buyers.

From choosing the right neighborhood to negotiating a good mortgage rate and picking the right house, homebuying successfully depends on understanding the ins and outs of the home buying process.

Are you thinking of buying a home?

These first-time home-buyer tips will guide you through the entire home buying process highlighting tips and strategies that will help you score a win. 

First Time Home Buyer Tips

1. Find Out How Much You Can Afford

As a rule, financial experts suggest keeping mortgage payments at or below 28% of your gross monthly income.

However, if you’re carrying debt, your total monthly payments, including the mortgage, should be at or below 40% of your gross monthly income.

Note that the 28% and the 40% at maximum ratios.

I recommend keeping your monthly payments well below those ratios. A comfortable amount would be to your mortgage payment below one-third (1/3) of your after-tax family income.

Sam & Katie’s take-home monthly income is 

$6,000

Take 1/3 of your after-tax monthly income

/ 3

Maximum monthly mortgage payment

$2,000

If the mortgage payment is about the same as what you currently pay in rent, that’s a good indicator you can afford the mortgage, but keep in mind you’ll also have to pay for property taxes, utilities, and home repairs.

That’s a rule of thumb; the amount you can afford to borrow will depend on the following five factors:

  1. The purchase price of the home
  2. The amount of the down payment
  3.  How much income you make
  4.  How much money you owe
  5. Your current net worth (money you have saved or invested)

The best way to find out how much you can afford to spend on a house is by using a mortgage calculator.

Smart First-Time Home Buyers Tip

Find out the total amount of mortgage you can borrow using different home prices and mortgage rates.

Real-Estate-Tips-for-Home-BuyersUse-our-mortgage-calculator

2. Check Out If You Qualify For A First-Time Home Buyers Grant

Speak with your mortgage broker to confirm if you qualify for a first-time home-buyer grant. Even if you previously own a home, you might still be eligible.

For example, the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) is available to everyone. It is particularly attractive to first-time buyers with low credit scores, so you want to check out what kind of assistance you qualify for, as this will affect the amount of mortgage you can be approved for.

3. Assess Your Financial Health

Before jumping into the home buyer’s journey, take an assessment of your finances to determine your financial health and whether you’re ready to buy. You should be able to afford the costs of owning the home you want as well as ongoing expenses you currently have

Find the answers to the following three questions:

1. Do you have a credit score of at least 680 with over two years of credit history?

2. Have you been employed for at least two years?

3. How much debt are you currently carrying?

Review your spending so you can find out exactly where your money is going, how much you’re saving each month, and what you can allocate towards owning a home.

How much money have you saved? Buying a home isn’t cheap. You’ll need to have enough money saved to pay for the down payment, the closing costs and still keep an emergency fund to pay for unexpected expenses. Lenders will be looking for signs of financial stability that prove you can pay the mortgage.

4. Estimate Your Closing Costs

In addition to your down payment, you will need to pay for closing costs, which can add up to about 3% – 4% of the home’s purchase price, depending on whether or not you are a first-time homebuyer.

Closing costs include:

1. Land transfer tax – about 2% – 3% of the purchase price
2. Home Insurance – $60 per month
3. Property Taxes adjustment – can range between $100 – $2,000
4. Lawyer fees – $1,200 to be paid to the lawyer
• Moving expenses – $400 – $1,500

Avoid the temptation to spend all your savings to pay for the down payment.

Many home buyers forget about closing costs – don’t! The last thing you want is to not be able to close on the purchase of your new home because you do not have the funds to cover the closing costs.

5. Explore Different Mortgage Options

There are different mortgage options available with different eligibility and down payment requirements. Here are the main types of mortgages:

A fixed-rate conventional loan keeps your interest rate the same for the term of the loan; thus, it is a great option for homebuyers who want to be protected from future changes in interest rates.

Variable or Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARMs): With variable or ARM rates, your interest rate could increase or decrease, which means your required mortgage payment could change as well.

FHA Loans: The great advantage of FHA loans is that you can get approved for a mortgage with as little as a 3.5% down payment. However, you’ll need to pay a mortgage insurance premium, which means you’ll end up paying more in the long run.

VA Loans: VA loan is a program exclusive for veterans, and it allows them to buy a home with zero down payment. However, these loans usually come with higher interest rates compared to conventional loans.

I recommend conventional mortgages with at least a 10% down payment, preferably a fixed rate for a 25-year term. You can also go with a 30-year term, but if you can, try to keep it at 25 years.

Read More:  21 Types of Mortgage Types for Home Buyers

A mortgage pre-approval is a process whereby the lender reviews your finances and pre-approves you for a loan up to a specific amount. You then have up to 90 days to buy a house and apply for the final mortgage approval.

This tip is a smart option as it gives you the confidence to go out and buy a home knowing the exact amount of mortgage you can be approved for. You won’t waste your time viewing homes that you cannot afford.

To get a mortgage approval, you need to show proof of the following four things:

1. Verifiable income for the last two years
2. A good credit history with a credit score of 680 or more
3. Enough money saved to cover the down payment and closing costs
4. Not a lot of debt, if any.

First Time Home Buyers Tip:  Getting pre-approved for a mortgage put you in a better negotiating position for the seller to accept your offer over other potential buyers.

6. Get mortgage pre-approved

A mortgage pre-approval is a process whereby the lender reviews your finances and pre-approves you for a loan up to a specific amount. You then have up to 90 days to buy a house and apply for the final mortgage approval.

This tip is a smart option as it gives you the confidence to go out and buy a home knowing the exact amount of mortgage you can be approved for. You won’t waste your time viewing homes that you cannot afford.

To get a mortgage approval you need to show proof of the following four things:

1. Verifiable income for the last two years
2. A good credit history with a credit score of 680 or more
3. Enough money saved to cover the down payment and closing costs
4. Not a lot of debt, if any.

Real Estate Tip:  Getting pre-approved for a mortgage put you in a better negotiating position for the seller to accept your offer over other potential buyers.

7. Boost Your Credit Score

Banks will know your credit score and so should you. At least twelve months before the home purchase, start tracking your credit score and follow steps to help you improve it.

The lower your credit score, the higher your mortgage rate is going to be. So it pays to start boosting your credit score well before you are ready to buy.

Here are five simple tips that will help you boost your credit score.
1. Pay your bills on time, especially credit card and loan bills.

2. Do not move or change addresses

3. Do not change jobs unless you have a consistent employment history.

4. Do not close credit accounts

5. Speak with a credit counselor

Whenever you apply for a new credit account or loan, the lender performs a hard inquiry into your credit history; this temporarily drops your credit score. Thus, if you are planning to apply for a mortgage soon, avoid applying for new credit cards or making major purchases on credit, unless you can repay the amount without carrying a balance.

Read More:  How to Repair Your Credit Score in 8 Simple Steps

8. Don’t Commit To One Lender Until You’re Ready
To Apply For A Mortgage

Before committing to one lender, compare rates offered by local lenders; check out their websites to find out what mortgage rates and features they are currently advertising.

You can also easily find out about current mortgage rates and features by enquiring with a local mortgage agent. You want to know this information before applying for a mortgage and even before looking for a house.

Armed with that information, approach a lender and tell them you are shopping around and ask them to give you a better rate than what you found with competitor lenders.

A good and easy way to achieve this is hiring a mortgage broker to negotiate on your behalf, but make sure you do your homework, so you know what the best rates are.

Here are some of the questions you should ask the lender mortgage broker before formally submitting a mortgage application.

  • Does the mortgage have any prepayment penalty?
  • Are interest rates locked, and for how long?
  • What is the minimum down payment required?
  • What documents are required?
  • How long does the approval process take?

9. Don’t Take The Maximum Amount Of Mortgage The Bank Pre-approves You For

When applying for a mortgage, you have to know what you can realistically afford without overextending your finances. The bank may approve you for a loan amount that’s higher than what you can afford; if you struggle to pay, they may even give you a credit card, so you fill in the gap.

Just because the bank says you can borrow $800,000, it doesn’t mean you have to borrow that much. After all, they do not know what you spend on food, transportation, and other personal expenses.

Also, keep in mind that there are extra housing expenses like property taxes and home repairs that you’ll need to pay. It’s not all about the mortgage. Having a manageable mortgage is a sure way to make owning a home a blessing instead of a daily struggle.

10. Have A Plan In Place

Don’t assume you know everything; even experienced buyers tend to jump steps, which can lead to buyer’s remorse, or worse, to make expensive mistakes that will take you years to recover from financially.

Thinking about and setting up a plan gives you a blueprint to navigate the home buying process and score a win.

The mortgage

The number one key element to buying a home is having access to a mortgage; your goal should be to get the best rate in the market with an ‘A’ rated lender. You’ll be able to get the best mortgage rate if you pay your bills on time and improve your credit score.

Your credit score

If your credit score is below 700 points, you have limited options, but if you can be disciplined until your credit score reaches or exceeds 700, you will have the option to pick the lender and negotiate for the best rate.

Prepare a Spending budget.

Prepare a spending budget to determine where your money is going each month and determine how much money you can allocate to the mortgage and other housing expenses.

My favorite way to prepare a spending plan is using a budgeting planner. Our Budgeting Binder comes with 31 easy-to-use templates to help you save money, get out of debt, and set yourself up to becoming a homeowner.

Budgeting Binder Planner

This 31+ page printable digital binder planner will help you take control of your finances, and set clear financial goals, so that you can get out of debt.

11. Set Some Money Aside For Unexpected Home Repairs, Furniture, Or Other Essential Items.

It is tempting to spend all your cash on the down payment. But know that you need to set some money aside for after you move in. The reason for this is that you might be faced with needing to replace the washer, the roof or making necessary repairs after you move in.

You’ll likely need to buy a sofa, a dining table, chairs, or an extra bed. The point is, you don’t want to be weeping out that credit card for everything you buy after you just made the biggest purchase you’ll ever make.

Set yourself up for success by keeping some money aside to deal with unexpected expenses. This way, you won’t be caught off guard if additional costs arise.

Expect the unexpected!  Having an emergency fund is an essential part of managing your personal finances, especially for new home owners.

12. Select Your Preferred Neighborhoods Before
Choosing The House

It is easy to fall for a home that meets all your expectations, but does the area fit your personal lifestyle?

Choosing the right neighborhood is more important than choosing the house because while you can renovate the house, but you can never renovate the neighborhood.

When choosing the location, pay special attention to the surrounding areas, including the following:

Area Appeal and Growth Potential.

The best neighborhoods tend to be the ones where you get a sense of community; the general condition of homes should be evident. So prowl around on foot to make sure the neighborhood is what you’re looking for.

An overflow of cars parked outside or on the driveways can be a sign of a declining area. The same goes for overgrown lawns, children’s toys left outside, and visible garbage bins.

Walkability, public transit.

Many buyers nowadays prefer living in areas within a walkable distance of public transportation, shops, and services. Gone are the years where most families migrated to suburban towns while committing to long daily commutes; millennials are now rejecting the car-dependent commute; they want to live in areas within a walkable distance of amenities.

If exercise and a sense of community are important to you, find a house near the establishments you’ll be frequenting.

What are the neighborhood’s landmarks?

Check out the neighborhood’s landmarks; all good neighborhoods have them. Landmarks are things like a nearby park, a golf course, schools, or community centers.

The quality of those landmarks will drive whether or not you’re looking at a good neighborhood.

Smart First Time Home Buyers Tip

The Ultimate Home Buyers Guide

Learn the home buying process step-by-step. A practical guide to buying a house.

13. Google The Neighborhood Crime Rate

Make sure you are moving to a safe neighborhood by checking its crime rate. Google can reveal surprising things about a property, such as additional photos, nearby places, and news reports about crime in the area.

Crime rates affect home prices, so it’s important to check this information before you start viewing homes.

Use crime-mapping websites like Crime Reports, SpotCrime, or local police websites to confirm if the neighborhood is safe. You can easily compare types of crimes and the number of offenses committed in each community by entering a postal code or neighborhood’s name.

Only choose safe neighborhoods that fit you and your family’s lifestyle.

14. Determine What Type Of Home You Want To Buy

Evaluate which type of home would best suit your needs. Each property type has its pros and cons depending on your budget and homeownership goals. Your main options include the following:

  • Traditional single-family home, detached or semi-detached.
  • Two-storey, bungalow, back-split
  • A townhouse
  • Condo apartment
  • Co-operative property.
  • A fixer-upper

If more than one type fits your homeownership goals, go ahead and select more than one property type.

15. Create A List Of Must-Haves And Nice-To-Haves

Create a list of your must-haves and nice-to-haves to help you narrow down the choices that match your needs and wishes. Then, give that list to your real estate agent so that your agent can use it as your guiding principles in the home search.

  1. Must-haves are things you can’t do without, such as neighborhood, number of bedrooms, layout, or important features.
  2. Nice-to-haves are features you can do without, like kitchen appliances, outdoor space, or features that are not that important to you.

If more than one type fits your homeownership goals go ahead and select more than one property type.

Must
Have Checklist

Understand your deal-breakers: For example, if you must have a large backyard to build a garden, then a property with a small or no backyard is not an option that you can consider. Even if a property looks great, but it has one deal-breaker, there is no point to view that property.

16. Hire A Real Estate Agent And Build Your Home Buying Team

This is not the time to be nice and hire a friend realtor – it’s hard to haggle or negotiate with a friend. Also, don’t hire a realtor with less than 3 years of experience as a full-time realtor.

As the buyer, you do not pay for your realtor’s commission – the seller does; so, why not hire the best real estate agent you can find? The best real estate agents are great negotiators and knowledgeable in the neighborhood you want to buy.

Aim to always to hire the best – Buying a home is a big investment that you must protect. Your team of professionals in the home buying process will include:

  • Real estate agent
  • Mortgage broker
  • Real estate lawyer
  • Home inspector

17. Estimate Your Ongoing Costs Of Owning A Home

Don’t underestimate your future ongoing costs of owning a home. Some first-time home buyers jump into homeownership thinking that all they have to do is be able to afford the mortgage payment. That’s a mistake!

They think, ‘my rent payment is now $2,000, and my mortgage payment will be about the same, so I’m good”. Well, no. There will also be additional ongoing homeownership costs. Those costs include the following:

  • Property taxes: Every homeowner has to pay property taxes to their local municipality. The amount will be based on the assessed value of the home. You should budget to pay at least $300 per month in property tax.
  • Home insurance: This includes fire insurance, and the amount will be typically about $100 per month depending on the age of the property and the area where the property is located.
  • Utility bills: This includes gas, water, and electricity. To learn some tips that will help you reduce your utility costs, check out my step-step guide on how to reduce your monthly electricity cost.
  • Home repairs and maintenance: Repairs and maintenance costs should be reasonably low if you buy a home that’s in good condition. However, that’s a big if. You should build an emergency fund to pay for expenses like replacing an appliance that just broke or other home repairs expenses.

Smart Real Estate Tip

Check Out Our Financial Health Planner Calculator

Learn the home buying process step-by-step. A practical guide to buying a house.

Check Out Our Financial Health Planner Calculator

18. Consider The property’s Resale potential

Many elements could affect the home’s future value; thus, you should always consider the resell value of your home even if you don’t plan to sell it anytime soon.

When you consider the property’s resale value, you force yourself you objectively put yourself in the shoes of other buyers and wonder if you’re making the right decision.

For example, if the home is near power lines, a waste processing plant, or near a main road, you might have problems reselling the property at a good price.

Also, some buyers like their property to face south or north. To see when the sun hits the property you want to buy, check out SunCalc.org. If the property does not deliver what you’re looking for on the sun map, you can move on to checking other properties.

The same goes for new developments; if you move to a new development, you might not be able to resell the home at a good price within the first 2 – 5 years because buyers moving into the area would rather buy new homes rather than a resell.

19. Avoid Trying To Time The Housing Market

Home prices may rise or fall, but that’s beyond your control. If you want to hold buying, waiting for prices to fall, they might not. Similarly, don’t assume home prices will rise forever – they may fall.

Real estate is cyclical. Prices could go up or down based on when the cycles begin and end, but no one can accurately predict the timing of a real estate cycle. If you try to wait for the perfect time, you might end up missing out.

Unless you are a real estate investor, buying a home is a decision you take based on your present housing needs, prudent financial planning, and whether you can afford it, not what you think the market will be like in the next year or two.

Knowledge and doing your homework is the key to buying the right property; rushing into a deal could cost you a lot of money. The more knowledge and information you have, the better you will spot and act on a good deal.

20. Don’t Assume Home Prices Will Increase Forever

What goes up might come down. The moment you rely on the past to estimate future returns, you fall into the trap of hopeful wishing.

Some homeowners knowingly overpay for a property, hoping to recover their investment from future price increases. That’s too risky!

When you buy a home, you have to make sure the price you offer is backed by comparable sold prices in the area. Never overpay for a property while banking on future price increases to recover the gap.

21. Ask For Advice 

You might be tempted to go it alone, but it is far better to learn from people who have already been there and done that, and perhaps people that have made mistakes you don’t want to make.

Ask for the advice of a great real estate agent, as well as for the advice of your family and friends.

When evaluating their advice, please don’t focus on the WHAT they say, but on the WHY they say it. For example, if your friend, Mr. X recommends you don’t buy a particular home BECAUSE the neighborhood has a high crime rate, it is the WHY that helps you tell right from wrong.

Or your real estate agent might tell you, don’t offer more than $600,000 on a property BECAUSE there was another similar property that just sold for $595,000. Too often, home buyers become emotional and lose track of their plan.

Focus on the basics – the principles of proper home buying haven’t changed. These include making sure the

22. Only View Homes That You Can Afford

According to recent data reported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), home buyers typically search for a home for about eight weeks and view a median of 9 homes. Real estate agents know this and might use strategies to compel you to make a decision they want.

It’s called the upsell strategy. The way it works is your real estate agent will show you a few homes within your price range; if you don’t make a decision, they’ll show you a nicer property, except the price is a lot higher – more than your budget.

Then, if you ask your agent how come you are being shown homes outside of your price range, you’ll hear something like this:

1. “Your mortgage payment is only going to go up by $100 per month.”
2. “You need a home where your family can grow into.”
3. “Interest rates are so low, you can get more value for only $100 extra per
month.”
I highly recommend you resist the temptation to view homes outside your price range. It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion and end up making a decision that you’ll later regret.

Tip

When viewing homes, don’t set foot inside a home that’s outside your price range.

23. Stick To Your Budget 

One of the easiest ways your new home can turn into a burden instead of a blessing is if you buy a home that you cannot easily afford. Sticking to your budget sounds simple, but many home buyers find themselves stuck and cash poor after pricing a property outside their budget range.

The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) can be a powerful motivator, especially when there are competing offers.

No matter how much you want it – whether it is competition from other buyers or the fear of missing out on a dream home, if the sale price is not within your budget, walk away. There will be other properties you can find that will truly match your needs and budget.

No matter what kind of pressure you’re under, stick to your budget.

24. Don’t Fall In Love With The House – Not yet

I know, you have to like the house to buy it. The thing is, we do stupid things when we are in love. We act irrationally and could end up spending more than needed simply because of the emotional desire to see ourselves living in that one home.

You’re not going to date the house, so there is no need for emotions. Follow your plan and your instincts instead of your heart.

However, I recognize that’s easier said than done; after all, buying a home is an emotional process; that’s the place you’re going to call home, right? Buying a home while relying on your emotions is going to break your heart and hit you where it hurts – your pocket.

Yes, the property has a nice backyard, and the kitchen is nice, but you’re about to pay big time for it; so, keep a cool head and make sure the property provides you the value you are looking to get.

Tip

Leaving emotions out of the home buying process

25. Know What You Are Buying

Before making an offer, find out all there is to know about the property until you have a good understanding of what you’re buying.

Find out the neighborhood price performance over the last 10 years.

Your real estate agent will help you with this; for instance, you should know how prices compare in the community you are interested in. Also, you’ll spot where there is more demand for homes. That knowledge will be invaluable to acquire a property for the best price.

Look for future developments.

Spotting a new development can be as easy as simply driving by the neighborhood; is there a new subdivision being built? How about a new school, a shopping center, or is the nearby plaza undergoing renovations?

If you see new infrastructure being built or improvements, those are strong signs of a growing or an established community; new developments serve as a catalyst that can drive strong property values, realizing a good return on your investment.

Talk to the neighbors.

This tactic gets overlooked by many buyers. You’d be surprised how much you can learn by simply speaking to neighbors; tell them you want to buy the house that’s on sale, and you wondered if they can provide you with information about the neighborhood, the current or previous owners of the house in question.

26. Check Out The School Rankings

Homes nearby high-quality schools appreciate more in value because buyers who have children want to live there. In fact, the biggest group of home buyers are buyers with school-aged children.

Thus, you’ll find that home prices in neighborhoods with high-rated schools perform better than other neighborhoods.

Here are five reasons why checking out school ratings is a good idea before buying a home.

  • Good Neighborhoods = High-Ranked Schools.
  • Safe Neighborhoods = High-Ranked Schools.
  • Home Price Stability = High-Ranked Schools.
  • Higher Selling Prices =High-Ranked Schools
  • Better Education for Your Kids = High-Ranked Schools

Read More: Comprehensive Home Buyers Guide.

27. Use A Property Finder Tool

According to the National Association of Realtors, 97%of home buyers use the internet to search for homes. Property finder websites are also useful for researching property prices and providing information about the area you are interested in.

Here are a few of the major property finder websites:

Zillow: Great Overall
Realtor.com: Great Overall
Trulia: Great to Search for Homes
Redfin: Great For Discounted Realtor Fees

Use the information from your list of requirements to enter into the property search tool. This includes your price range, the area you want to buy, the property type, and other details about the property.

You’ll find a list of homes and choose the properties you want to view in person.

Another way is asking your real estate agent to set you up so you can receive alerts as properties that match your search criteria are listed for sale in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).

MLS is the platform real estate agents use to list properties for sale. Then, other property search websites capture those details. A real estate agent can set you up with a special kind of access so you can use the MLS to search for properties.

28. Never Buy The Biggest And Best House In The Neighborhood

The biggest and best properties in the neighborhood help bring up the value of nearby properties. In fact, I’d recommend that you buy the worst property in the neighborhood because when prices increase, your price appreciation room is greater than other more expensive properties.

For instance, let’s assume you own a semi-detached house worth $500,000, but your new neighbor three houses away just built a detached property worth $1 million. That would immediately make your property worth more than $500,000.

29. Ask Questions About The Property

When it comes to real estate, information is your biggest advantage. Thus, ask questions to help you understand the property better, the amount you want to offer, or whether you should look for a different property instead.

Here are our top 15 questions to ask before you decide to make an offer:

1. Have many offers does the property have?
2. How many viewings have happened?
3. How long has the property been on the market?
4. When was the property built?
5. Why are the sellers selling?
6. What renovations have been done?
7. How old are the appliances, AC, heater, and roof?
8. Do you have any active warranty on any of the appliances?
9. Has anyone died on the property?
10. Has the home been used as a grow-op?
11. What’s included in the sale (curtains, chandelier, fixtures, etc.)
12. How long has the seller lived in the home?
13. Have there been neighbor disputes in the past?
14. Is there mold in the house?
15. Has the home been flooded in the past?
16. Is there any pest infestation on the property?
17. Are all the appliances functioning properly?
18. How much per month do the sellers currently spend on utilities?
19. Is the home occupied by the owners or rented out?
20. Are you aware of future developments in the neighborhood?

30. Use A House Hunting Checklist

Use a house hunting checklist to avoid costly surprises. Viewing homes is like test driving a vehicle. You want to open every door, window, open every water faucet, check that the walls look good and that the property is in good condition.

You’re about to invest a lot of money on the home purchase, so you should put these real estate tips to practice and check everything out.

A house hunting checklist will also help you identify the deal-breakers and whether the home meets your requirements.

House Hunting Checklist

This checklist helps you in the house-hunting process to get the most for your money, avoid expensive mistakes, and find the right home.

Get Mortgage Pre-Qualified

Here is a shortlist of home hunting tips and things to look for:

The kitchen: Is the kitchen big enough, and do you see yourself sharing family time there? Test the stove, the oven, and appliances to confirm they are working. Do you like the kitchen cabinets and countertop?

The bathrooms: Bathrooms are the most expensive spaces (per sq. ft.) to renovate. You want to make sure you like the aesthetics, comfort level and that no improvements are needed in each bathroom, including bathroom fixtures. Confirm that the home has the number of bathrooms you want?

The bedrooms: Note the size of the bedrooms and closets. Look out the window to confirm if you like the view and open the windows to check for noise coming from the street and neighbors.

The basement: Note whether the basement is finished or unfinished. Looks for signs of water damage, moisture, or musty smell. A basement that is properly finished should feel the same as other rooms in the house. It should not be warmer or hotter, and it should not smell differently.

If you see wall cracks in the basement, this is concerning as it might indicate a structural issue depending on the crack’s size and shape.

Check doors, windows, and cabinet drawers: Doors, windows, and cabinet drawers should easily open and close. Small repairs here and there can add up; this home buying tip ensures you can spot needed repairs so that you can include them in your buying decision.

Does the floor slope to one side of the house? Take a marble and drop it on the floor in each room to test if the floor slopes to one side of the house. The cause might be a sign of structural problems with the house.

Inspect the ceilings and walls (interior and exterior): Do you see cracks, stains, or damp spots? This can suggest previous water leakage. Wall cracks in the basement are particularly concerning.

Musty smell: If the home has a musty smell, you may have a mold problem. Use your nose and do a smell test.

Inspect the plumbing: Turn on water faucets to test the water pressure, sufficient hot and cold water. Check water pipes under the sink are dry and flush the toilets.

Check the age of the heater, AC, and appliances: Replacing the heater, the AC, and other appliances is costly. Turn off the heat or AC and turn it back on. Look for signs of rusk or leaks.

Read More: House Hunting Tips for First-Time Home Buyers.

31. Take pictures when viewing homes

Taking pictures or a video to document details of a property will help you to remember specific features you want to document to review later. So, use your phone to take pictures, especially if you’re visiting multiple homes the same day.

However, you should confirm with your real estate agent that it is okay to take pictures and/or videos. The common house viewing etiquette is to ask before you click and avoid recording personal or confidential items and children’s bedrooms.

Remember that some homeowners may provide explicit instructions not to take any pictures or videos unless they authorize it.

32. Visit the homes at least three times before buying it

Before making an offer, you should view the home at least three times. The property grabs your interest during the first view, but you’ll probably miss spotting deficiencies the property might have.

The second time, your goal is to look for deficiencies, and the third one you should view with an appraiser or realtor pointing out your findings so you can reaffirm your interest to buy the property or back away.

Ideally, you should visit the property at different times of the day or during good or bad weather.

33. Avoid a Bidding War That Blows Your Budget

You surely have heard about buyers winning or losing a bidding war, right? I don’t like the fact someone could say, “I won the bidding war.” It’s not about winning, though.

Anyone can WIN a bidding war as long as they overpay for the property or offer more than everyone else; there is no difference. If you find yourself in a bidding war, it’s tempting to make a high offer so that you can WIN.

Know what you can afford and what the home is worth, but avoid getting involved in bidding wars where buyers push their offers beyond what the property is reasonably worth.

34. Making an offer

When making an offer on a property, the most important information you should rely on is how much similar properties on the same street have sold for within the last six months to a year.

There will be some differences between one house and the other, but the sold prices of other nearby properties are your reference point.

This is a time to rely on your real estate agent’s knowledge and expertise, but don’t trust what the real estate tells you 100%. How much you offer is a decision that you’ll need to make, so be careful not to act impulsively and offer an amount that you cannot afford.

Unconditional vs. Conditional offers

There are two types of offers in real estate, conditional and unconditional offers.

A conditional offer is contingent upon something else happening. For example, you offer to buy a property for $600,000, and the seller accepts your offer, but the transaction will only be final if you get approved for a mortgage or after an inspection is done on the house, and you are satisfied with it.

There are other conditions an offer can be contingent on, but the main idea is that conditional offers are only legal after a requirement or set of requirements are met.

An unconditional offer is not contingent upon anything else happening. Once the buyer and the seller sign the agreement, the sale is final in accordance with the terms of the agreement.

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35. Get fixtures and fittings in writing

Make sure all fixtures and fittings are listed as being included in the purchase agreement. Otherwise, you’ll be moving into a home with no light fixtures, no window coverings, and no appliances like a fridge or stove.

If you’re paying extra for fixtures and fittings, make sure you are not overpaying. For example, I once bought a house negotiating the price down by about $40,000.

The seller became upset and kept mentioning their $2,000 chandelier was worth a lot of money. I then offer they keep their chandelier, but we add the patio furniture (included) in the purchase. The sellers agreed. So I saved $10,000, lost the $2k chandelier, and gained the patio furniture. Not bad!

36. Know when and if you can pull out of the agreement

For decisions to be reasonable, you always need a plan B. Knowing when you can put out of the agreement allows you to change your mind without incurring any cost.

If you want to back out from an agreement but you did not include conditions, you open yourself to face significant financial penalties, so make sure to always, always, always include conditions with your offer.

For every decision to be logical, you need a plan B.

37. No home is perfect – Find a compromise.

I’m sorry to break it to you; there is no such thing as the perfect home. Even brand new homes have problems of their own; no matter how perfect a property looks, there is always something wrong with it.

First time home buyers are particularly susceptible to this fallacy. If you’re viewing a home and you spot a deficiency that’s not a deal-breaker, take note of it so that you can point it out to the seller during the negotiation. You might be able to get a discount on the purchase price to account for the deficiency.

You’d never compromise on one of your deal-breakers, but for example, if the roof, the AC, or an appliance needs replacing, that can easily be fixed. So, the compromise might be that you get a discount in the purchase price to account for what you’ll spend to fix the deficiencies or make your offer contingent on the seller fixing those issues themselves.

38. Negotiate

Set yourself up for a successful home purchase with this handy home-buying
tips.

Negotiation Do’s and Don’ts for buying a home

Do’s

1. Know your price limit and your budget limit.
2. Negotiate with data. Know the market and seek advice from family or friends.
3. Know why the seller wants to sell.
4. Be flexible with some conditions but not the inspection condition.
5. Have a second option, so if one does not work, you can choose option B.

Don’ts

1. Don’t offer more than you can afford or more than the home is worth
2. Never get rushed into making a decision.
3. Be prepared to walk away
4. Don’t tell your agent the top amount you’re willing to offer
5. Don’t remove the inspection condition

Know the market

Use objective criteria such as sold prices of other comparable homes to persuade the seller to see it your way. Finding out the true value of a property will give you bargaining power.

39. Always include an inspection condition in your offer

Getting a home inspection is like getting an insurance policy. You don’t want to get stuck having to pay for expensive repairs. If you don’t like what you see on the inspection report, you’ll have the option to walk away and get your deposit back.

Even if you are in a seller’s market and are tempted to extend an offer without the inspection condition, think again; the risk is too high. There are a lot of things that could be wrong with a home.

1. Hire the best and most reputable home inspector you can find in your area.

2.Make sure you obtain and review the inspection report in detail.

Do not hire a home inspector recommended by your real estate agent. A home inspector’s responsibility is to provide you with information about the physical condition of the property so that you can make a buying decision.

However, if the home inspector gets a lot of business from one agent, the inspector may not want to highlight something that makes you change your mind about buying the property.

Instead, google “most reputable home inspector near me.” Ignore the ads and check out reviews from previous clients. Give them a call and hire the home inspector you find the most reputable.

Things to watch for in the home inspection:

1. Pests – check for signs of pests infestation
2. Electrical systems – all light fixtures work, smoke detectors, and wiring is up to code.
3. Mold! Pay close attention, especially if the home has recently been painted.
4. Floors and ceilings – Cracks, sagging, and stains
5. Doors and windows should open and close freely.
6. HVAC – Heat and AC push air consistently to all rooms
7. Check under carpets to confirm the condition of the floors.
8. Roof – No broken or loose shingles, chimney, gutters, and vents
9. Test all appliances
10. Take a walk around the neighborhood to get a sense of whether it fits your desired lifestyle.

Read More:  How Does a Home Inspection Impacts Your Offer?

40. Use the inspection report to get a better deal

Once you receive the inspection report, there will be things that need fixing. Contact reputable contractors and ask them to send you a quote of what it will cost to fix the issues shown on the inspection report.

The next step is to contact the sellers and ask them that you need those issues fixed before you approve the purchase as final. If the sellers don’t agree to reduce the sold price or to fix the issues, you’ll have the option to walk away from the agreement.

41. Don’t skip the home inspection

You will learn more about houses by attending a home inspection than at any other time. So, make sure you attend the home inspection and follow around the inspector so they can highlight to you in person the things they find.

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42. Consider including a home appraisal condition

When you apply for a loan, your bank will request an appraisal done on the property. In the past, appraisals were done remotely using Google maps to confirm the property existed. Now lenders send a professional home appraiser to perform an appraisal on the home you are buying.

If you’re buying a property for $800,000, but the home appraisal says the home is only worth $750,000, then the bank will not approve your loan unless you can pay for the $50k difference in addition to your down payment.

The bank is like your partner in the home purchase; they need to justify that the amount you offered is the property’s true value. They want to make sure their investment is protected; the home appraisal is their way to achieve that.

Thus, you should consider including an appraisal condition in your offer or a condition for mortgage approval. It’s better to know your options before it is too late.

43. Getting home insurance

One of the last steps before your lender releases the funds to the seller is you must get home insurance to protect the home against fire or other damages. Ask the current owners how much they pay for home insurance and who their provider is.

To get the property insured, you’ll need to provide information such as when the home was built, the material used to build the home (brick, vinyl siding wood), whether the plumbing in the property uses plastic pipes or a type of metal, and the age of the roof, and windows.

Many home buyers rushed through this at the last minute because they did not know that their bank needed a copy of the insurance policy. Don’t make that mistake!

Get a few quotes around the same time when you apply for the mortgage. This way, you’ll flag any issues such as the risk of being in a flood zone.

44. Top 10 questions to ask sellers before you move in

So, you got the keys, but you don’t know how to operate the alarm system? This happens a lot. Don’t let it happen to you! Thus, ask the following questions to the sellers before you move in:

Things to watch for in the home inspection:
1. What’s the code for the alarm system, and do they have the user guide?
2. Do you have instruction manuals and active warranty documents on appliances in the home?
3. Where is a water shut off valve?
4. Where is the electricity and gas meter?
5. When was the last duct cleaning done?
6. HVAC – Heat and AC push air consistently to all rooms
7. Where is the thermostat?
8. What day is the garbage collected on?

45. Ask your real estate agent for a rebate from
their commission.

A buyer real estate agent typically makes a 2.5% commission from the seller. If you ask, the Realtor may agree to share that commission with you. For instance, they might agree to rebate back to you 1% out of the 2.5% they receive.

This means that if you buy a home for $500,000, your agent will pay you $5,000 after the closing.

However, make sure you don’t do this at the cost of choosing a beginner Realtor hungry to get any client. First and foremost, hire the best real estate agent you can find and ask them if they could rebate you back a portion of their commission.

The Bottom Line

The more you educate yourself with real estate tips, the easier the home buying process will become. This is a major step in your life, so you have to take the time to gain the knowledge you need to get the house you want, in the neighborhood you want, and for a price that you can afford.

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