Location, location, location. You've heard this
time and time again, and it's never been truer than in real estate. The most
important aspect of a home's value is the neighborhood it's in. What good is a
beautiful, 2,500-square-foot restored Victorian if it's in a declining part of
Use your "Home Wish List" to guide
you. Which neighborhoods fit the criteria you set?
As you look at
neighborhoods, ask yourself these questions:
What's your job
commute going to be like? Is the traffic heavy or light when you'll be on
How's the school
district? Even if you don't have kids, the quality of the school district
affects your home's value, so
it pays to find out.
How much crime is
How accessible are
shopping centers, libraries, churches and other necessary destinations?
Do you prefer
urban living or country living?
If you're priced
outside of the neighborhood you want to be in, look for the area's fixer-uppers. These houses will need
work, but at least you'll have built-in property value. You can also find
bargains if you're willing to go outside popular neighborhoods and scout
the type of House
The type of house you choose (single-family
detached, condo, townhouse, duplex, co-op, etc.) depends on how much
"common interest" you want to share with your neighbors. For example,
condo residents share walls and common public areas such as a roof deck or
courtyard. Residents don't have to maintain these areas, because a management
company and the homeowners association (HOA) take care of them through monthly
fees collected from residents.
Decide which home features are most important to
you. Ask yourself these questions:
Do you have pets? You may want to narrow the field
to homes with big enough backyards.
Is your family growing? Make sure there are enough
bedrooms for today and five years from now.
Be shrewd about storage space. Houses with
cavernous rooms may be impressive to look at, but they sometimes compromise
storage space to achieve that effect. Would you rather have a place to hang
your crystal chandelier or a place to hang your coats?
Will any remodeling be required to make the home
move-in ready for you? If so, are you handy with a hammer or would you prefer
to find a home that needs little work?
Most sellers work with real estate brokers who
advertise their homes on the multiple listing service (MLS), a database that
only real estate professionals can access. A broker who brings in a buyer
typically splits the commission with the listing broker. The home for sale is
listed with photos and details, such as the address, age, square footage,
number of bedrooms and bathrooms, taxes, schools districts and more.
Don't waste time and energy looking at every house
for sale in the area you choose. Know what you're looking for before you go
house hunting so you can target your search
The average homebuyer will look at least 10 homes
over an eight-week search before making an offer. After the first two, the
homes start to look the same. To keep track of which house had the barking dogs
next door and which house had the mountain views, keep a house-hunting journal.
Bring a digital camera and begin each tour
with a close-up of the house number to keep each series separate. Take detailed
notes of unusual features, design elements and incentives (i.e., furniture and
appliances included, or closing costs covered).
Be critical and ask these questions:
What service providers (cable, Internet
and telephone) are available in the area, and is the house wired for each?
How much do you pay yearly in city and/or
county property taxes?
How much do utilities run each month?
Does the house use gas or electric for the furnace, water heater and
How old are the major appliances, and are
they included with the house?
Have there been any major repairs to the
house, and if so, when were they completed? For example, how old is the roof?
Has water damaged the basement or foundation?
Ever had problems with insects, spiders or
Scrutinize. Look inside cabinets, inside
closets, at baseboards, at window casings, at door frames, and where walls meet
floors and ceilings. Look for any signs of damage, wear or poor construction
After touring several
homes, you'll probably know which ones you want to buy. Narrow them to the top
three and tour them again. Look at each one with a more critical eye, find out
why the seller is selling the home and see if any offers have been made
Click on the houses below to search for your new home
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