The First Steps to take when House Hunting
The Steps Choose a Neighborhood · 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 town?
- Use your "Home Wish List" to guide you. Which neighborhoods fit the criteria you set?
- Learn about 12 different kinds of neighborhoods and get tips on how to choose a neighborhood.
- 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 the road?
- 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 there?
- 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 up-and-coming ones.
· 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.
o Each type of building and ownership comes with its own pros and cons, so choose one that fits your lifestyle.
o 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?
o Find out what you need to know about HOAs
· 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.
Buyers don't necessarily need the MLS to look for homes. Visit www.YourMontgomeryHomeFinder.com to Browse more than 1.5 million homes for sale now. Some sellers choose to go "for sale by owner" (FSBO), meaning they sell the home themselves. Many FSBOs advertise online and in newspapers.
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 appliances?
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 rodents?
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