Although experts in the real estate industry continually suggest the importance of seeing a lender before doing anything else with regards to purchasing a home, many buyers don’t. Instead, they merrily attend open houses, mine Internet real estate databases and hound real estate agents to show them homes that they may not even qualify to purchase.
We want to help you be a smart homebuyer, so we’ve developed a checklist to help you keep your home buying wish list realistic.
To avoid creating a fantasy wish list you absolutely must know how much money you can spend on a house. Only a lender can help you determine this figure. Once you know what you can spend, we can help you determine where you can afford to live. From there, you can build a realistic wish list.
The first items on your wish list should be based on what you absolutely can’t stand about your current home. Is it too far from work? Then your list should include that you want a shorter commute. Does it drive you nuts to have to find a parking place every night when you get home? Put a garage on the list.
Next, determine what you need. If you have a large family, maybe you need additional square footage or more bedrooms and bathrooms. If you work from home, perhaps an office is a must. Bad knees and staircases don’t mix so a one-story home may be a necessity.
Finally, it’s time to think about the extras – those items that you can live without, but it would be wonderful if they were included in your new home.
Now that you’ve figured out what your ideal home should include, it’s time to think about the type of neighborhood in which you’d like the home to be situated. Some items to consider:
• Crime: A neighborhood’s crime rate is something that you will need to investigate on your own as laws prevent real estate professionals from discussing this with you. Call the local police department for neighborhood crime statistics. You’ll also find information online, with the FBI’s Sex Offender Registry.
• Property values: Look for a neighborhood where property values are rising. You’ll usually find these types of neighborhoods on the fringes of more expensive communities, according to the National Association of Realtors.
• Easy Ingress and Egress: The ease of entering and leaving a neighborhood is especially important to commuters.
• Future Plans: Many homebuyers underestimate the impact of an area’s future plans on their property values. The best way to find out what the city has in mind for the area surrounding your neighborhood is by visiting the city planner’s office.
• Noise Level: While many people don’t mind the sound of kids playing and loud music, others aren’t comfortable in anything less than complete silence. If you are of the latter group, cruise the neighborhood in question at different times of the day and night and on weekends as well as weekdays.
• Lifestyle: If you’re a young, single professional you probably won’t feel at home in a family neighborhood so consider a place downtown, or close to it. If you can put up with the typically higher crime rate and lack of convenient parking, a home in the urban core may be ideal. Folks with kids, on the other hand, may want to look at neighborhoods with cul-de-sacs so the little ones are safe from traffic.
• Neighbors: Because the condition of your neighbor’s homes will affect the value of yours, take a good look at the other houses on the block. Foreclosures will drag down the value of neighboring homes. Unsightly landscaping and poorly maintained homes do likewise.
When the list is finished, we’ll find you some affordable neighborhoods and get down to the serious business of the Great American Househunt.
Here’s a checklist to bring along with you:
Determine exactly how much you can afford to spend on a home.
Ask us to point you to some neighborhoods with homes priced within your budget.
Determine what drives you crazy about your current home
Get clear on your needs in a home
Decide on your “wants-but-can-live-without” items
Investigate potential neighborhoods:
Does it fit your lifestyle?
Do the neighbors take care of their homes?
Proximity to schools
Proximity to city amenities
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