I was considering posting this article later in the week, but then I realized that the tips I’m planning to share with you here need several days of rumination. After all, a home buy will likely be the largest purchase you’ll ever make and certainly is worth much consideration before you take the plunge.
Before you hit the reply button to tell me that this is a lousy time to buy a home, let me say this: for some people this is the perfect time for them to jump into the market. With housing prices dramatically lower than just a year ago and mortgage rates remaining quite low, people who are ready to buy are already out there looking. And, with warmer weather here (or on the way) the spring selling season has begun.
What To Look For When Buying A Home
Over the next few days you’ll want to do some research to learn a few things about the local real estate market, particularly neighborhoods that are tops on your list. Keep reading and we’ll explore some things for you to look for and to remember when you are visiting open houses this coming weekend:
Get Online – If you’re reading this article, then you’re already online. Head on over to Trulia.com to find homes for sale in your neighborhood. Sign up for this free service and acquaint yourself with everything they have to offer to you. Familiarize yourself with “My Trulia” as that will be the section of the site where you’ll spend the bulk of your time. You can find homes on the market that are of interest to you, comparing five homes side by side to get a good feel for what’s out there. Alternate site: SayHomeBuy.com.
Contact Lenders – Maybe you aren’t planning to buy a home immediately, but if you believe that you’ll be ready within the next month or so, then why not contact a mortgage lender to get pre-qualified for a loan? Buyers who are shopping for a home can gain an edge in this market by arriving at open houses with a qualification letter in hand from their lender. In most instances a qualification letter does not obligate you to use that lender, but it does send a strong signal to the homeowner that you’re ready to buy.
Case The Neighborhood – You don’t want to look like you’re trying to break into houses, but you’ll want to visit interested neighborhoods often and at different hours of the day and week. Travel down streets that interest you and then go down nearby roads and through adjoining neighborhoods to see what those areas are like. Make a note of traffic patterns, home conditions, zoning and points of interest (parks, shopping, schools) to help you decide whether the area is right for you. Multiple and varied visits can help you experience the neighborhood as residents see it.
Keep These Points In Mind At The Open House
Once you’re ready to attend open houses, you’ll want to:
Arrive On Time – Choose which homes you want to visit and try to be one of the first ones there. That way, you’ll be sure to get the undivided attention of the real estate agent and receive a personal tour of the home.
Ask Questions – You’ll want to use your time wisely when attending an open house, so be prepared to ask questions including obtaining information you may not have been able to get ahead of time: utility costs, taxes, schools, age of roof, landscaping costs, garbage removal, etc. If allowed, take pictures of the inside and outside of the home for later reference, especially if what was shown online or included in sales literature doesn’t go far enough.
Follow Up – In most cases, homes on the market today are selling at or below list price. And, home prices are much lower than they’ve been in some time. Still, you may not want to wait to long to make your decision because other home buyers will place their bids, especially if a home is priced right, in excellent condition and other favorable terms are included (e.g., closing costs or other fees paid). If you’re interested in the home, let the real estate agent know – she’ll keep you informed about its availability and ask you to make an offer.
Interested? Make An Offer!
Should you find yourself desiring a particular home, but you still haven’t gotten qualified for a mortgage, go ahead and make a reasonable offer as soon as you can. You can contact a lender once your offer has been submitted and speed up that process if your bid is accepted.
This season’s selling season will be slower than last, but homes will be on the market and owners are in the mood to work with any reasonable offer. For the person ready to buy a home, 2009 could be their best opportunity to jump in.
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