I'm sure lots of other people out there have posted about buying a home. But I feel like a bit of an expert in this field. We are in the processing of purchasing our third home, so I feel like I have some credibility on this topic. I've learned what to do and what not to do.
- Look at lots of houses: There's only one way to figure out what you like and what you don't like and that is to look around. Every time we've purchased a home we've looked at least 50 places. I know it sounds like a lot and it is. But you learn what kind of layouts you like best, what features you could live without and lots of other useful information.
- Get a good realtor: Find someone your personality meshes with and someone who is knowledgeable about the area you are looking at. If you are going to make this person show you 50 houses, you better get along well.
- Get a pre-approval letter: Now days it's almost impossible to buy a home without selling your newborn child - just kidding, I still have both my kids intact. There is so much paperwork that can be completed before you've even found your perfect home. This is called a pre-approval which basically says the bank has approved you to spend $xxxxx on a home. The ability to pay for a home is huge when you put in an offer. If you are up against another buyer without a pre-approval letter, your chances are much higher at getting the deal.
- Stand up for yourself: Buying a house is a negotiation. If you aren't good at wheeling and dealing,your realtor can help fight on your behalf and provide suggestions. It's ok to walk away from a deal that isn't right even though it can be heartbreaking.
- Rush: Take your time to find the perfect house. The worst thing you can do is buy the first one you see and then hate it 6 months later. However, if you find something you love, don't wait to put in an offer. I know our area is selling like crazy right now and if you wait a week to decide the house may no longer be available.
- Get a really outdated or falling apart house: If you aren't super handy or don't have thousands of extra dollars laying around, don't buy a house that needs a ton of work. A little work (painting, replacing carpet, new light fixtures) is one thing, but you don't want to buy a house that will put you further in the hole than when you started. The idea is to build equity in your home. If you spend $50,000 on a house, then another $50,000 in renovations but can only resell it for $75,000 then you have a major problem.
- Buy a house in a bad location: I'm sure you've heard the saying with real estate that it's location, location, location. This couldn't be more true. Pick something near where you work and play. If you have kids or intend to have kids, pay close attention to what school district you are in. It goes without saying the area should be safe as well. Sometimes a great location will cost you more (see "Stand up for yourself" above to get the best deal).
- Fall in love: It's important to love the house you buy, but don't fall in love with the wrong house. Remember, it's ok to walk away from a bad deal even if you love the house. Being financially stable is much more important than having your dream home. Many homes could be turned into your dream home with a little extra work. This is one time where it's important to let your head make the decisions and not your heart.
I could probably go on with many more things I've learned along the way, but these are the things I always do (or don't do) when buying a home. The best part about buying a new house is making it your own. I'm excited to start that process with our new home. Do you have any tips to share on buying a home?