The St. Petersburg Times has some excellent home buying tips in today’s edition, and with today’s real estate market as hot as it is, there’s no better time to review good, sound tips for buying your future home or condo. Here’s tip No. 1:
1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Before you wade into the world of home purchasing, access the wealth of information that’s available free of charge on the Internet.
2. SHOP FOR A MORTGAGE FIRST. The process of getting a preapproval letter from a mortgage lender will reveal how much house you can afford and give you an edge as you look at homes.
3. WORK WITH A BUYER’S AGENT. It’s important to have someone representing your interests alone. Otherwise, you could end up showing all your cards to a listing agent who actually represents the seller.
4. BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR “INCURABLE DEFECTS.’ Even if you find a house in a good neighborhood, is it right next to a shopping center or a noisy street? Will parking always be a struggle? Does the house have an attractive exterior but an interior floor plan that makes no sense at all?
5. CHOOSE A HOUSE THAT FITS. It may sound obvious, but the house should match the way you live. For instance, maybe you’d never, ever use that formal living room and dining room, or the enormous carport that got touted as such a bonus feature at the open house.
6. CHECK THE BUILDER’S REPUTATION. If you’re buying a new home, chat with people who live in other homes done by that builder. Ask them what they like and don’t like about their homes.
7. ASK FOR AN ANALYSIS. Before you make an offer on a house, ask your buyer’s agent to prepare a comparative market analysis, which shows the actual sales prices of comparable homes that recently sold in the neighborhood, as well as asking prices of similar homes that are for sale.
8. PAY FOR AN INSPECTION. A professional inspection should include a visual examination of general structure; central cooling; central heating; plumbing; bathrooms; laundry; electrical; common safety devices; kitchen and appliances; general interior; attic; insulation; ventilation; roof; exterior; grounds; and parking. Most inspectors charge extra for radon testing and termite, well and septic inspections.
9. EXERCISE PATIENCE. Don’t be in such a hurry that you fail to research an area’s home sales market – an especially common pitfall for out-of-town home buyers relocating for a new job. Learn about crime rates, school district quality and alternatives to the neighborhood you’re considering.
10. BUT DON’T DALLY TOO MUCH. If you sit on your hands for too long hoping to score a better price or interest rate, or if nerves are preventing you from buying a home even if you can afford one, you could miss your window to buy at all and lose out on tax deductions and the opportunity to build equity.