Top Tips for First Time Home Buyers

By: Todd Brillon

* Hire a full time experienced real estate agent, that has been in the market for at least three years. Ask at the office or friends and relatives who they had a good experience with. Don't use the same agent that is representing the seller of the home you want to buy, this is known as dual agency, and it doesn't benefit anyone but the real estate agent.

* Get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a loan before you start your home search. Meeting with a mortgage lender will clarify how much your comfortable spending on a home. The rule of thumb is to keep your housing cost around one-third of your income.

* Think about resale when buying. Off-beat locations such as busy streets, corner lots, noisy trains and jets will be more difficult to sell to choosy buyers. Buyers want quiet, middle of the block locations away from busy intersections and train tracks, both commuter and freight lines. You might get a discount when you buy for a second rate location, but it's one thing you'll never be able to improve.

* Don't test the waters with low-ball offers. Good try, but low-ball price offers do more to set up an adverse relationship between buyer and seller, which could cost the buyer more in the end. Don't start below ninety on a well priced property. Determine negotiating strategy before putting a low-ball to paper.

* If your buying a condo or co-op consider the management style of your potential HOA (Home Owners Association). How you HOA is managed is important and could impact your ownership experience. The management could be a professional property management company or self managed. Smaller HOA's find self-managing the day-to-day operations more cost effective and hands on. Some potential buyer's don't like self managed associations because they feel it conflicts with why they are purchasing a property in a HOA, which is to compensate some one else to manage the day-to-day operations of the common elements.

* Acquire a blank copy of the local real estate contract and review before you sign one. Most local real estate boards have a form contract that has blanks for contract price, terms and conditions. You will feel more confident if you review a real estate contract long before you are asked to sign one. Ask your real estate agent for a blank contract after your first meeting. If you have questions about the contract ask your attorney to review it with you. Review required disclosures too before signing them.

* Don't skip performing a home inspection. Cracked heat exchangers on furnaces indicate that it's a health issue and time for a new furnace. Home builders, owners and developers can put in lower-quality and under-sized furnaces that can have prematurely cracked or damaged heat exchangers. If your home inspector finds one, you better plan on replacing the furnace. From a safety standpoint cracked heat exchangers emit dangerous gases into a home.

* Assess your situation before buying a new construction home. New homes offer buyers the flexibility of changing floor plans, choosing finishes and defining a brand new space. Satisfied new construction buyers are everywhere, but their satisfaction comes from a reputable builder/developer, strong warranties and the knowledge that they won't have to compete with the developer when they sell their home.

* Home buyers looking to purchase in over-heated markets should consider how much current prices have risen over the last year, two-years and five years. Contrast those rates with the potential pool of buyers to pay future prices along the same rates in the same markets. Will the local economy and personal income increases support spiraling home prices? Here's the bottom-line, are you willing to pay your projected appreciated sale price when you go to sell?

* Create independent lists of must-have home features and compare with whom ever you will buying a home with. It can be difficult for newlyweds to find a starting point for joint home parameters. I suggest to my clients each list the top ten features they want in their next home and compare with their spouse. You should have at least five matches and less than five requires a discussion between you before you consider even looking at homes.

* Plan ahead for your move five weeks before moving day. Begin pricing and cleaning items for garage sale. Register children in new school. Verify with insurance agent that your possessions will be covered during your move. Obtain new homeowners and automobile insurance in your destination community.

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