Preliminaries to Searching for Your First Home

By: Gary Ashton

You have that acquisitive gleam in your eyes whenever you pass a house for sale. You spend your days dreaming of living somewhere where no one can nix your grand plan for painting all the rooms black. You desperately want a garden where you can cultivate deadly nightshade with the loving skill that your landlord just doesn't appreciate. You want to buy a house.

You may have a good idea of what you want and don't want, but it helps to put it on paper. Make a list of absolute must-haves for any home. Then make a list of really-wants-but-could-live-withouts. Chances are, if you aren't paying cash for your first home, you will have to give up the in-house roasting spit in favor of two bathrooms.

Before you head over to Paint World - should it be latex or water based? Ah, decisions - you should ensure that you can not only get a loan, but that you can also afford your first home. What does your budget look like? Do you have a budget? Are you looking for a home within your budget? Most real estate professionals advise that your monthly mortgage be no more than 33% of your income.

You may have your eye on your dream home, where the panthers can ramble freely among the castor bean plants. However, you will likely save more money by investing in a domestic idyll that you will purchase for a modest price, save taxes on, and sell for thousands more, eventually financing your personal utopia. Consider pot-gardening your deadly nightshade for a couple of years, saving for the property that will allow them to burgeon along the fence line. Building equity with a smaller domicile is one way to save for the down payment you will need for the property and location you want.

Your next step is to consult a real estate professional. It's true that the Internet is making it easier to buy and sell without the assistance of agents, but for your first time, at the very least, having the advice and guidance of a professional in the industry is invaluable. Unless you're a real estate professional yourself, in which case you probably don't need the advice in this article, you will have only a vague idea of the amount of paperwork and the legal implications of buying property. An agent can do the legwork of a transaction, advise you on the other professionals you should be hiring (home inspector, etc), and nobly place themselves between you and the ravening sellers out there, each eager to market their home as the perfect place to keep a small colony of vampire bats.

Interview a few agents before settling on one. Ask people for their recommendations, but go with your own feelings in the end. If an agent gives you references, be sure to call them and ask about the agent's professionalism and expertise in finding a home that satisfied the buyers. Ask former clients if they would use that buyer again and why.

Now it's time to start considering homes. Your agent will be happy to compile a list of homes for you to look at, based on the must-have criteria you cite. Be aware that you must make it clear what you are willing to consider if none of the homes you look at are quite the thing. If you find that you are willing to give up a cemetery view in exchange for a property with an abandoned well, be sure to communicate that to your agent.

Happy Home Hunting!

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