What You Need Before You Buy Real Estate

By: John West

Real estate investments can be complicated affairs. Contracts to sign, fluctuating interest rates, unpredictable markets; it can all be a little too much for the average home buyer. You need a team of professionals on your side, who are able navigate the difficult terrain and get you to the other side all in one piece.

The first weapon in the battle to buy real estate is to hire a competent real estate agent. Some argue that a buyer's agent isn't necessary, but having one can save you a great deal of time and money. The buyer's agent will screen available properties, showing you only the ones that are suitable for your needs. They also take care of price negotiations, worry about paperwork, and assist you with getting financing. Your real estate agent can take the stress off of looking for a home, and can make the entire process more efficient. Keep in mind too, that the seller typically pays the commission for your buyer's agent, so you what do you have to lose?

Next in line is finding a good lender. Getting a mortgage is perhaps the most critical step in the home buying process. You need to get a mortgage that fits your income. You don't want to get seduced into a loan that features teaser interest rates, or interest-only loans. These will come back to bite you at a later date. Talk to your real estate agent. Chances are, they know lenders in the area that have good reputations. Friends and family can also be a good source for referrals. Find a lender that has a good business reputation, and make sure that whoever you deal with has a personality that you can work with, just in case you need to renegotiate your terms in the future.

If you find a house you want to invest in, you need to know what a fair offer would be. In order to do this, you need two people on your side: an appraiser, and a home inspector. The appraiser is an independent party whose job it is to assess the value of the home based on its current condition, its location, the proximity of services and amenities in the area, how the local real estate market is performing, and the pricing of comparable properties in the area.

Because the appraiser is paid a set fee rather than a commission based on the sale price, he or she is unaffected by the value they assign the property. You know that what they're telling you comes from an objective viewpoint.

A home inspector can make or break a house sale, so it's important to have someone qualified and objective to assess the property you want to buy. A home inspector is another independent party who does a full examination of the house from top to bottom. Their job is to find any structural or system problems that could result in costly repairs later.

If you have made an offer, make sure that you make it contingent on what the appraiser and home inspector have to say about the property. The current market value for the home, along with any repairs that need to be addressed should all have an impact on how much money you are prepared to give the seller. You don't want to make an offer, only to find out that you'll have to make major, costly repairs later; it just doesn't make financial sense.

Don't go into any real estate venture without doing your homework, and without having this team of professionals by your side. With them watching your back, you're assured to get the best investment for your money.

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