Buying a home can be a very exciting time. But it can also be extremely stressful. Here are our top tips for home buyers to help alleviate a bit of the stress and minimize surprises during a home purchase.
Determine and stick to a budget. Check your budget, talk to a local mortgage lender and possibly a financial advisor. Check your credit score and get a pre-approval. This works three fold – you know what your true buying power is and can look at homes in that range, it shows sellers you are serious and you are ready to make an offer as soon as you find the house you have been hoping for.
Be aware of all additional costs associated with a home purchase. Many people just focus on their monthly mortgage payment. It is important to remember the other expenses such as property taxes, closing costs, utilities, homeowners insurance, association dues/fees, repairs and maintenance.
Don’t move your money around. For the three to six months prior to purchasing a home, it is best not to make any large purchases or move your money around. It could negatively affect your credit profile. Lenders want to know you are reliable, and they feel more confident if you haven’t opened new credit cards, amassed a lot of debt or engaged in many large purchases.
Find a realtor to work with. Meet with them and spend time learning about them/their team/office. Ask questions and see some homes with them. Make sure you find an agent familiar with the area where you’re planning to buy. That agent will have a better idea of local expectations and realistic prices in the area. Buying a home is a big decision and you need someone who works hard for you and understands your needs.
Identify your desired neighborhood/town/community. What are you looking for in the area surrounding your new home? Do you need to be near mass transit? Do you want to be near a pub/movie theater/library? Go to the neighborhood you are interested in at different points throughout the day to get a real feel for the area.
Identify Wants Vs. Needs. Think long term about the potential changing nature of your family and find a home that suits you for the longest term possible. What’s important right now, like your baby being in the room right next door to yours, may not be so important in a couple of years. Determine if the newly renovated kitchen is more important than the three bedrooms you would like.
Be prepared to make multiple offers. The market can be competitive and you may need to put your hat in the ring a few times before being successful.
Bid competitively. Work with your realtor to put together a competitive offer. Depending on the market, this could include limiting contingencies and being flexible with your closing date.
Tips for Sellers
Putting your house on the market and actually getting your house sold successfully are two very different things. Here are our top tips for seller success.
Keep focused on the big picture. The reason you are selling could be to move to a maintenance free condo or to relocate to be closer to family. Generally people move for lifestyle reasons. Keep focused on getting to that ultimate goal. Selling a home can be a long journey and it can have its ups and downs. It really is hard work. If you want to do it right, there is a lot of preparation involved. Then comes the inconvenience of having your house “on the market”– keeping it in showing condition and leaving the house for showings. Once you get an offer, there is often negotiation with your buyer about the terms of the offer, inspection items and sometimes appraisal issues. What is really important is that you put emotion aside and understand that selling a home is a business transaction. An experienced realtor can help you keep issues in perspective and keep the emotions surrounding the transaction on a steady keel. You will have “those moments” but when you keep focused on the ultimate goal it makes the bumps in the road a lot smoother.
Take all the time you need to prepare. Don’t be afraid to spend money on preparation. Many sellers don’t fully understand the importance of getting a property ready for market, what this entails and how critical this is in getting the most money from a sale. An experienced listing agent can meet with you well in advance to explain what needs to be done, what you should not spend any time and money doing and then help you coordinate the work. I always like to say that you only get one chance to make a first impression. Well, houses are no different. When you hit the market you need to capitalize on those very important first days/weeks. Buyers are always looking at what is new to the market. So make sure that you put your best foot forward. Spending money on preparation can be the difference between a quick and profitable sale and a slow and painful one.
Price your house to sell. Don’t price it to test the waters. Many sellers think a good strategy is to price a property a little high so as to leave room for negotiation. In my experience, this is the biggest mistake sellers make and it’s a hard one to correct. When a new property hits the market buyers are looking at location, condition and price. If your house seems like the best value you will attract a lot of interest. Think about list price as an enticement. You want to attract the most buyers to see your home right away. The final sale price will often be higher if multiple parties bid on a property. The terms will be more favorable to you as a seller as well. An experienced listing agent can review the comparable sales data with you. Take note of the original list price of properties. See how attractive list prices yield the highest sale prices.
Make your house easy to show and don’t be home for showings. Think about going out of town for the first weekend or week that your house is on the market. It will be more convenient for you and easier to maintain that pristine look inside when you don’t have to straighten up each day. Buyer’s agents often have to coordinate several showings during one appointment. The easier your house is to show the more showings you will have and the more you will get for your sale. Within reason, make the “showing instructions” that agents see as simple as possible. Make sure your front door locks and unlocks easily. Use a lockbox for security reasons and make sure the lockbox is easily visible to agents. Pets, baby nap times or other issues that limit showing hours make houses difficult to show. Requiring substantial advanced notice or listing agents to accompany are also difficult showing situations. Discuss with your agent what your personal concerns about showing instructions are, and err on the side of being as accommodating as possible. An experienced agent can help you craft the right showing instructions to keep you sane and get the most traffic to your property.