When you’re shopping for a new home, you may come across properties that require repairs or renovations. Are these houses worth the added expense? Will you get your money back if you decide to sell the house in the future?
According to market studies, certain renovations and repairs do add more value to a home than the repairs typically cost. These include kitchen and bathroom renovations, new or improved landscaping, and electrical and plumbing repairs.
One of the best things you can do to ensure you get the home you want is to arrange for financing before you go shopping. This is often referred to as getting “pre-approved”.
Getting pre-approved simply means that your lender has calculated how much of a mortgage they’re willing to offer you, depending on your down payment and current financial situation.
There are two advantages to having a pre-approved mortgage. First, you know exactly what you can afford when shopping for a new home. Second, when you make an offer, you’re likely to be taken more seriously.
The more you know about the best way to reach a goal, the more likely you are to get the result you want. So, whether you’re hunting for a new job, assembling a backyard BBQ, or training for a 3 mile run, you’ll want to use a proven process to help you get there.
That certainly holds true when shopping for a new home. There is a proven process to getting the home you want, in the area you want, at a price you can afford. Here are the highlights:
- Get ready
There’s a lot you must do before you pack your energy snacks in the car and go looking at homes. If you own your current home, you must prepare that property for sale. You should also get financing for a new home pre-approved, so you know exactly how much you can afford.
- Go shopping
Your next step is to view the right homes currently available on the market. It’s a good idea to make a wish list of the features you’re looking for in a new home. You may not be able to get everything you want, but you can probably come pretty close.
- Make an offer
When you see a home you like, the first thing you’ll need to do is to make an offer. This can be tricky especially if there are other interested buyers.
- Get an inspection
Always get the home checked out by a qualified home inspector. A property may have issues, such as a foundation leak, that are not obvious during a viewing.
- Prepare for the move
Once you’ve made the purchase, you need to arrange for moving and deal with other details, such as utilities, telephone, mail forwarding and so forth.
When shopping for a new house or condo, most buyers consider such factors as proximity to schools, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, size of the kitchen, and more. These are, of course, all important considerations. But there’s one question that few buyers ask – until it’s too late. “Will our furniture fit?”
This may seem like a trivial concern. But if you’ve invested thousands of dollars in a new living room suite, you’re going to be very disappointed if it looks too crowded in your new home.
Here’s a tip: measure rooms in your current home that contain the furniture you like most. This could be the living room, rec room, master bedroom or even the patio. Then imagine how much smaller – if at all – that room can be and still accommodate the furniture.
When you view condos or houses on the market, take those measurements with you. That way, you’ll be able to quickly determine if room sizes are going to be an issue.
And don’t forget to take a good look at entry ways. If you have a large wrap-around sofa, for example, you’re going to want to make sure you can get it through the door!
There’s no doubt about it. The best kind of offer is a “firm” offer. The buyer offers you a certain price for your property and, should you accept it, the deal is done. Congratulations. You’ve just sold your house!
But more often than not, an offer is “conditional”. That means the buyer is offering you a price, but with one or more conditions. If those conditions are not met, the buyer can walk away from the deal.
Examples of typical conditions include:
- Conditional upon arranging suitable financing within a fixed period of time.
- Conditional upon the buyer selling his own home by a specific date.
- Conditional upon an inspection of the property.
Should you accept a conditional offer? After all, if you do, the deal might fall through. But if you don’t, you might be passing up on an opportunity to sell your house for the price you want.
A REALTOR® who understands the real estate market can help you make the right decision.
You’re about to make an offer on a home. Then, to your despair, you find out that three other offers have also come in for the same property.
Be careful. It’s all too easy to get swept up in the excitement and, like a hand raised one too many times at an auction, end up paying more for the home than you had intended — or can afford.
Working with a good REALTOR® will increase the odds of getting the home at a price that’s right for you.
If you have kids, the local school will be a big part of your new home buying decision. That’s why it’s important to get a school’s “vital statistics”, such as:
- Safety record
- Accommodation for special needs
- Average class sizes
- Extracurricular activities. (sports, arts, crafts, technology, etc.)
- Scores on standardized achievement tests
- Daily schedules and vacations
Even such seemingly inconsequential details as hours of operation can be important. If school starts a half hour later than you expected, you may not be able to drop off your kids on your way to work and therefore, you will need to make other arrangements.
The problem with household smells is that we get accustomed to them… when they are in our own homes. However, it takes just a few seconds in a stranger’s home, to know if a smoker lives there. The smell is in the air!
So when you put your home on the market, think about the common smells you might have lingering around your property. Remember, you may no longer notice them, but a prospective buyer will.
These may include:
- A diaper bin in the baby’s room
- Kitty litter
- Model making glue
- Paints, even if the cans or tubes are closed tightly
- Food. The aroma of a spicy meal can linger for hours
- Garbage cans. Even empty ones, if they are not clean
- Strong smelling soaps, perfumes and other cosmetics and toiletries
- Flowers and other plants
- Firewood, (especially pine)
- Outdoor shoes
- Door mats are especially prone to stains and smells
Try to eliminate as many smells as possible. An hour or so before a viewing, open a few windows to give your home a breath of fresh air.
“I don’t have a problem with credit,” a potential new home buyer says. “I pay my bills on time. I never have trouble getting a loan.”
That may be true. However, according to several surveys, most people are surprised by at least one piece of information in their credit report. And it only takes one derogatory item to create an obstacle to getting the lowest mortgage rate possible, or even getting a mortgage at all.
That’s why it’s important to check your credit report before you shop for a new home. You will then have the opportunity to deal with any unexpected issues.
For example, you may discover an error, which is not unusual. If you do find there is a mistake in your credit report, inform the credit bureau immediately. They are required, by law, to promptly make a correction.
If there are late payments noted on your credit report, you can write a letter of explanation to the credit bureau telling your side of the story. This will accompany the credit information that goes to your lender. Assuming everything else in your credit report is fairly good, most lenders will accept a reasonable explanation for late payments, such as being laid off from a job, an extended illness in the family, or military service overseas.
How do you get your credit report?
There are three major credit bureaus in North America:
- Equifax (www.equifax.com)
- Trans Union (www.transunion.com)
- Experian (www.experian.com)
All have websites that allow you to order your credit report for a reasonable fee. It’s a good idea to order all three credit reports as not all companies report credit information to all three bureaus.
Getting your credit report, and checking that it’s accurate, will make the home buying process go a lot more smoothly.
When you’re looking for a home, chances are, you have a checklist of things you want. Two bathrooms… a finished basement… a great looking kitchen… an expansive deck…
But what happens when a home you see has a feature that doesn’t quite measure up? Perhaps the basement is poorly renovated. Or the kitchen is small. Or there’s only one bathroom. Should you say “No”?
Here’s something to consider: A home that has a few undesirable features will probably cost less. And, those savings may more than cover the costs of any needed upgrades or renovations.
So don’t pass up on a house simply because is doesn’t meet all your criteria. It may be worth buying a home for less and then making improvements.