The decision to buy a house is a big one. It may seem like a scary experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Prepare for the process by doing some research. Talk to friends and family about their home buying experiences and ask yourself a few simple but important questions.
1. What am I looking for?
Are you looking for an investment property or a place to call home? Do you want a condo or a split-level ranch? How many bedrooms do you need? Having a well-thought-out idea of what you’re looking for can help narrow your search and keep you from getting overwhelmed. Of course, it’s also important to keep an open mind – you never know what pleasant surprises might pop up in your price range.
2. How are my finances?
It may seem like an obvious step, but start the home-buying process by making an honest and realistic assessment of whether or not you are financially able to make the purchase. Order a copy of your credit report to make sure it’s correct. Immediately report any errors, and if possible, make arrangements to clear up any major credit issues. Review your accounts and expenses to determine how much money you can put towards a down payment and/or a monthly mortgage payment. Don’t forget to factor in the need for an “emergency fund” to cover any unexpected costs (repairs, maintenance, etc.) that may pop up.
3. Should I work with a broker?
Working with a broker is always a good idea. A qualified broker has the insight and experience to help you navigate the real estate waters. Brokers also have access to a verified catalog of properties and can work with you to help you find a property that meets your needs.
4. What is the history of the house?
Once you’ve decided on a house, do some research into its history. Have there been any major renovations or repairs? Have there been any issues with insurance or other types of claims on the property? What you learn may help give you peace of mind, or it may alter your opinion of the property and affect your decision to buy it.
5. How is the neighborhood? Found a house that interests you? Spend some time exploring and learning about the neighborhood. Is there a Homeowners Association? Are there many families in the area or is it mostly young professionals or older adults? What amenities are in the area? How far away is the nearest restaurant or grocery store? The nearest playground? Movie theater? Dog park? Is there a good school nearby? All of these things can have a real effect, not only on your quality of life, but on the local property values as well.