5 Tips for Buying a Home

Looking to buy a home? Here are five essential tips for making the process as smooth as possible.

Get your finances in order.

Start by getting a full picture of your credit. Obtain copies of your credit report. Make sure the facts are correct, and fix any problems you find. Next, find a suitable lender and get pre-approved for a loan. This will put you in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house.

Find a house you can afford.

As with engagement rings, there’s a general rule of thumb when it comes to buying a home: two-and-a-half times your annual salary. There are also a number of tools and calculators online that can help you understand how your income, debt, and expenses affect what you can afford. Don’t forget, too, that there are lots of considerations beyond the sticker price, including property taxes, energy costs, etc.

Hire a professional.

While the Internet gives buyers unprecedented access to home listings and resources, many aspects of the buying process require a level of expertise you can’t pick up from surfing the web. That’s why you’re better off using a professional agent than going it alone. If possible, recruit an exclusive buyer agent, who will have your interests at heart and can help you with strategies during the bidding process.

Do your homework.

Before making a bid, do some research to determine the state of the market at large. Is it more favorable for sellers or buyers? Next, look at sales trends of similar homes in the area or neighborhood. Look at prices for the last few months. Come up with an asking price that’s competitive, but also realistic. Otherwise, you may end up ticking off your seller.

Think long term.

Obviously, you shouldn’t buy unless you’re sure you’ll be staying put for at least a few years. Beyond that, you should buy in a neighborhood with good schools. Whether you have children or not, this will have an impact on your new home’s resale value down the line. When it comes to the house itself, you should hire your own home inspector, who can point out potential problems that could require costly repairs in the future.

Dealing with Financing

As the events of the last few years in the real estate industry show, people forget about the tremendous financial responsibility of purchasing a home at their peril. Here are a few tips for dealing with the dollar signs so that you can take down that “for sale” sign on your new home.

Get pre-approved. Sub-primes may be history, but you’ll probably still be shown homes you can’t actually afford. By getting pre-approved as a buyer, you can save yourself the grief of looking at houses you can’t afford. You can also put yourself in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house. Unlike pre-qualification, which is based on a cursory review of your finances, pre-approval from a lender is based on your actual income, debt and credit history. By doing a thorough analysis of your actual spending power, you’ll be less likely to get in over your head.

Choose your mortgage carefully. Used to be the emphasis when it came to mortgages was on paying them off as soon as possible. Today, the debt the average person will accumulate due to credit cards, student loans, etc. means it’s better to opt for the 30-year mortgage instead of the 15-year. This way, you have a lower monthly payment, with the option of paying an additional principal when money is good. Additionally, when picking a mortgage, you usually have the option of paying additional points (a portion of the interest that you pay at closing) in exchange for a lower interest rate. If you plan to stay in the house for a long time—and given the current real estate market, you should—taking the points will save you money.

Do your homework before bidding. Before you make an offer on a home, do some research on the sales trends of similar homes in the neighborhood with sites like Zillow. Consider especially sales of similar homes in the last three months. For instance, if homes have recently sold for 5 percent less than the asking price, your opening bid should probably be about 8 to 10 percent lower than what the seller is asking.

Millennials Are Searching For Homes. Are You Ready For Them?

Years ago, a fearsome economic downturn resulted in Millennials returning to their parents’ homes in droves after graduation, in order to save money as they searched for too-elusive job opportunities. The image of a young 20-something, sitting in a darkened basement with Cheetos dust in their hair, sending out resumes at a clip was an all-pervasive image. Fortunately, the economy is recovering, and census studies are showing that home purchases amongst 25 – 34 olds are on the rise. Today’s real estate professionals would be remiss to ignore the trend.

Something to watch out for with buyers amongst the millennial set, is their tech-savviness. They’ll Google, Facebook and thoroughly vet any potential service provider in the digital sphere – especially a real estate agent who will helm the search for one of the most significant investments they will ever make. A strong, thoughtful web presence is key in order to capture their business.

A workforce in frequent upheaval means that the days of the 20-year tenure with one company have become rare. Advancement opportunities and frequent career changes mean that Millennials require housing options that are more fluid. They’ll seek homes that can sell quickly, in neighborhoods that will appreciate in value fast.

While they’re there, millennials want their homes to be convenient and connected. Areas close to work and amenities like shopping and dining options will be key, and if they can adjust their thermostat using their iPads, that would be a definite plus. As with any first time homebuyer, affordability will be a primary consideration. Luckily, Millennials may not need as much space as generations past. With ecologically-minded attitudes and a trend toward delaying/deciding not to have children, additional bedrooms and baths aren’t always as much of a priority.

Make no mistake, Millennials are already playing a very large part in shaping the future of the real estate market. Recognizing their unique needs and wants has been a priority of my team, and we have adjusted our business services to better serve this growing niche. Real estate professionals looking to open the door to a whole new generation of clients should make sure they’re in tune with the dynamics of this tech-savvy generation.

For more information on meeting the real estate needs of Millennials, or any other real estate questions, don’t hesitate to contact me at ddowell@koenigrubloff.com