How to buy a home in today's housing market
Thursday, 7 May 2015
The housing market has changed significantly in the past few years, rebounding from the mortgage crisis of 2007-2008.
Thousands of Americans are enthusiastic about purchasing a home. One indication: Homes are spending less time on the "for sale" list. Zillow, one of the major online real estate data centers, said U.S. homes on average were listed on its site for 86 days in 2013 versus 116 in 2012. That means some of the strategies that worked when home sales were slow are not as likely to work now. If you've decided it's time to buy, here are some suggestions on how to be prepared for today's market. If this is your first house, also take a look at our article for first-time home buyers.
1. Gather the information you need to buy a house
The first thing you need to do is take a close look at your finances so you're ready to buy when you find the right house.
Check your credit score and ensure it's in the good to excellent range. If it's not, take steps to repair it so you can qualify for as low an interest rate as possible.
Look closely at your budget and figure out what you can realistically afford.
Line up a lender who is ready to act when you're ready to close a deal. Get pre-qualified for a mortgage and keep the paperwork stating this with you when you go looking at homes.
2. Consider hiring a buyer's agent
A buyer's agent can help you find a home that meets your needs. The right agent will have connections that may let you find out about a house before it's listed. At a minimum, an agent can save you time by eliminating houses that don't meet your criteria and concentrating on those that do. A buyer's agent also provides you with a reality check if your offer is too low, negotiates with the seller's side on your behalf, and can tell you bluntly when you should walk away from a property.
3. Be clear about your needs
Because of the renewed interest in housing, you may find yourself getting into a bidding war over a property. The competitive element of such a situation can mean that you lose sight of the bigger picture and buy a house that isn't right for you.
Know what's most important to you and your family. Start with looking at neighborhoods and find ones that meet your needs for schools, your daily commute, and overall desirability.
Think, too, about what you'll need in a house in five or 10 years. A house that is fine now but will be too small as your family grows will mean either selling and moving or adding an addition.
4. Manage your emotional commitment with a Home Buying Checklist
Feeling good about a house is important, but be careful. You don't want to spend too much in repairs getting the house up to your requirements. Go in with a checklist and follow it to ensure that the property is in good condition, with good plumbing, electricity, and heating and cooling.
If possible, find two or three houses that you really like. If any of the three would make you happy to own, your final decision will be more likely to satisfy both your heart and head. You can pencil out the pros and cons of each and make a smart move.
5. Think about the seller, too
You want to make it as easy as possible for the seller to agree to your offer. Because properties move relatively quickly now compared to the past, sellers are less willing to accommodate buyer requests. Be clear about what you need, but don't be surprised if a seller declines to make repairs you're seeking.
And even though you may never meet the seller, your agent will talk to the seller's agent. Sellers often have an emotional connection to their homes, so anything that your agent can share that recognizes that emotion may be helpful. Pass along a compliment on a well-done addition, for example. Write the seller a personal letter about you and your family, and why their house would be your perfect new home. All things being equal, sellers probably would prefer to see it go to someone who can appreciate the house as much as they do.
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