So, you’re house hunting! There’s a lot to think about when you’re planning to make the biggest purchase of your life. You’ll need to carefully assess your financial situation, understand the mortgage process, monitor the unpredictable real estate market, and think about what you really want in a house and neighborhood. Emerge2 can help!
Buying a house can be a very emotional experience. You may instantly fall in love with a house and see its potential but not its flaws. You’ll need to stay firmly grounded and use all your senses, including the ability to know when to walk away.
It’s important to be honest with yourself about what you can handle. If renovating is not for you, then it’s best to find a house that is in move-in condition.
Before you start looking at houses, take a close look at your financial health. Do you have credit card debt and loans? Have you checked your credit rating?
It’s important to have a steady income and savings to pay your mortgage, which could increase due to rising interest rates. Factor in all the other costs that come with home ownership: home maintenance, unexpected repairs, and regular monthly or annual bills such as property tax, insurance and utilities.
Calculate your debt-to-income ratio to determine if you can manage the extra debt of a mortgage.
Make a budget based on the potential mortgage and other expenses including property tax, home insurance, utility bills, maintenance and repairs. Don’t forget moving costs.
Do your research to understand everything about mortgages before making any decisions. Find out if you are eligible for government incentives and other home-buying programs for first-time buyers. Evaluate mortgage options, and think carefully about how the term will affect your interest rate. Determine if a fixed or variable interest rate mortgage would be best for you. Investigate pre-approved mortgages.
The higher your down payment is, the lower your monthly mortgage payments will be. You can avoid the extra cost of mortgage insurance as well.
Find a knowledgeable real estate agent you can trust. Buying without an agent may leave you in the dark about details such as property lines, mutual driveways, urea formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI), homeowner association membership, and other issues that can surprise you once you own the house.
Your agent will also help you schedule a final walk-through right before the closing date to make sure there are no misunderstandings concerning appliances, fixtures and the condition the house is in.
Make a list of what you really want in your home, from most to least important. A list will help you remember what to look for and the questions to ask. Also, consider:
If you find a house you like, make notes so that you remember if it needs updates or repairs. Once you have found a house or two that you like, get a feel for the neighborhood by walking around at different times of the day, on weekdays and weekends.
A thorough inspection by a certified home inspector will go a long way to giving you peace of mind and preventing any costly or dangerous surprises that could make resale a challenge in the future.
We have listed a few of the main areas to have inspected, but your home inspector will check every aspect of the house.
Make sure the electrical panel is a minimum of 100 amps. 200 amps is better. Consider the cost of upgrading your panel and wiring if needed.
In older homes built before the 1930s, look out for knob and tube wiring, usually visible in an unfinished basement. It can be a safety hazard and also makes it difficult to get home insurance.
GFCI outlets are required by code to prevent electrical shock wherever water and electricity can meet: bathrooms, kitchens, outdoor outlets, swimming pools or hot tub electrical systems.
You’ll want to make sure that heating, air conditioning and hot water equipment are in good working order. Heat pumps are more efficient at heating and cooling homes than traditional furnaces. Check the windows and doors for cracks and drafts.
Walk around the inside and outside of the house to check how stable and strong the foundation is. Slanting floors or cracks in walls can indicate weaknesses to be investigated.
Is the roof in good shape, or does it need to be repaired or replaced?
Check for broken downspouts that could lead to water seepage into the basement.
When you first enter the house, how does it smell? If you detect any musty odors, particularly in the basement, there could be mold.
How much storage space do you need? Does the house have a basement or attic? Keep in mind that older homes tend to have less closet space.
Do you prefer an attached or detached garage? How much space do you need for your cars, tools and sports equipment? Is there a storage shed in the backyard?
Is there enough space for everyone in your household to park? Will your vehicle fit?
Are entryways safe with good lighting and are stairways safely built with railings? Are decks in good condition or will they need to be replaced?
If you love lots of natural light, view houses in the daytime to get a better idea of how bright the house is.
Many newer homes include smart devices that let you remotely control everything from heating and air conditioning to appliances, window blinds, and security systems. You must decide if it is better to take your smart equipment with you or install new smart features. Smart features add value to homes and are helping homeowners improve their energy efficiency.
House hunting can be fun, rewarding and less stressful if you plan ahead!
If you have any questions or need more information, visit Emerge2. Our team is always available to help in any way we can.