Monthly Archives: April 2014

Determining Your Housing Needs

Posted on April 30, 2014 in Buying a Home

If you’re looking for a new home, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer, you may not know exactly what you want.  Buying a home in a huge investment, though, and once purchased, it’s not like you can simply return it or trade it in like a used car.  Selling a house takes a good amount of effort, time, and even money, so you need to make certain the house you buy meets your needs.  Many first-time homebuyers end up selling their house within five years because it no longer meets their needs.  If you don’t want to end up doing that, these tips may help you determine exactly what you want out of your first home.

How Much House Do You Need?One of the basic mistakes many newlywed couples make when buying a home is that they purchase a small house just for them.  They don’t think about their family growing, but many newly married couples start a family within a few years.  They suddenly realize that the house they thought was absolutely perfect for them is now much too small for their growing family, and they end up trying to sell it, move, and either prepare for the new arrival or adjust to being parents all at once.

Another mistake people make is buying a house that’s too large for them.  They may think they need a lot of space, but they later decide that it’s too much to keep up with.  This is very often the case if they buy a house with a large yard to maintain.

Some people don’t take their health into consideration.  Those who have had chronic knee problems, for example, may find that the two-story house they purchased wasn’t a good choice.  The large yard might be a problem here, too.

Location is a factor as well.  You may think having a longer commute will be fine, but after several years of making that drive twice a day, you might start to regret it.  You’ll want to take into account the location of major streets as well.  If your dream home is on the corner of a major intersection, you can be assured that you’ll be hearing traffic all night long.  Light sleepers will definitely not get a lot of rest in such an area.

Make a list of all of these factors to use when looking for houses, and give a copy to your realtor, too.  He or she will be able to use it to determine which houses you should look at and which won’t be a good fit.

Things to do when Looking at a House

Posted on April 23, 2014 in Buying a Home

Looking at a house involves a lot more than just looking.  Any great realtor will tell you that you need to do more than a cursory once-over of a home before you buy it.  In fact, many will tell you that you need to look at a house at least a few times before signing on the bottom line.  If you’ve never bought a home before, though, you might not know what all you need to look for.  While a great realtor will make certain you do, it never hurts to have a list of your own.  Here are some things to be sure to check when looking at any prospective property.

Check Your New HomeBe sure to check all of the faucets to make certain the water is running.  If the house has sat empty for several months, it may take a few seconds for the water to start.  It might also have a tint to it or have air in the lines, but that’s okay as long as it works itself out after a minute or so.  Check the sinks, the showers, the bathtubs, and the toilets to make certain everything works fine.

Likewise, turn on all the lights.  Later, if you’re absolutely certain you want the house, you wouldn’t be amiss to take a lamp or other small electrical device around to every outlet to make certain they all work.

Look at all of the windows, especially the ones behind curtains or blinds.  Any window that has a crack in it should be replaced by the sellers before the closing.  Likewise, also check that all windows can be opened.  Some people seal up windows they don’t plan on ever opening, but you should have at least one window in every room you can open just in case you need to get out of the house that way (such as during a fire).

Look in all cabinets and closets.  Check the corners and look on any shelves just to make certain everything is as it should be.  Check for any signs of water damage under the sinks and on the floor around the washing machine.

Make certain the outside doors shut tightly.  If you can see a lot of daylight around the door or feel cold air coming through, it may need a new seal.

Some of these things sound fairly minor, but remember that once the papers are signed, the house and any problems it might have are yours to deal with.  You want to make certain the seller has a list of all the things you want fixed well in advance so they can be done before the closing.

What Does a Closing Consist Of?

Posted on April 16, 2014 in Buying a Home

If you’ve never bought or sold a house before, you may only be somewhat familiar with the term “closing.”  You’ll hear people say that they are closing on their house on a specific date or that they’ve got to figure out what their closing costs will be, but those terms in and of themselves aren’t very descriptive.  So what exactly is a closing?

Closing On Your New HomeThe closing is, in the simplest terms, the final transaction that results in you taking ownership of the property from the seller.  The seller signs over the title deed to you and provides you with all of the keys and other information needed to fully own the home.  Often, the closing of your loan occurs at the same time.  That means you’ll be signing all of the final loan documents and that the funds will be disbursed to the seller.

There’s one thing you’ll be doing a lot at the closing: signing and dating.  You’ll have a stack of papers to sign and date, so you may be tempted to simply sign away without really looking at the papers.  If you have a good realtor, lender, attorney, or other official present, he or she should take the time to explain every piece of paper that’s put before you.  You’ll want to pay very close attention to the pages that specify your loan amount.  If it looks in any way different than what you expected it to, do not sign the document until you have a very clear understanding of why the numbers aren’t what you thought they would be.

There are two different ways a closing can work.  If the seller is in another state or for some reason cannot meet with you in person, your closing may actually take a few weeks as all of the documents are sent around to everyone who needs to sign them.  In that case, the final “closing” occurs when the last signature is collected and the documents are filed.

However, in many cases, you’ll actually meet with the seller and a number of other people.  The title insurance company often hosts the closing or sends a representative.  Your realtor, the other party’s realtor, a representative from the lending institution, or even attorneys may be present.  Anyone who has an interest in the sale of the property can be at the closing.

Usually, a closing takes anywhere from an hour to two hours, depending on how many people are there and how many documents need to be signed or explained.  However, once it’s finished, you will officially own the property!

5 Important Things to Inspect Before Making an Offer

Posted on April 9, 2014 in Buying a Home

When you’re shopping for a new house, it’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement.  You see the gorgeous crown molding, beautiful hardwood floors, and amazing built-ins and forget about anything else.  But there are a few things you always need to check before you decide that the house you’re looking at is destined to be your future home.  Here are five key areas that you always need to check before you make an offer.  If you don’t, you may find yourself with a house that needs some costly repairs.

  1. Could this be your new home?The foundation.  Foundation problems can cause your entire house to come crashing down if you’re not careful.  Even fairly new houses can have some issues with the foundation if trees are planted close to the house or the foundation isn’t laid correctly.  Small cracks in the foundation may simply be the house settling naturally, but they may also be a sign of something worse.
  2. The wiring.  It’s hard to inspect the electrical system.  You can only do so much—even turning on all of the lights and plugging things into every outlet will only tell you that electricity is flowing.  An experienced home inspector will be needed to check the wiring.  Be sure you have one do a full inspection before you make your offer.
  3. The plumbing.  Again, flushing the toilets and turning on all the taps will only tell you so much—you might buy a home without even realizing it has a leaking pipe or mold growing in the walls.  Always look behind, under, and around the sinks and toilets.  Again, look for cracks, especially in the caulking behind the sinks.
  4. The attic.  The attic is actually one of the most important areas of a home to inspect because you’ll be able to see every area that’s been damaged.  Damage in other parts of the home can be covered up, but the attic tells you everything about leaks and other roofing issues.
  5. The landscaping.  While it might seem odd, you want to look at the plants and other landscaping around the home.  Is there a break between large shrubs and trees and the house?  If not, the roots may damage the foundation.  Are there any damp areas outside the house, even though it hasn’t rained lately?  It could indicate a leak.

While it may not be easy to check things like the wiring and the plumbing, make certain you have an experienced inspector do so.  You won’t regret it, especially if a major problem is exposed.

The Process of Buying a House

Posted on April 2, 2014 in Buying a Home

So you’ve decided it’s time to put down roots and buy a house.  That’s a big step!  It’s also a step that many people don’t realize is actually a lot of small steps.  Buying a house is more complicated than simply finding a home, getting a loan, and buying it.  Here is a brief outline of the process of buying a house that will give you an idea of just what becoming a homeowner entails.

Buying a HomeFirst, take a good, hard look at your finances to make certain you are really in a place to buy a house.  Get your credit report and go over it for errors.  If you find any, you’ll want to take care of them before you start the loan process.

Next, gather all of your financial paperwork and go to a bank or other lending institution to get pre-approved.  While you don’t have to do this, it does help in several ways.  You’ll know the maximum amount you can get a loan for, so you don’t have to worry about finding a house you love but can’t afford.  It also shows sellers that you’re serious about your offer.  Some sellers, in fact, won’t entertain offers by potential buyers who are not pre-approved.

Have you found a realtor?  Take the time to interview a few and find the one who seems the most knowledgeable and fits well with you.  For example, if you want an historical house, find a realtor who specializes in those properties.  If you’re gay, you might want to look for a gay or lesbian real estate agent.

Although you may have started looking at houses before getting pre-approved, now’s the time you can really get down to it.  However, one more thing you should do before you seriously look at homes is to make a list of your must-haves, would-likes, and do-not-wants.  Share this list with your realtor so he or she can more easily find houses for you to look at.  Homes that don’t have all of your must-haves (and keep them realistic!) are instantly off the list, as are those that have your do-not-wants (this may include location or something like a flat roof).

After looking at a number of homes, you may find one that seems to be perfect for you, or at least close to it.  Now it’s time to make the offer.  Your realtor will pass your offer on to the seller and their realtor.

If your offer is accepted, you will return to your lender and complete all of the paperwork to be officially approved for the loan.  If it’s not, the seller will make a counteroffer, which you can then accept if you like.  The game of offers and counteroffers continues until you reach an agreement or one of you walks away.

After financing has been secured, a closing date will be set.  This is when you officially take possession of the property and can move into your new home!