First time homebuyers are often distracted by things like ugly wallpaper, dark lighting, and a backyard that’s more dirt than grass. Often, these things make people walk away from a house that may otherwise be absolutely perfect. That’s why many realtors stress that it’s important to see beyond the décor and look at the structure itself. A good house may be hidden behind some ugly colors, but it’s still a good house. You can always repair and change things that you dislike.
This is especially true in the middle of a seller’s market. This is when there are more buyers around than sellers and homes aren’t even on the market a month before someone has made an offer. Buyers can’t afford to get caught up in surface details; otherwise, they may lose their dream home to someone else.
So what kinds of things can you overlook and what can’t you? Many of the surface features that might immediately turn you off can be changed. Ugly wallpaper can be torn off, walls can be repainted, and light fixtures can be swapped out. But things like the size of the house and the floor plan can’t as easily be changed.
Remember the opposite can also be true: you may find a house that’s absolutely gorgeous. Everything’s decorated like you’d want it to be, and you love every single one of the surface features. But maybe the house is too small or it’s in the wrong neighborhood. These aren’t things that can be fixed. You can’t let yourself be too dazzled by the surface, either.
Here are some of these surface items that can easily be changed about a house:
- The colors
- The flooring
- The landscaping
- The windows and doors
- Converted garages—if a garage has been changed into a room, you can always change it back, and it’s not as expensive as you may think.
- Old appliances
- Exterior colors
If you happen to be looking for a house in a buyer’s market (when there are more sellers than buyers and homes can sit on the market for months), you may even be able to talk the seller into redoing some parts of the house or including a small redecorating allowance in your bid. Remember, though, that your budget may not let you change everything at once. You may need to tackle these improvements one at a time, so make sure you can live with that horrible carpet while you’re updating your kitchen or vice versa.
You’ve found your dream home. You’ve made an offer and it has been accepted. Now you’re just a few days out from the closing. Then the call comes in. For whatever reason, your financing didn’t go through. Now it looks like the house you’ve always wanted is lost! What can you do if your financing falls through at the last minute?
First of all, do everything you can to make sure you’re never in this position. This is one of the reasons why many realtors suggest you get pre-approved. While this doesn’t mean you’re 100% guaranteed to get a home loan, it does mean the lender who pre-qualifies you will have a chance to look over your credit history and your finances. If there’s anything there that sticks out, he will tell you about it. This gives you a chance to correct the issue or at least find a lender willing to work around it.
Next, stop freaking out and take a deep breath. Just because your financing has fallen through doesn’t mean you’re going to lose the house. Chances are, you’ll be aware of difficulties before you get to the closing, so there’s time to find a contingency plan. The first thing to do is find out why you lost your financing. It may have nothing to do with you—sometimes, it’s because the lender has gone out of business or something odd like that. Other times, it may be because your credit score has suddenly changed or that the property’s appraisal didn’t meet the purchase price.
Once you know what the issue is, you can sit down with your realtor and try to find a fix. If the problem was on the lender’s end, it’s time to quickly find replacement financing. This is probably the easiest fix since the trouble had nothing to do with your finances or credit. If the problem is the appraisal, then you’ll have to talk to the seller. Try to get them to change the purchase price. If they won’t, they will lose the sale, and that may be enough incentive to get them to lower the price.
If the problem is your down payment funds, see if you qualify for any Down Payment Assistance Programs. Otherwise, you may need to see if you can borrow money from family members or from your retirement.
Another issue that can crop up is a change in your credit score. If that’s the problem, pull your credit report to make certain nothing fraudulent has appeared. If it has, take immediate steps to have your report corrected.
While some first time home buyers are couples who have chosen not to marry, and others are not able to legally marry, still others have just gotten married and haven’t started a family yet, there are many families with one or more children who are looking to purchase a house. These families will have slightly different priorities than families without children. If you’re in the market for a house and have children, you’ll need to keep these things in mind:
- What school district do you want to be in? This determines which schools your kids will attend, and for some parents, that’s a major deal. In fact, some parents will want to move into a specific area just to get their kids into a certain school. Find out what district a house is in before you put a bid on it.
- If you have more than one child, you may want to look for a house with at least two full bathrooms. Being in a home with only one shower or one toilet with four or five people can create some major issues.
- Will each kid have his or her own room? Are the rooms large enough for two kids to share? What about closet space? You have to take all of this into consideration. Otherwise, you may find that your kids are constantly in each other’s way or have clothing all over because the closets aren’t large enough.
- Are you planning on having more children? You may have found a home that’s the perfect size for your current family, but if you’re thinking about expanding anytime soon, be sure to keep that in mind. You should think at least about five years out. Otherwise, you’ll just be truly settled into your home and have started making changes to it when you’ll need to move again.
- Is the house fairly friendly for children? If you have a toddler, do you really want a two-story house? Can you easily block off the stairway? Is there any area of the house that may present an issue for kids just learning how to walk?
- How large is the yard? Kids often want to run around and play, and most parents prefer they do that in the backyard instead of the front. Will they have room to do much? Could you fit a swing set or other play area in the yard?
- Is the property on a busy street? If your children will have to play in the front yard, a lot of traffic may be a concern.
When you set out to buy a house, you might want to see every home you come across. However, that’s not really practical. Even with a realtor helping you, you may still end up with a huge list of houses you want to take a look at. Some people start out looking at one or two homes, but by the time they settle on one, they’ve been inside dozens.
The problem really only comes when you’ve found two or three homes you really like but that don’t quite fulfill all of the things on your must-have list. When do you decide to settle for one of these houses and when do you decide to keep looking?
If you’ve looked at less than a dozen or so homes, you should probably keep looking unless you have to find a home very quickly. There’s a good chance you’ll still be able to find a house that meets all of your needs, so keep up the search.
On the other hand, if you’ve looked at several dozen homes or are getting close to your “must-move-by” date, it might be time to settle. That’s fine if you’ve got several homes you can see yourself living in. Take a look at the houses you’ve seen that you really liked and decide if any of them are going to meet your needs. What’s that house really missing? Is it a deal-breaker? Could you later remodel the house or add on to make it perfect?
One way to decide if there’s a better house out there for you is to talk to your realtor. He or she will have an idea of what houses are available in the area and which, if any, may match your needs. If there aren’t any homes for sale that have what you’re looking for and your realtor doesn’t know of any that may be on the market soon, it might be time to re-evaluate your “must-have” list.
Look at your budget. Have you found that the homes that meet your “must-have” list are all out of your price range? If that’s the case, you may not be able to find a home that meets all of your criteria and your budget. Again, you may need to re-evaluate what you’re looking for in a house. Your realtor can help you decide if all of the things on your must-have list are realistic for your budget and the area in which you want to live.