Location can dictate affordability and affordability can dictate location. In addition you want to research schools, taxes, Commute/transportation and neighborhood amenities.
Homes are typically purchased with a combination debt (loan) and equity (cash). Decide how much equity you are willing to use for a purchase and contact your bank or a mortgage broker to understand debt capacity. Click here for a mortgage calculator.
Know the school district and exact schools available to your children both public and private. Note schools will impact the value of a home. Good school districts will command higher pricing.
Thoroughly understand the property taxes. The listing can be inaccurate and misleading. Go to the assessor's website and enter your PIN/Tax ID #. Know actual taxes paid in last billing cycle, Taxes estimated to be paid and the assessor's market valuation. If your contract price is significantly greater than the assessor's valuation you could incur a significant increase in taxes.
Whether in an urban or suburban location your commute to work, access to public transportation and airports should be considered.
What is the walking score for your neighborhood? Access to grocery, restaurants and retail shopping, public library, post office, parks, community pool. Is there a central town with access to rail?
Interview multiple brokers. If you do not sign an exclusive Buyer broker agreement they are not your fiduciary. If you sign an agreement make the term as short as possible and negotiate the fee even if the listing agreement states a cooperating broker fee. Note the statement “the Seller pays your brokers’ fee is misleading. The Seller distributes the fee but they are using your dollars to pay it.
If scheduling direct make sure it is with the listing broker or homeowner. Many online platforms send you to their brokers or a preferred broker when you hit the “schedule tour” button or “contact broker” button. When scheduling with a broker make sure the broker sends the list of homes a day prior to tours so you can review and eliminate ones of no interest.
The most important and potentially costly items are: Roof, foundation, heating ventilating and air conditioning, electrical and plumbing. Ask.. Has the roof ever leaked? Has there been any seepage in basement? How old are HVAC systems and water heater. Is electric on fuse or breakers? Have there been any power outages in the house. Have any of the plumbing or sewer lines backed up? NOTE: THE PROPERTY DISCLOSURE FORM DOES NOT HAVE TO DISCLOSE ANY PRIOR DEFICIENCIES IF THEY HAVE BEEN “FIXED”. A property Inspection report only discloses information that can be seen by the naked eye. The contract you sign with an inspector waives any right to sue or hold the inspector liable for anything missed on their part. If there is a concern with any of the major items have a qualified contractor (electrician, roofer etc.) inspect that area. Go to our resource page.
In most states offers are made via a standardized realtor drafted contract that is “binding”. Make sure you have appropriate contingencies/outs in place before signing. Offer what you believe the home is worth to you and note by law if you are using a broker they must submit all offers to the Seller. Do not be influenced if told the offer is too low and will not be considered. Get in the game and on the Sellers radar.
Thoroughly understand when your earnest money is hard/non refundable. Also make sure the contract reads that a Sellers recourse in the case of Buyer default is limited to the amount of the Earnest Money
Do you need to sell your house to purchase? Do you need financing? If so make sure you list as contingencies in your contract.
Brokers will always push for a quick close, arguing time can kill deals. The reality is buyer and seller will have different reasons and motivations for a certain close date. Ask the seller and come to a mutual agreement.
The NAR has successfully lobbied to dilute these forms. For example you do not need to disclose if a roof leaks or a basement floods if it has been “fixed”.
Make sure you have an inspection contingency. If you agree to “As Is” still inspect the property to know if there are any major issues. A licensed inspector is only responsible for identifying issues that can be seen by the naked eye. If you have concerns about the condition of a house consider having subcontractors for the following look at the house. Roof, Plumbing, Electrical HVAC and general carpentry. All these resources can be found on our website.
Hire an attorney to protect your interest. Not all states require an attorney review period or that an attorney needs to be involved. Ask the attorney to submit a proposal with a summary of services and the cost for those services. Understand your risk of non performance.