Whether it’s your first or your fifth, buying a home is a very exciting time in your life. Perhaps it means that you are ready to settle down and start a career and family. Or maybe you are downsizing because your kids are now in college and you and your spouse want something with less upkeep so you can enjoy travel and leisure time. Whatever the reason, this should be a fun time and not full of the stress that so often comes with the home-buying process. The key to having a low-stress home-buying process is proper planning and working with the right professionals.
“It is a great time to buy,” states Marie Otis with CBSHOME Real Estate. “Interest rates are still low, the inventory is good and sellers know they have to price their homes competitively and they need to be in good condition. This benefits the buyer.”
What to Look For
It’s easy to just go start looking at homes and get caught up in all the wonderful options that are out there. However, you might be wasting your time and running the risk of getting attached to a home that doesn’t really fit your needs or that you can’t afford if you don’t set out some guidelines before you begin looking. Here are a few ideas:
Know your price range There’s nothing worse than finding the home of your dreams and then realizing you can’t afford it. Although it may be fun to look at homes way out of your price range, you should know what you can afford and only focus on those so you aren’t comparing them to those out of your budget.
Know generally what type of home you want Though you may not know exactly what you’re looking for until you find it, having a general idea of the type of home you want helps you to narrow down choices. For example, maybe you or your spouse don’t handle stairs well, so you’ll be looking for a ranch home. Or perhaps you know that something you won’t compromise on is a three-stall garage. This is a great way to eliminate homes that you know won’t work and focus on the ones that might.
Know your geography Do you know where you want to live? Perhaps you want to stay in the same school district where your kids currently attend or you want to stay near friends or family. Knowing where you want to live helps you develop a list of homes you want to look at in certain neighborhoods.
Know your future plans It’s impossible to know exactly what the future might bring, but you can do some educated guessing. For instance, are your children getting older? Will they soon be moving out of the house to attend college or get places of their own? If this is the case, you might consider getting a home with fewer bedrooms and more open space. On the flip side, is your family young and might it possible grow? Then you might look into a home with more bedrooms than you currently need. Even if you decide not to have more children, you can turn the extra bedroom into an office, hobby room or other type of room.
Know the condition of the home Once you have a few potential homes in mind, it’s time to start really taking a closer look at them.
Michelle Christensen with Papillion Windows & Siding says, “When considering purchasing a home, you want to consider the age and condition of the windows, siding and roofing. Generally a roof with curling, missing or brittle shingles will need immediate attention to prevent major damage from leaks. With wood windows and siding, you need to check the caulking, rot and condition of the paint for evidence of moisture. If windows, siding or roofing have recently been replaced, ask the sellers if there is a transferable manufacturer’s warranty available for any of the products.”
The HVAC system is also an important thing to look at and it’s probably not something you personally can know the condition of.
Angie Timm with Complete Comfort Heating and Cooling says, “I would recommend that people have the HVAC system checked out by a qualified contractor before they buy. It is a large investment to replace a furnace and air conditioner, so is well worth the cost to have it inspected before buying.”
Consider all the details It’s easy to get caught up in all of a home’s good features and overlook those that may become an issue down the road. Try to take off your rose-colored glasses and really put some thought into the home and how it will fit in with your lifestyle, both current and future. For example, windows can make a big impact on how satisfied you are with your new home. Paul Vonderfecht with Enerlux Windows & Doors points out, “Homeowners should consider the orientation of the home and the direction that windows face. I’ve worked with a lot of home owners who are unhappy with their home because they have all west-facing windows and it turns their house into an oven. If there are a lot of west-facing windows, evaluate the trees surrounding the home and find out what kind of Lo-E coating is used on the glass.”
Working with a Realtor
“A Realtor is an expert in negotiating and a wealth of information to assist with the purchase of a home,” points out Marie Otis with CBSHOME Real Estate. “In addition, it’s free! The seller pays the commission. Sometimes buyers think they will get a better deal by buying with the listing agent. Not so. The seller has already agreed to the commission. Work with a Realtor who you are comfortable with and go with a referral from a happy friend or family member who recently purchased a home. Make sure the Realtor is knowledgeable and doesn’t just do real estate part-time.”
The right Realtor is also very important to have on your side when you need to sell your current home before buying a new one.
“Price your home to sell,” Marie advises, “and don’t test the market by having the price a bit too high to see what will happen. Buyers are very smart and educated and they will not waste their time with a home that is overpriced. If the client needs to sell their current home before they buy, they should watch the market, go to open houses and browse the internet but do not fall in love with a home. It may not be there when you do get a contract on your home!”
Choosing the right Realtor is of course a very important part of the process. Don’t be afraid to interview a few of them before choosing. Have a list of questions to ask each one of them and see how they respond. When it comes down to it, you should go with your gut. Which one makes you feel the most comfortable? Which one responded to messages promptly? Which one do you feel you will be able to attend open houses and showings with? Which one will you be comfortable pointing out features of a home you dislike? The more comfortable you are with the Realtor, the better the relationship will that you form and the more likely you will be to have a satisfying home-buying experience.
Financing Your New Home
Getting pre-approved for a mortgage before you go to look for new homes is an excellent idea. You’ll know exactly how much you can afford and will not make the mistake of falling in love with a home that is out of your budget. Work with a mortgage professional who will help walk you through the process, especially if this is your first home purchase. The right professional will help make sure you have all your documents in order and that you are doing everything possible to qualify for the best loan for your needs. When you find the home of your dreams, it’s much easier to make an offer when you already have a letter of pre-approval showing that you have qualified for a loan and can make an immediate offer.
Selling Your Current Home
Many times, when you begin looking for a new home, you also have a home you need to put on the market. This can often be the most stressful part of the entire process as it’s difficult to settle on a new home and put an offer in when you are still paying the mortgage on the one you currently own. Making sure your home is in the best shape to sell is an important part of the process and something you should be working on as soon as you know you want to sell. Here are a few ideas:
Price the home right Pricing your home correctly is probably one of the most important parts of putting it on the market. Though you may have an idea in your head of what you want to sell it for and what you think it’s worth, you could be way off. You have a lot of emotions and personal interest in your home and may think it is worth a lot more than what you will be able to sell it for. The best thing you can do is work with a professional Realtor who can help evaluate the market, your neighborhood, the buying market and your home to find the right price. Of course, negotiations will probably take place and it’s likely that this will not be the price you will get in the end, but at least it will be priced competitively and will have a chance on the market of attracting the right buyers.
Do the work early If you aren’t planning on selling your home right away, it’s still important to put work into it, even if your years away from upgrading. “Be willing to put a little time, effort and money into your home each year for updating so that over time, the aging process doesn’t catch up with you and become overwhelming,” suggests Michelle Christensen with Papillion Siding & Windows.
Windows “If there is moisture damage or wood rot evident on the window frames or siding or seal failures in a window, a home inspection will uncover the issues immediately, so it is wise to address the problems prior to putting a home on the market,” says Michelle Christensen. “It could potentially save a sale and bring a better asking price versus a home that has had no attention to these issues.”
Paul Vonderfecht with EnerLux adds, “Upgrading windows helps put your home on a level playing field with other listings and new construction homes. A common upgrade we are seeing is people converting three or four windows that are mulled together into a single large window that provides more natural light and a greater viewing area.”
Landscaping One of the first things a potential buyer will see when driving up to your home is the exterior. What are they going to think if your yard is overgrown, the trees need trimmed and you have weeds growing through the cracks in your driveway? It’s likely they won’t look past that to your actual home. That’s why it’s vitally important that you make sure your landscaping is up to date, clean and impressive before you put your home on the market. Many potential home buyers will drive right by without stopping if they aren’t immediately impressed, so make sure your home’s first impression is a positive one!
Every once in a while, a home owner will get lucky and get their current home sold quickly. Unfortunately, this may cause problems if you have not yet found the new home you want to buy. If this is the case, don’t rush into choosing a home and try to buy it quickly. A better option would be to move into a hotel or with family or friends so you can continue to take your time and really focus on choosing the best home for your future. You can put much of your belongings in storage and stay in a temporary home for a few months to ensure that you are not just jumping on the first home that sparks your interest.
Working with a Moving Company
Once you have found the perfect home and are ready to move, you may think the stress is over. However, moving is often the most stressful part of the entire process. Not only do you have to say good-bye to the place you and your family have called home, but you also need to decide what gets tossed and what gets brought to the new place and make sure everything is packed and ready to be safely moved. If you’re talking about a family of four in a three bedroom home, this can be an enormous process.
“Moving is consistently ranked as one of the most stressful events in a person’s life,” explains Jason Christenson with Two Men and a Truck. “Much of this stress can be alleviated by hiring professional movers.” Hiring the right professional moving company is an important choice. “I would recommend getting two or three estimates and then making a decision based not on cost alone, but also on how each company has treated you up to that point,” Jason says. He recommends booking a mover at least two weeks in advance of your move if possible, especially in the summer months when movers are the busiest.
Buying a home is an exciting time in your life. To have a low-stress process, plan ahead, work with the right professionals, and remember that there are plenty of options out there. You’re sure to find the perfect home for your and your family’s future!