Finding a new home can be one of the most exciting times of your life. It’s a little like dating – the pursuit, the “getting to know you” period, the proposal (aka “offer”), and the marriage (aka “closing”). If you don’t want your relationship with a new house to crash and burn, you need to know a few things before you fall in love.
1. Know thy numbers.
You’d be surprised at how many home buyers start their new home pursuit without really knowing what they can and can’t afford. Avoid being disappointed later by getting preapproved for a mortgage before you even get started. And be sure you know the difference between being “prequalified” and “preapproved.” You can be preapproved only after a lender has reviewed all your financial information and has told you how much the bank is willing to lend to you. Being pre-approved will let sellers know you’re a serious buyer, and it will also prevent you from falling in love with a home that is financially “out of your league.”
2. Love the neighborhood, not just the house.
It’s easy to get caught up in how perfect a house is and forget that the house is only part of a bigger picture. It won’t matter how awesome the master bathroom is if you discover that the neighborhood just isn’t a good fit for you. Spend as much time researching the neighborhood as you do checking into all the nooks and crannies of the house. Regardless of whether or not you have kids, ask questions about the neighborhood’s school district since that will impact the home’s resale value. And be sure to drive through the neighborhood at various times of day to make sure you’re not missing any “deal breaker” factors.
3. Beware the lure of the lowball offer.
Even though buying a home is a financial decision that involves legal contracts, that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of emotion. If you’re tempted to make a lowball offer on a home just to see what happens, be aware that some sellers will be so offended that they won’t entertain future offers from you. It may be a business deal, but this is still their home – and that’s personal. Make an offer based on the selling price of other homes in the same neighborhood and then determine what the average price per square foot is for that area. Also, make your offer number an odd number instead of a round one. For example, an offer of $352,500 sounds like you put some thought into it based on real calculations, whereas an offer of $350,000 sounds more like a shot in the dark.
4. Get a home inspector’s “blessing.”
Some churches require engaged couples to go through a few premarital counseling sessions before they can be married in the church. Similarly, you’d be wise to seek the counsel of a qualified home inspector before you make things official with a new home. If the house has hidden baggage, a good home inspector will find it, which gives you the opportunity to decide if it’s something you’re willing to deal with or not.
By following a few simple guidelines and leading with your head instead of your heart, your destiny with a new home is much more likely to end with “happily ever after.”