How To Know If It Is The Right Home For You
Purchasing a home is most likely the largest financial investment the majority of us will make in our lifetime, so it is essential to use a critical eye when house hunting, but not just to ensure your financial well-being. Locking down a home you ultimately hate is bad for your wallet, and it can be even worse for your stress levels and emotional well-being. While house hunting how do you know the property you see will be the right home for you?
In competitive markets where sellers have the upper hand, it might seem like buyers cannot be choosers. To secure a home, many buyers feel compelled to relinquish their most important must-haves. While acting fast gives you a competitive edge, making a reckless purchase out of desperation is likely to breed buyer’s remorse.
To remain both competitive and smart during the house-hunting process, hire a local real estate agent to assist you, and consider the following strategies to aid in finding the right home for you before you commit by submitting your offer.
Take a Second Look
For remote buyers, seeing a property in person is not always feasible. While having your agent video the home or having a friend go through the property for you can work, it is advisable to view the house yourself as no one knows what you want (and do not want) better than you. Many of those buyers wish they had the opportunity to view their purchase at least once before closing. If you can, view a home at least twice before making a realistic real estate purchase offer.
Plan to tour the home at different times to see variances in natural light throughout the day and to gauge the neighborhood activity during different times. The second look gives you a chance to notice any interior or exterior faults you might have missed the first time around as well as an idea what you can expect in the way of street traffic and neighborhood noise.
Make Yourself Comfortable
Do not feel pressured to rush through a showing or open house. Maintain the mindset that this home could (hopefully) be your next residence. Spending enough time to get a feel for the property before you pay hundreds of thousands of dollars is your basic due diligence. Kids, partners, family members, or roommates can tag along for a fresh and unique perspective.
Do not feel guilty about inviting your support system for a second opinion. Make sure to take pictures from every angle to examine later. Photographs will come in handy if you are trying to choose between two great homes and need visual reminders for comparison. Remember, the only way you will know if it is the right home for you is to spend a little time in it. Take your time and never feel rushed!
Ask for the Floor Plan
Perception is a tricky thing. You might assume the guest room fits a queen-size bed, but an exact measurement is the only way to be sure. Instead of fumbling with the tape measure during an open house or private showing, have your real estate agent ask the listing agent for the most recent floor plan.
If you intend to renovate after buying, bring the floor plan to your contractor or designer before you put in an offer on the home. You will want to know in advance if your dream design can be a reality which could potentially save you a considerable amount of time and money down the road.
Ask for Privacy
Squeezing through hallways at a crowded open house with the competition on your heels can be stressful and full of distractions. While an open house is a helpful introduction, make sure to schedule a private showing without other buyers on-site so you have the opportunity to preview every detail.
A private showing gives you and your agent time to discuss any issues you see, provides an opportunity to talk about your options while viewing first-hand, and ensures you are not distracted by others. The quiet environment gives you, the buyer, time to deliberate before making any life-changing decisions.
Double-Check the Photos
Real estate photography reveals a lot about a home. For example, closed window treatments may indicate a poor view. Tall plants can hide unsightly wall scuffs and rugs can cover up stains. You can then investigate these “problems” in person when you preview the home.
Make notes of blatant coverups used in the home’s marketing materials. Take these with you as a reminder to check behind strategically placed furnishings or decor items and avoid any surreptitious surprises. The more thorough you are the fewer changes there will be that something catches you off guard.
Review the Disclosures
Many sellers offer disclosure packages for buyers to view before submitting offers. Providing full information upfront protects sellers against buyers withdrawing their offers during escrow. Reviewing disclosures about the home’s condition or history, including renovations, upgrades, permits, damages and repairs will help you decide if you want to continue with an offer or move on to the next property..
Either way, buyers must formally sign off on the home’s disclosures and reports at some point before closing. Sellers who fail to provide disclosures can land in serious hot water with expensive litigation, even a decade later. This is another area where a competent buyers agent in your corner will be beneficial.
Review Your Primary Needs
Hardwood floors and marble kitchen counters are aesthetically pleasing, but does the home’s function fit the bill for you and your family? Looks may entice, but the layout, size and location should drive home-buying decisions. Your home-buying budget will ultimately determine which conveniences or amenities you can realistically afford.
Countertops can be swapped out when you can splurge for the upgrade, and carpets can be replaced, but you cannot move your new home into a better school district or to another area of town. If you do not stick to your needs, you may end up with a home that does not fit your family.
Do Not Skip the Inspection
Disclosures are important, but sellers may be unaware of new issues. Home inspections should always be completed before the purchase is finalized. If there is a major structural issue that costs thousands to repair, you will want to know about it beforehand. Do not skip an inspection, regardless of the home’s age or how trustworthy those giving you advice are.
Serious repairs may change the final purchase price dramatically, or warrant a repair credit given at closing. In many competitive markets, buyers waive the inspection to move more quickly and appeal to the seller. This makes no sense as waiving the inspection can cost you thousands of dollars if you find a serious issue after closing.
Stick With Your Contingencies
Forgoing real estate contingencies will please sellers during a bidding war, but it is not always worth the risk for the buyer. Inspection contingencies protect you against serious property defects that may drain your emergency savings budget. This is also referred to as buyer’s remorse or a “cold feet” contingency.
Appraisal and financing contingencies are also important buyer protections, and they should not be waived without very careful consideration of the potential consequences. If you are being pressured to waive contingencies, it may be time to seek new counsel, whether personal or professional.
Even when a home seems like a perfect fit, your gut may feel otherwise. That uneasy sensation, no matter how unfounded and unexplained, may linger long after closing. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with the home, but your emotions are too high to make a sound and sensible decision.
Whatever you feel or think, do not let the fear of competitive offers or a lack of listings lead you toward hasty and imprudent choices. Unlike your favorite clothing store, there is no 30-day return policy in real estate. Remember, the goal is the find the right home for you at a price you are comfortable with, regardless how long that takes to accomplish.