So you have decided to buy a new home. And now, as you go from Open House to Open House and from appointment to appointment, you may still not really know what you want. While that's alright in the early stages of home shopping, it will soon turn into a problem as day after day is occupied by home shopping. You start wasting time. To help yourself know what you want, you need to ask some questions to yourself. The following may help you determine your needs and wants more closely.
How Much Can You Afford
How much house can you comfortably afford? This is a very important question. Many times a buyer thinks he can afford a certain amount when in reality it may be different. Some can actually afford more and frequently it is less. When you've fallen in love with a particular property just to find out that you can't afford it after all is heartbreaking. Many lenders don't charge anything for a simple pre-qualification. In fact there are some lenders that will even pre-qualify you over the telephone! Try our interactive calculators to have a rough idea about how much you will qualify for.
Needs & Wants
- Define Your Needs & Wants
- Example of Needs
- Example of Wants
What are your needs and what are your wants? Create your own shopping list. A need is something that you must have to maintain the quality of your life. A need would make a difference in your decision whether to buy a certain home or not. A want must not be confused with a need. It is something that you would like to have but that wouldn't influence your quality of life. A want is something you like to have but can always add later.
Click on the tabs above to see a few good examples of typical needs and wants.
- Enough square footage for comfortable living
- Enough bedrooms to accommodate your family
- Adequate number of bathrooms
- Eat-in kitchen
- Garage or basement for storage needs
- Lot size and quality to accommodate children's play area
- Adaptation for Handicapped
- Proximity to a specific school and work
- Most cosmetic needs such as carpeting, wall colors, fixtures etc.
- Pool or Jacuzzi (unless for medical reasons)
- Wood floors
- Bay windows
- A Deck or Patio
- Built-in entertainment center
- A pretty view
Sit down with a pencil and paper and find out what your needs and wants are. If you have a significant other making a decision with you, write separate lists, and then go over them together and discuss it. Also, make sure your needs and wants are realistic when compared to the price range you are shopping in. Is a particular school district important to you? Make sure you find out if the home you are considering is in that district. Do the schools you are interested in support open enrollment? How convenient is it for you get from home to work? And let your friends and relatives know that you are looking for a house. They often know of someone who is planning to sell or who has just put their home on the market.
P R O P E R T Y C A R D
Address of the Property: ____________________________
Listing Price: ____________
Date Seen: _____________________
Exterior Appearance & Details:________________________
Living Room: ____________
Family Room: ____________
Schools: Dining Room:____________
Other rooms: ____________
Rate this property on a scale from 0 to 10 _____
[ 0 being the lowest and 10 highest]
[ Print this card ]
When you start shopping seriously you will see a lot of homes. And after a while they all start merging together in your mind.
To make sure you have your properties in order and remember what you saw, give yourself a hand with the property card shown on the left. Print the card and photocopy it. Clip it on a clipboard and take with you to the open houses. Try to see only 5 houses a day, as even with the card, remembering all details can get tricky. If the Seller provides an information sheet, be sure to pick up a copy or two, they are very helpful.
When you have found a home you are considering buying you'll need to consider several things:
As mentioned above, always be pre-qualified when you search to avoid later heartbreak.
If you aren't working with a Realtor, you should work with an attorney who is experienced in Real Estate to protect your interests.
You have several options here. You may consider hiring a professional and preferably licensed and certified home inspector. If you do, be sure to ascertain beforehand if his inspection carries a guarantee and for how long. If you are experienced yourself you can do it yourself or take another person with you who is experienced. Even then there are a few things you may consider hiring professional help with. The condition of the HVAC system and roofing are hard for an amateur to accurately diagnose. If the home is old and you are not sure if the wiring is updated an electrician may come in handy as would a plumber in an older home. Of course, most mortgage companies will not give a loan without a certified, licensed and bonded pest inspection. If there is a septic tank you may well consider having that inspected as well as that can be an expensive item to deal with later on.
Remember you can always write an offer 'subject to the satisfactory results of inspection.' Be sure to use an attorney to ensure the correct legal verbiage in the offer. A signed offer is a legally binding document. Most states require the Seller to provide a 'Disclosure Statement'. This is a document provided by the seller accurately stating the condition and age of the structure and mechanicals as well as previous pest infestations etc. Be sure to ask for a copy. Also ask if any inspections were recently done and ask to see the results. Do not write your offer without obtaining a copy of all necessary and legally required disclosure statements first.
A few days before the date of closing you will need to make a final inspection of the house that you are purchasing. This is customarily called a walk through. You need to make a thorough job of the final walk-through inspection. Failure to do so could result in hassles after the closing.
If utilities had previously been shut off make sure that all utilities to the property have now been turned on by the various companies in question.
This inspection is to verify that all items for which you have contracted to buy are there, and items that you have not contracted to buy have been removed. Bring with you a copy of your offer to purchase, disclosure statement, a clipboard with paper and a pen. Also advisable are a simple plug-in lamp or night-light to check all outlets with and a flashlight (with fresh batteries) to look in nooks and crannies.
Check the house from top to bottom and don't ignore anything. Pay particular attention to expensive items and things the repair or replacement of which could be very costly.
It is important that you set aside no less than an hour for this inspection. First, turn on the appliances that you have contracted to purchase. Run the washer, dryer and the dishwasher through a short cycle. Turn on the oven and try on the top burners, turn off if satisfied that they work. While the appliances are going through their cycles, walk through the house and inspect it carefully. Examine the floors. Are there damages that were previously covered with furniture or rugs? Are items missing that you were supposed to get with the purchase of the house? Are things still there that shouldn't be there? Remember, you are not expected to take care of the sellers refuse, large or small.
Check all windows and doors, turn on all faucets and check for drips. Look under the sink and confirm that the plumbing is sound. Does the water drain well? Flush all toilets. If possible turn on the air-conditioner and check the furnace.
Leave Your Emotions Out of This
It is important that you leave your emotions in your car when you do this. Now is the time to remain calm and in control. Do not panic if you find a problem but make note of it call your lawyer as soon as possible. Any problem must be addressed in writing before closing.