I hosted neighborhood yard sales at age ten. I managed a newspaper route at eleven and started babysitting the next year. At a young age, I learned the value of a dollar. Where did those dollars go? Well, when they weren't traded for candy at the local convenience store, they went into my piggy bank and later to a real one. I was saving for a house.
While it may seem a bit excessive to start socking away a down payment at ten, those saving habits have stuck with me. I purchased my first home at twenty four, with my then boyfriend and now husband. Throughout the incredibly exciting and totally overwhelming process, we took copious notes. We wanted to be able to share what we learned, as we put a TON of research into this very long process. To provide the information in a digestible manner, I'm breaking in up into a few series. Let's dive into lesson one!
Real Estate Agent vs Realtor
All Realtors are real estate agents, but not all real estate agents are Realtors. A Realtor is a part of an organization that certifies real estate agents and trains them on best practices and ethics. Most reputable real estate agents will be registered Realtors so you should definitely seek one out.
Most of the agent’s commission comes from the seller as a percentage of the selling price. Most agents will also charge a buyer fee of around $350 for their services to you. As a buyer you certainly make full use of this fee. With this in mind, feel free to call your agent with any questions you have. The more you call the more you get for your money.
As you start out on your home search, especially if it is your first time, your agent’s experience will be very valuable. They can help you evaluate the condition of homes as you decide what your best investment is. They can also help point out areas of concern that might be points for negotiation later. They have knowledge of many neighborhoods and can help you determine what place is best for you.
Feels Like Home
When you are searching for a home your first focus should be analytical and objective. A great house on paper does not always mean it will be a great home. As you begin your search you will see that some places that have great amenities just do not have the feel and character you may want. Hopefully this home will be with you for many years so taking your time to find the perfect place is important. If you find yourself trying to justify some issues or features that you are not crazy about, consider continuing your search instead of settling. If something does not sit well with you it is probably in your best interest to find a place that fits your needs better.
As an Investment
There are two important times to think critically about your new house as an investment. First, you need to consider resale value even as early as when you are first looking. Likely you will not live in this home forever, so you want to make sure you can sell the place when you are ready to move on - hopefully for a profit. Consider things like the quality of the school district, number of bedrooms/bathroom and the backyard space for kids or pets. The next time you should consider resale value is with any renovations, but I will cover that later.
Open Houses/Scheduling Visits
Even before you have started working with an agent you should be exploring listings online through sites like Zillow.com. You can filter by any number of variables: purchase price, neighborhood, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, etc. This helps you understand what the size and quality of house you want in the neighborhoods you like. If there are listings that you want to see that do not advertise open houses, the easiest thing to do is have your agent schedule a walk through. If you still don’t have an agent you should be able to contact the listing agent directly and setup a meeting.
You’ve heard it before: location, location, location. A great house in a bad neighborhood really isn’t even a good house. Proximity to a few essentials like grocery stores, pharmacies, shops, restaurants and a gym will greatly increase resale value. By the same token it will increase purchase price, so you will have to decide it is worth the cost up front for the investment. Keep in mind that being right next to your favorite rock venue or bar might be great for you, but it will likely not be a great feature for resale.
I hope that you found this first part of The Buying Facts Series to be helpful - more to come, as we dive deeper into this topic!