Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Online Real Estate Guide for Buyers

With mortgage rates at historic lows, you may be thinking about purchasing a home. This guide will help get you started.

I do NOT recommend that you be your own Realtor. Realtor’s are an essential part of the process, and you need one in your corner. What I plan to cover is the legwork you can get done ahead of time so that when you do contact a realtor, you can hit the ground running.

Before you start looking at houses, some items to consider:


  1. School District - if you have kids (or plan to have them), are there certain school districts you want to target? To avoid?
  2. Commute - What would your drive to work be like? When you’re excited about a house you may think you’d be willing to sit in traffic for hours to get to work every day but trust me, it will get old.
  3. Traffic - Are you willing to live on a busy road, or do you value peace and quiet?
  4. Fun - Are there any extra-curricular activities you want to live near?
  5. Neighbors - Do you want other people living near you, or do you value your privacy?

  1. Besides the obvious items like number of bedrooms and bathrooms, what other amenities are important to you? Do you need lots of storage? If you live in a cold climate, what type of heat does the house have?  
  2. Renovations - DIY shows on TV can make home renovations seem quick and easy. In truth it’s a lot of work. Consider the reality in terms of time, energy and costs, before you purchase a house that needs a lot of work.
  3. Pets - If you own pets think about their needs as well. Do you need a place for a litterbox? A fenced yard for a dog?

  1. Yard - Are you up for cutting the grass in a large yard? Plowing the driveway of snow?
  2. House - What types of regular maintenance such as painting/staining will the house require?

Determine your price range:
Be sure to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you get started. Don’t necessarily go by the maximum amount the bank is willing to offer you, though. You need to consider all costs, as well as your own spending habits to determine how much you are able to afford to pay.

Start Looking
Once you’re clear about what you want, and how much you can afford, it’s time to start looking at listings. It’s a good idea to start looking at the web sites of local realtors, but I’d also recommend two other online services, both of which also have mobile apps:

Don’t be afraid to look at houses that are slightly above your price range. Everything is negotiable!

Next Steps:
Most real estate listings will include the address of the home. Before contacting a Realtor, drive by the house. It will often look different in person than it does in the picture. This also gives you an opportunity to survey the neighborhood, and the commute.

Once you’ve found a good group of houses it’s time to contact a realtor. Talk to your friends and co-workers to get some recommendations. If you can, avoid a realtor that is representing one of the houses you’re targeting. Those realtors are representing the seller, you want someone who’s looking out for your interests.

Other online resources:
Heating Options - This tool can help you estimate what your annual heating costs would be using different heating systems.

Renovation Estimates- This tool helps you estimate the costs of various home rennovation projects.

Mortgage 101- Mortgage information, including a calculator.

Last bit of advice:
Don’t completely drain your savings to make a downpayment on a home. Even if the house is in great shape, there are always items you’ll need to purchase in a new home, not to mention the expenses involved in moving.


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