5 Tips for Buying a Home

Looking to buy a home? Here are five essential tips for making the process as smooth as possible.

Get your finances in order.

Start by getting a full picture of your credit. Obtain copies of your credit report. Make sure the facts are correct, and fix any problems you find. Next, find a suitable lender and get pre-approved for a loan. This will put you in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house.

Find a house you can afford.

As with engagement rings, there’s a general rule of thumb when it comes to buying a home: two-and-a-half times your annual salary. There are also a number of tools and calculators online that can help you understand how your income, debt, and expenses affect what you can afford. Don’t forget, too, that there are lots of considerations beyond the sticker price, including property taxes, energy costs, etc.

Hire a professional.

While the Internet gives buyers unprecedented access to home listings and resources, many aspects of the buying process require a level of expertise you can’t pick up from surfing the web. That’s why you’re better off using a professional agent than going it alone. You really should have an agent that will represent only you in the transaction who will have only your interests at heart and can help you with strategies during the bidding process.

Do your homework.

Before making a bid, do some research to determine the state of the market at large. Is it more favorable for sellers or buyers? Next, look at sales trends of similar homes in the area or neighborhood. Look at prices for the last few months. Come up with an asking price that’s competitive, but also realistic. Otherwise, you may end up ticking off your seller. Of course, I’ll help you with that. I can provide a CMA for each property that you’re seriously looking at.

Think long term.

Obviously, you shouldn’t buy unless you’re sure you’ll be staying put for at least a few years (if only for capital gains reasons). Beyond that, you should buy in a neighborhood with good schools. Whether you have children or not, this will have an impact on your new home’s resale value down the line. When it comes to the house itself, you should hire your own home inspector, who can point out potential problems that could require costly repairs in the future. I have several inspectors that I have worked with in the past and trust to do a great job for you.

Baking Cookies?

True or false…

When you’re selling a house, you should bake cookies before a showing or an open house. I guess you could say the answer is a hard and fast “true” because, after all, it can’t hurt. Who doesn’t like the smell of freshly baked cookies? But it’s also kind of false… It isn’t like you can Betty Crocker your way to a sale, let alone at the highest price possible. Your entire house still needs to be appealing. A batch of cookies isn’t going to hide bad odors enough or divert people’s attention from a messy house that needs repairs.

If only it were that simple…

Picture (and smell) this — a buyer shows up to a house and the homeowner has:

~ Two dogs laying on the sofa (wet from being in the rain).
~ Five cats roaming around. They share one unclean litter box and use every piece of furniture as scratching posts.
~ A well-used ashtray in each room.
~ A teenage son who has a pile of gym clothes under his bed.
~ A freshly-baked batch of cookies on the table with a sign that says “Enjoy a warm cookie while enjoying our house!”

Think the buyer’s gonna want to grab a cookie, let alone buy the house? Nope. There’s more of a chance their son will figure out how to do his own laundry. You’d think that’s far-fetched, but we real estate agents and our buyers actually walk into houses not too far from this reality.

The one smell that does sell…

Cookies won’t cut it. Nor will a cookie-scented candle. (Or any other candle scent for that matter.)

Pro tip: Some candles can actually turn a buyer off. Even if someone likes the smell of a particular candle, it may trigger curiosity about what the owner is trying to hide.

However, there is one smell that will help your house sell… It’s called “clean.” But you can’t get it in a store, online, or from a late night TV infomercial. You can get the products that’ll get your house smelling clean from any of those places… but there’s no substitute for a good, thorough cleaning to create an aroma that will appeal to any and all buyers. Whether you do it on your own, or hire a professional cleaning service, giving your house a good deep cleaning before (and while) your house is on the market is one of the most important things you can do. That doesn’t mean it should smell like ammonia or “Spring Breeze” cleaning solution. It should smell like nothing, actually. Or at as close to it as possible. Obviously there’s more to it than that… A clean (and clean smelling) house is a good start, but there’s more to think about when preparing your house for sale. Lots of homeowners do very little to prepare their house for sale, yet they expect their house sell quickly and for top dollar. On the other hand, some homeowners go bonkers and do way more than they have to, or even should, to prepare their house for sale. These folks end up spending more time or money than they’ll receive in return.

The bottom line:

There’s a fine line between not preparing your house enough… and preparing your house too much. ASK ME about preparing your house just the right amount.

Daylight Savings FallJump

I’m sure you don’t need another reminder that Daylight Saving Time is this weekend.

Like we even need a reminder to set our clocks anymore. Most of them adjust on their own nowadays anyway.

The hard part is adjusting ourselves!

Did we lose an hour, or gain an hour? Do I get to sleep in? Or, do I lose an hour of sleep?

And there’s always a good chance that we’ll slip up and oversleep, or simply show up an hour late, or an hour early, for something.

Not a big deal for the most part. You get into the swing of it in a day or two.

But what we see in real estate around this time can be a big deal…

Right around now is when the Spring market is just around the corner. It’s kind of here already, but not in full swing. Real estate agents are always on top of the shift and ready for it, because it’s our business. But to give an exact date that the Spring market begins, and set a clock to it is impossible.

Many homeowners and homebuyers miss out on critical time and opportunities, because there isn’t really a formal reminder that Spring market is coming, and that you should plan accordingly.

Consider this your reminder…the Spring market is coming!

So, if you’re planning on buying this Spring, let’s start now.

If you’re considering selling this Spring, let’s get things rolling in the next couple of weeks.

Because you need to be in full swing already when the Spring market hits.

Jumping in mid-way through can hurt you. Other buyers have already gotten their bearings, and are jumping on the best houses and deals. And other sellers who are on the market at just the right time are the ones who get the best buyers in the market.