Buying Your Home – Finding the Right Home
What are the pros and cons of adding on or buying new?
Before making a choice between adding on to an existing home or buying a larger one, consider these questions:
- How much money is available, either from cash reserves or through a home improvement loan, to remodel your current house?
- How much additional space is required? Would the foundation support a second floor or does the lot have room to expand on the ground level?
- What do local zoning and building ordinances permit?
- How much equity already exists in the property?
- Are there affordable properties for sale that would satisfy your changing housing needs?
Do we dig deep and buy a dream home or settle for a starter home?
Choosing between a smaller house in an affluent neighborhood, an older, bigger house in a more working-class community or a brand-new home is not easy. If you’re in this situation, start by examining your priorities and asking the following questions:
- Is the surrounding neighborhood or the home itself the most important consideration?
- Is each of the neighborhoods safe?
- Is quality of the schools an issue?
- Do any of the areas seem to attract more families with children or adult residents? And where do you fit in?
As for the return on your investment, home-price appreciation is hard to predict.
How do you choose between buying and renting?
Home ownership offers tax benefits as well as the freedom to make decisions about your home. An advantage of renting is not worrying about maintenance and other financial obligations associated with owning property. There also are a number of economic considerations. Unlike renters, home owners who secure a fixed-rate loan can lock in their monthly housing costs and make prudent investment plans knowing these expenses will not increase substantially. Home ownership is a highly leveraged investment that can yield substantial profit on a nominal front-end investment. Such returns depend on home-price appreciation, which has been strong for the last several years.
How do I get the real scoop on homes I am looking at?
Home inspections, seller disclosure requirements and the agent’s experience will help. Disclosure laws vary by state, but in some states, the law requires the seller to complete a real estate disclosure statement. Here is a summary of the things you could expect to see in a disclosure form:
- In the kitchen — a range, oven, microwave, dishwasher, garbage disposal.
- Safety features such as burglar and fire alarms, smoke detectors, sprinklers, security gate, window screens and intercom.
- The presence of a satellite dish, carport or garage, automatic garage door opener, rain gutters, sump pump.
- Amenities such as a pool or spa, patio or deck, built-in Grill and fireplaces.
- Type of heating, condition of electrical wiring, gas supply and presence of any external power source, such as solar panels.
- The type of water heater, water supply, sewer system or septic tank also should be disclosed.
Sellers also are required to indicate any significant defects or malfunctions existing in the home’s major systems. A checklist specifies interior and exterior walls, ceilings, roof, insulation, windows, fences, driveway, sidewalks, floors, doors, foundation, as well as the electrical and plumbing systems. The form also asks sellers to note the presence of environmental hazards, walls or fences shared with adjoining landowners, any encroachments or easements, room additions or repairs made without the necessary permits or not in compliance with building codes, zoning violations, citations against the property and lawsuits against the seller affecting the property.
Also look for, or ask about, settling, sliding or soil problems, flooding or drainage problems and any major damage resulting from earthquakes, floods or landslides.
People buying a condominium must be told about covenants, codes and restrictions or other deed restrictions. It’s important to note that the simple idea of disclosing defects has broadened significantly in recent years. Many jurisdictions have their own mandated disclosure forms as do many brokers and agents. Also, the home inspection and home warranty industries have grown.
How long do bankruptcies and foreclosures stay on a credit report?
Bankruptcies and foreclosures can remain on a credit report for seven to 10 years. Some lenders will consider an borrower earlier if they have reestablished good credit. The circumstances surrounding the bankruptcy can also influence a lender’s decision. For example, if you went through a bankruptcy because your employer had financial difficulties, a lender may be more sympathetic. If, however, you went through bankruptcy because you overextended personal credit lines and lived beyond your means, the lender probably will be less inclined to be flexible.
What are some tips on negotiation?
The more you know about a seller’s motivation, the stronger a negotiating position you are in. For example, seller who must move quickly due to a job transfer may be amenable to a lower price with a speedy escrow. Other so-called “motivated sellers” include people going through a divorce or who have already purchased another home. Remember, that the listing price is what the seller would like to receive but is not necessarily what they will settle for. Before making an offer, check the recent sales prices of comparable homes in the neighborhood to see how the seller’s asking price stacks up.
Some experts discourage making deliberate low-ball offers. While such an offer can be presented, it can also sour the sale and discourage the seller from negotiating at all.
Are low-ball offers advisable?
A low-ball offer is a term used to describe an offer on a house that is substantially less than the asking price. While any offer can be presented, a low-ball offer can sour a prospective sale and discourage the seller from negotiating at all. Unless the house is very overpriced, the offer will probably be rejected. You should always do your homework about comparable prices in the neighborhood before making an y offer. It also pays to know something about the seller’s motivation. A lower price with a speedy escrow, for example, may motivate a seller who must move, has another house under contract or must sell quickly for other reasons.
Is a low offer a good idea?
While your low offer in a normal market might be rejected immediately, in a buyer’s market a motivated seller will either accept or make a counteroffer. Full-price offers or above are more likely to be accepted by the seller. But there are other considerations involved:
- Is the offer contingent upon anything, such as the sale of the buyer’s current house? If so, a low offer, even at full price, may not be as attractive as an offer without that condition.
- Is the offer made on the house as is, or does the buyer want the seller to make some repairs or lower the price instead?
- Is the offer all cash, meaning the buyer has waived the financing contingency? If so, then an offer at less than the asking price may be more attractive to the seller than a full-price offer with a financing contingency.