Homebuyers' Walkthrough: Considerations When Buying A Home
Real Estate Agents
People in the market for a home can either execute a search themselves using websites like www.fsbo.com or www.forsalebyowner.com, or they can elect to work with a qualified real estate professional. Most people choose to work with an agent since the commission is paid from the seller's proceeds. Each buyer must decide which method is right for him or her. Whether one decides to work with a real estate agent or not, certain factors must be considered when finding the perfect home.
The location of a property is a primary consideration, and one of the broad choices that will help buyers define goals. Price range will likely be a factor in deciding upon the geographic location and neighborhood. Where young professionals may prefer an urban setting, close to work and night life, families will likely choose locations close to good schools and parks. Factors such as location of one's friends, family, job and other interests will help buyers choose a general location to begin the search for the right home.
Once the buyer has determined the desired geographic location, he or she must narrow down the search to several neighborhoods. Real estate search websites such as www.trulia.com and www.zillow.com maintain current statistics regarding a neighborhood's schools, crime rates, amenities, transit scores and real estate trends. Local chambers of commerce typically provide community profile information including:
- Employment Rates
- Fire and Emergency Services
- Healthcare Providers
- Places of Worship
- Planning and Zoning
- Recreation Opportunities
- Property Taxes
Homes can be single-family houses, part of a duplex, condominium units, townhouses, mobile homes and even house boats. In addition, homes can be one-story, two-story or split-level. Most homebuyers have a strong preference for the type of home they would like, while others may have it narrowed down to a couple choices.
Style and Size of the Property
The style of the property is another major consideration when finding the ideal home. The style is important in terms of appearance, but also in terms of function. A home might have an open, flowing floor plan, or distinct and formal rooms. Families with small children may enjoy an open floor plan, for example, whereas people interested in entertaining may desire a formal dining room. Style is a matter of personal preference.
The physical characteristics are another consideration. Some buyers will prefer older, more traditional-looking buildings. Others may favor modern and stylish properties. The style and size of the yard should be factored in as well. Manicured lawns and meticulous landscaping may be a priority (or even a requirement) in some neighborhoods, while others maintain a more natural look. Homeowners will children may enjoy a large, fenced-in back yard, while other people may like a small, care-free yard.
Most buyers have an ideal square footage in mind when looking for a home. It's important to consider the size, as well as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. People who work from home will probably need a room to use as a home office, and hobbyists may also require an extra room for pursuits such as crafting and playing music.
Buyers should consider both current and future needs. Are the buyers planning to start or add to a family? Will grandchildren be spending summers? Will family and friends visit frequently? Are there plans to purchase a boat or RV that will require storage? These types of questions can help buyers find properties that will be ideal now and in the future, if the budget allows.
Age of the Property
The age of the property is another consideration. Advantages of newer homes include sought-after upgrades such as hardwood floors, granite countertops and high ceilings, as well as up-to-date architecture and functionality. Older homes, on the other hand, may be outdated in terms of style and functionality, but they are likely to be part of an established neighborhood with mature landscaping.
Viewing real estate statistics, including recent and long-term trends, can be beneficial when looking for a home. Real estate search websites such as www.trulia.com have a host of tools that provide buyers and sellers with valuable information regarding specific markets and trends. Where prices have been in a downtrend, buyers might expect better deals. If prices have been in an uptrend, sellers will be at the advantage.
Property taxes are based on the value of the property, including land and improvements, and are assessed by the local government. It's important to factor in these costs since, depending on the area, they can be quite high. Homeowners in New York's Westchester County, for example, pay seven times the national property tax average. Depending on the location, additional taxes may be levied for school district purposes such as the financing of permanent improvements.
Homeowner' Association Dues
Certain developments charge owners dues to cover costs such as maintaining common areas or completing road repairs. The dues vary widely with both the area and the particular development, and any dues should be known before entering a contract. Special assessment may be charged periodically to pay for expenses not covered by the association's reserve fund, and homebuyers may wish to investigate if there are any impending special assessments.
It can be challenging to find a home that meets all of the buyer's goals while staying within the budget. Good deals can often be found if the buyer is willing to make a compromise on exact location, size or other features. Real estate agents often suggest that buyers make wish lists that include features they view as "needs," and features they consider "wants." A buyer may, for example, need three bedrooms but be willing to compromise on the size of the garage. Having certain features set aside as "wants" provides some flexibility when finding a house that meets both the goals and budget of the buyer.
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