5 Tips to Help You Find a Starter Home

Reprinted from RIS Media’s Housecall

By Deborah Kearns

5 Tips to Help You Find a Starter Home

(TNS)—First-time homebuyers might well wonder: Where are all the starter houses? They’re right to ask, because starter homes are becoming increasingly scarce in many housing markets. Housing inventory is low and home prices are soaring.

What’s a first-time buyer to do?

Here are five tips for finding a starter home:

Be realistic about today’s market. Sellers clearly have an advantage in the current market. Inventory is low, which keeps pushing home prices to record levels, according to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). Buyer competition is fierce, as homes in the lower price ranges fly off the market.

Unfortunately, that leaves many first-time buyers––especially those with tight budgets––on the sidelines. If you’re searching for your first home, be realistic about what you can afford and what amenities come with that budget. (Hint: You may have to forgo top-of-the-line appliances and shiny quartz countertops.)

A starter home isn’t necessarily your forever home. Be prepared to make some compromises to get your foot in the homeownership door.

Adjust your wish list. Buyers shopping for their first home need to be open-minded about the location, size and condition of the home they want to buy, says Tim Deihl, associate broker with Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty in Boston.

For many buyers, a classic starter home, which traditionally doesn’t have many amenities, is more achievable.

“If your first home is the place you’re going to have your family, maybe build an addition and stay there forever; that’s one set of criteria. If your starter home will be a financial launch pad into a larger, better home, that’s a different approach,” Deihl says.

Another strategy: Look for an older home in a well-established neighborhood. Resales typically cost less than brand-new homes, says Bradley Hunter, chief economist for HomeAdvisor.com, a home improvement matching service based in Golden, Colo.

Older homes typically need more maintenance and repairs, which offset some of the savings; however, Hunter says, buyers who choose a used home might be able to do repairs and renovations over time, pacing themselves to make the cost manageable.

Hire the right real estate agent. When you’re up against stiff competition, working with an experienced real estate agent who knows the local market is key.

Look for an agent who specializes in the neighborhoods you’re interested in. Savvy agents should be able to answer your questions about neighborhood amenities, local schools and nearby home values.

A good agent shines when it comes to negotiating the deal and writing a strong offer letter backed with solid data. Your agent can suggest certain strategies to win in a competitive market, such as limiting contingencies or writing a personal letter.

Ask friends and relatives to recommend agents they have used and were happy with. Also, interview two or three different agents. Find out how they prefer to communicate with clients and how often you’ll get updates. Finally, research the agents you’re considering online to see what past clients have said about their work.

Rethink location. If you’re thinking about starting a family in the future, don’t focus too much on your home’s location, size and school district just yet, Deihl says. Resetting those parameters can make it easier to buy a first home.

“Buyers may be in a position where schools won’t impact them for six or seven years,” Deihl says. “That’s a good opportunity to buy in the city, make some money and roll that into a community where they want to be longer-term with the kids.”

Buyers who sacrifice location for affordability can find themselves in a neighborhood far from major job centers with a long daily commute and expensive transportation costs. Sometimes that trade-off makes sense, but not always, says Cathy Coneway, a broker for Stanberry & Associates REALTORS® in Austin, Texas.

“You have to look at how much you make and how much you can afford to spend for gas,” Coneway says. “You might actually be better off buying a house that’s closer to town so you have more cash flow for property taxes, insurance and living expenses.”

Make a strong offer. When a well-priced starter house comes on the market, the quest to buy it can be “super competitive,” Deihl says.

One way to strengthen an offer is to present a loan preapproval that includes everything but a title search, appraisal and hazard insurance, says Jay Dacey, a mortgage broker at Metropolitan Financial Mortgage Co. in Minneapolis.

A strategic phone call might help, too.

“We call the listing agent and say, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Jones submitted an offer on your property. Not only are they preapproved, but they’ve gone through the underwriting approval process with our bank,’” Dacey says. “That makes the offer stronger.”

Other ways to entice sellers: Offer above asking price (if you can afford to), keep repair requests to a minimum, make a larger down payment or give them more time to move after closing.

About marilynsellshollisterrealestate

I am a native Californian born in Los Angeles and have resided in San Benito County since January 30, 1959. I attended the University of Southern California. I am a licensed Real Estate Broker, license #00409787, active for almost 45 years. I started my career in 1972 and still am totally committed to the highest level of service to my clients. I am currently associated with Intero Real Estate Services. I am Past President of the San Benito Association of Realtors, serving in the role on numerous occasions. I was a Director of the California Association of Realtors for over 18 years, having served on numerous committees. I also served 2 terms representing the California Association of Realtors at the National level, NAR. I am a certified SRES (Senior Real Estate specialist), since 2005. My community involvement has included membership in the Hollister Rotary Club, serving as their first woman President in 2002. In the late 1960's, I became a member of the El Torillo Chapter of Children's Home Society, and served as President, and was also President of the Tri-County Council of CHS, which is today Kinship Center, and I am currently a Senior Active. I am a member of the San Benito Chamber of Commerce. From 2002-2008, I served on the Board of the Hollister Downtown Association and was their President from 2006-2007, and still serve on sub-committees of this organization. And, I am currently serving my 3rd term on the Community Foundation. My record of performance and my reputation have made me who I am in the industry. I am a household name in San Benito County, when you think of Real Estate. My name is recognized not only in Hollister, but in our neighboring counties, Monterey, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties. I have been involved in land development, marketed several subdivisions, sold ranches, commercial leasing, bank-owned properties, short sales and own a Property Management Company, Hollister Rental Properties, for more than 35 years. I am proud of my sales record and for the majority of my career I have been in the top 1% of major Real Estate Companies including Van Vleck Realtors, Cornish and Carey, Contempo, Seville-Contempo, Century 21, Coldwell Banker and finally Intero Real Estate services for the last 15 years. Using my skills in negotiating, mediation and transaction closure, during 2010 and 2011, I was involved with the City of Hollister's First Time Home Buyer Down Payment Assistance Program. The program was the City's Redevelopment Agency, under Bill Avera, with the assistance of CJ Valenzuela who was working with the County of San Benito. CHISPA, a non-profit, was responsible for restoring homes to equal to new condition that the City had taken back in foreclosure, or that they had acquired. When the homes were restored, we put them on the Multiple Listing Service and we went out and promoted the City's Down Payment Assistance Program. Buyers were screened and qualified by our preferred lenders. I facilitated workshops for First Time Buyers explaining the programs. I negotiated the contracts for the City of Hollister and with the Buyers. With this program, I closed 2 homes in 2010, and 4 homes in 2011. On a personal note, I am married to Richard Ferreira, a retired General Contractor/Developer. We have a combined family of six daughters, six grandsons and 3 granddaughters. We share commons interests in travel, movies, entertaining, and Richard has picked up my love of cooking. Our spare time is spent with family and enjoying our grandchildren.
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