How to Ensure You’re Buying the Perfect Home

Reprinted from RIS Media’s Housecall

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By Eliot Ward

For most people, buying a home is the biggest investment they’ll make in their life. Not only is it a huge financial undertaking, but your final choice is a decision you’ll be living with for the foreseeable future. The process may sound daunting, but by taking the right steps, buying your perfect home doesn’t have to be stressful.

What Is a Perfect Home?

The first step to ensuring you’re buying your ideal property is identifying what “perfect” means to you. It may sounds obvious, but the easiest way to start is by making a list of your priorities. What is a “must-have,” what would be nice and what isn’t important? If you’re buying with a partner, make sure you compare lists and decide what can be compromised on and what will be the deal-breakers.

Experience is key here—we’ve all lived in places that at first glance we thought were suitable, only to find out later that the kitchen we initially thought was cozy was actually far too small for our needs, or that the seemingly bright living room only gets direct sunlight for a few hours a day. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and relatives about their experiences either, as they may be aware of something you hadn’t thought of.

What Can You Really Afford?

Before scouring the market for your ideal property, you need to know what you can afford.  By getting pre-approved for a mortgage first, you’ll know exactly how much you can borrow based on a professional assessment of your finances. Ultimately, this will make the whole process much easier. A trap that many buyers fall into is assuming that the maximum amount they can borrow is what they should spend on their new house. Look at what your monthly repayments would be and ensure that your budget factors in all ongoing maintenance costs, any fees you may incur from the buying process and any improvements you may want to make in the future.

Your budget should also allow you to put funds aside each month for emergency maintenance. If your heating system fails one winter, do you have the savings to fix it? Lastly, think about any potential changes to your income you may face in the next 5-10 years, how they could affect your ability to make payments, and whether there are any safeguards you can put in place.

Choosing Your Professionals

Purchasing a home can be extremely difficult without assistance from industry professionals; having the right team can be the difference between a smooth buying process and a costly disaster. Hiring a real estate agent provides numerous advantages. An experienced REALTOR® can find properties that you may otherwise miss, negotiate prices and recommend lenders. They’ll also be able to answer any questions you may have about a property, as well as any you may not have even thought to ask.

When it comes to lenders, be aware of the different types of loans available to you and how they can impact your long-term finances. Just because one lender is prepared to loan you more money doesn’t necessarily mean they’re your best option.

Location, Location, Location

It’s not uncommon for buyers to find their perfect home, only to discover too late that the area it’s in is far from ideal. Take note of what you like about your current neighborhood and what you would change, and bear this in mind when scoping out potential locations. Take the time to explore the two-mile radius surrounding the property. Drive around in the daytime and at night. Would you feel safe and comfortable walking around the neighborhood at these times? Test your commute between the property and your workplace during rush hour. Could you do it every day? You can even spend a Saturday afternoon politely knocking on a few doors and asking your potential neighbors how they feel about the area.

Finally, remember that just because certain aspects of the location won’t affect you, it doesn’t mean they won’t be important to someone else if you decide to sell the property in the future. Even if you don’t have children, being in a good school district can add up to 20 percent to your house value.

Do Your Homework

Carrying out thorough research on a property and area before you buy can take time and money, but the benefits far outweigh the cost. Look at general property values in the local area and study how they have changed recently. What are similar homes in the neighborhood selling for? This will help you decide whether the asking price is fair and could indicate what may happen to the value of your property in the future.

A professional home inspection will cost a few hundred dollars, but could end up saving you thousands in the long run. If they find any potential issues with the home, you can request the seller makes repairs on the property, or use it as a bargaining tool to lower the price (and cover any costs the repairs may cost you). It’s also worth having a map of the property; a survey of the land means you’ll know exactly what you own, which can resolve any possible border disputes should they arise.

Buying for Tomorrow

A perfect home isn’t just for now; it’s for the future, and there are two ways to look at this. Firstly, it’s important to visualize whether you can see yourself living and growing there. Try and imagine yourself and your family in each room and whether it feels “right.” You also need to look for the potential in the property if you decide to expand or refurbish parts of it. You might not be planning to do this anytime soon, but it’s important to know you’ll have the option later on.

The flip side to this is remembering that a dream home is something you build yourself. Don’t get put off  by superficial things like the color of the walls or the shade of the carpets. In the long run, these things can be changed relatively inexpensively. Not all houses are going to be in the best condition when you see them, but, with remodeling, you can add your own style and touch to a home and truly make it yours. Remember that houses are generally not perfect to begin with, and there will always be things that could be different. If you’re flexible, it’s easier to move in and start creating your dream home.

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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