Before you make a decision, you should compare your wants and needs. Also look at the short-term and long-term costs associated with each house you're considering. Are the appliances in good condition? What about the back yard? What are commuting costs?
It is important to understand the true costs of the home. The mortgage is the primary cost but may not be the only cost. Factor in homeownership association or condo association fees, any work that needs to be done to the home, look at the maintenance that will be required, see how taxes vary from home to home. Make sure you know all the costs associated with each home. This will help you decide on a house that fits your budget.
A good estimate for home maintenance is 1 – 3% of the market value of the home each year. This is simply a number to help think about home maintenance. In a real estate market where the market value is changing, it doesn't necessarily mean your home maintenance numbers are changing too. Other factors that could impact a home maintenance budget include the age and condition of the home when you buy it. The important thing is to remember that home maintenance is an expense that needs to be accounted for when determining your housing budget.
Use written descriptions of each home - from your real estate agent - to help you compare. Determine your wants vs. needs worksheet . And don't forget to look at the neighborhood wants vs. needs .
Once you've found the right home, you'll need to make an educated offer . Knowing a home's real value can help you make a fair offer. A home's value is determined by:
Sale price history You can get the home's past sale prices through county courthouses and recorder's offices, many of which have this public information also available online. You can also check with your real estate agent. See if the value has risen or fallen over time.
Home characteristics The number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, and other characteristics greatly affect the value. In many cases, the seller and their agent provide this information to all prospective buyers. You can also get this information from the tax assessor's office.
Similar home prices Ask your real estate agent for sale prices of comparable homes in the same neighborhood.
Making an Offer
Making an offer on a home is an exciting step - you've found the house you want and you're working towards making it your home.
Be sure you're serious about buying before you make an offer. If the seller accepts your offer, it becomes a legal contract after a few days.
Details and planning are important. Know what you would like to pay but also think about the most you're willing to pay and the total home financing amount that your lender has pre-approved you for. Be specific, and put everything in writing.
What are the steps in making an offer?
Negotiate a sales price. Negotiating is a standard practice in real estate, and something that your real estate agent will do on your behalf; learn more about it so it works for you.
Make an offer in writing. Understand what should be included in your offer.
Negotiate a Sales Price
Before you negotiate a sales price, it's important to determine if you or the seller has the stronger position. Knowing this will help you plan your negotiation.
The seller may have the stronger position if:
The local real estate market is strong and homes are selling quickly.
They aren't in a rush to move.
Similar houses have sold for close to or above their asking price.
The buyer may have the stronger position if:
The local real estate market is weak.
The seller needs to move quickly.
The house has been on the market for a long time.
When negotiating, more information is better. Look at your notes from when you looked at the house. If there's anything in need of repair or replacement, you may include these costs in the negotiation. If you want certain appliances or fixtures to stay, be sure to include them in the negotiation. You may also want to make your offer contingent upon your obtaining financing or the house passing a professional home inspection , especially if it is an older home.
There are several steps to negotiating:
Asking price. This is the price the sellers have originally listed. In a buyer's market, you may be able to successfully offer below the asking price. However, in a seller's market you may want to be prepared to offer more. Before making an offer in a seller's market, know how much above asking price you are willing, and able, to bid in case the seller gets multiple offers.
Initial purchase offer. This is your first offer. It may include contingencies (such as a requirement that the home pass a professional inspection or that you receive adequate financing from your lender.)
Acceptance of offer or counter-offer. The seller can accept your offer or make a counter-offer of a new price or additional contingencies.
If you've made a home inspection part of the contingencies and something serious is found during the inspection, you may want to submit a new counter-offer and discuss the situation with your lender. The process may go back and forth several times before you and the seller reach an offer that is acceptable to you both. Remember that in some instances, your lender may not approve your mortgage if the home has serious deficiencies that could affect its value.
Escalation clauses. If you live in a market where homes are selling quickly and have multiple offers, your contract may need to be offered with something called an escalation clause, which allows the offer to increase by certain dollar increments if another competitive offer is obtained and entertained by the seller.