There really is no place like home, and home ownership has long been the American dream for good reason. Despite all the advantages of owning a home, however, it’s not unusual for first-time homebuyers to get a case of the jitters when it comes to getting serious about actually purchasing a home.
To help ease those jitters, here are some top reasons why purchasing a home makes such good sense as well as answers to some frequently asked questions that can help you get the most house for the time and money you have to spend.
Why home ownership makes sense for you
First, there’s never been a better time to buy. After the prolonged economic downturn, housing prices are again on the rise while interests rates remain at historic lows. And few if any investments are as sound or as sure over the long term as home ownership.
In addition to your home appreciating in value year after year, there is also the substantial tax deduction homeowners get for the mortgage interest they pay as well as property tax deductions. Additionally, profits from capital gains are excluded up to $250,000 for an individual and $500,000 for a couple.
How do I get started on the path to home ownership?
It likely comes as a surprise to no one that 80% of all home purchases begin with an Internet search. Homebuyers can search online at their leisure from the comfort of their homes and see a multitude of properties in a short time. And with a click or two of the mouse and entering a word or two of text here and there, properties can be filtered by any number of a list of variables including neighborhood, house style, school districts, and many others.
Searching for a home on the Internet is a great way to start looking for a home. It helps you better define the features you want and the price you can expect to pay for those features. And once you a general idea of what you’re looking for and how much it will cost, the next step is to enlist the aid of a professional Realtor® who can help you learn more about properties in your price range and also help you better determine just what your price range really is.
What kind of timeline is involved in buying a first home?
To a large extent the time it takes to buy a first home is up to the homebuyer. And while some people will end up buying the first home they see, others will search for years trying to find just the right home. In any case, selecting the professional services of a real estate professional will minimize the length of time it takes to buy a first home.
The best agents are the best listeners and get to really know your needs. They also know the local market conditions and which homes are under or overpriced. And, of course, they help you realize the full extent of your options and the most expeditious ways to handle the many facets of real estate negotiations and contracts.
How many homes will we see?
A good average of homes to see in a day is about seven. That’s enough time to give each home the inspection and consideration it needs. After about seven homes, fatigue generally sets in and the senses get pretty dulled. One tip to make the most of your tour of homes takes a page out of food science and research that found memory gets better after consuming carbohydrates but slows down from sugar consumption. So beef up on the carbs and avoid soft drinks before heading out on a home tour.
What’s the best way to evaluate property?
When you see a variety of homes day after day, it can be difficult to keep track of them and remember their differences, advantages and disadvantages. To help you, it’s a good idea to bring a digital camera on the home tour. Take a photo of the house from the curb and plenty of other photos of the home inside and out as well as photos of the neighborhood. Also bring a notepad, digital tablet or other way of taking lots of notes on colors, designs, features and any other aspect of the home you want to remember.
Pay close attention to the neighbors and the neighborhood. Are there features of the other homes, such as their height or other features that might intrude on the enjoyment of the home you’re looking at? What’s nearby? Is there a commercial or industrial area nearby, highways, schools, parks, airports, etc.? Do you like the location? Why or why not?
As you’re leaving the house, take the time to rate it on a 1 to 10 scale. Later review your photos, ratings and notes.
After we narrow our choices, what’s next?
After a few days of touring homes, you’ll probably have a good idea of your top two or three choices. But unless one is remarkably better than the others, it’s always a good idea to revisit each one before making a final decision. Looking at the homes with a fresh set of eyes lets you see things you might have missed the first time. And it will also make you much more confidant that the home you finally settle on is your best choice.
When you’ve decided, your Realtor® will call the listing agent to make sure an offer hasn't been made on the property and to learn more about the seller’s motivation and any other factors that might affect the selling price. Then you and your Realtor® will work on an offer to present to the seller. Often that’s followed by a counter offer from the seller and then negotiations that hopefully end in a contract on your first home.