You need to ask questions, look under the hood and take it for a spin. Turn on all the faucets. Flush the toilet. Blast the heat and see what happens.
1. Know the big ticket items.
It is easy to get caught up in the look and feel of the cosmetic features of a home. However do not overlook the items that can cost big bucks. Know the age and condition of the roof and HVAC system. Turn on faucets, flush toilets, blast the heat and see what happens.
2. Use All Five Senses
Do not just look at the home. Listen to the sounds inside the home, as you walk around, close doors, flush toilets. Turn on the TV. Go outside and listen to the sounds of the neighborhood. Be aware of scented candles because they may be hiding other smells. Feel the banisters on the stairs to see if they are sturdy. Knock on walls to see if they sound hollow.
3. Use a Skilled Realtor
You want a professional to help you through the process. You want an agent who can help you select the right lender and home inspector; and, also one who understands the pros and cons of each neighborhood and home style. This is the largest purchase of your life, so (1) don’t go it alone, and (2) don’t use someone just because they are a friend or relative. Interview several, until you find someone you are comfortable working with, and you can trust to get the job done.
4. Do not get caught up in the emotion
Shop with your mind and be guided by your monthly budget and priorities. The fastest path to disappointment is to look at houses that are beyond what you can afford.
5. Get educated early, by looking at homes and seeing how they sell.
When you find the right home, you will need to act fast. Therefore it is helpful to go to open houses, learn values, and know the options. Then, when the right home appears, you can act.
6. Get pre-qualified with a lender, and know what you can comfortably afford.
You need to factor in all costs, including community fees, utilities, taxes and other assessments.
7. Buy a House For Now and Later
Buying your first home is like buying cloths for your kids…get them bigger than necessary, and grow into them. You certainly need to stay within a budget, but you do not want to out grow your home within a couple years. Real estate is a great investment, but the cost of selling can eat up the first couple of years of appreciation. Typically, the longer you keep your home, the better your return on investment.
8. Talk to neighbors
Drive through the neighborhood at several different times, and talk to the people who are out walking. Knock on the doors of the neighbors, and ask them how they like living there. This is going to be your home. You don’t want any surprises.