Shopping for a home: It's more fun than you think!
New homes, old homes, big homes, small homes – they're all waiting for you to come take a look. It’s tempting to think of shopping for a home as a huge, time-consuming and potentially terrifying process – mostly because it is. Will you find the perfect house? Will you be able to afford it? Will you lose out on your dream house at the last minute to a higher bidder?
But it’s also the ultimate shopping trip, with you browsing through all kinds of houses in all kinds of neighborhoods – one of which you will eventually call home. How cool is that?
Consider your real estate agent to be your adventure guide – or personal shopper, depending on how you see the home-shopping process.
Where do I begin the process of looking for a home?
The first thing you should do is to begin focusing on what you're looking for in a home. You can start by establishing priorities in the following three areas:
What should I think about when I'm deciding which community I want to live in?
Good city services, nice parks and playground facilities, convenient shopping and transportation, a track record of sound development and good planning — these are just a few considerations that are important to many people when they choose a community in which to live.
As for individual neighborhoods within a village or city, there is no better source of information than your real estate professional. Sales professionals know the people and the communities they serve, and chances are they can help you find a neighborhood that really fits your family's needs.
Where can I get information about local schools?
Again, a good real estate professional is perhaps your best source. They know where the local schools are and can provide you with valuable information about school districts, including test scores, extracurricular activities, bus service and more. If you're relocating, a sales professional may even be able to put you in touch with teachers and principals when you visit the area. And if you want to do a little searching on your own, the Internet may also be a good place to start. ERA.com has a special link to neighborhood information, including information about area school districts.
How can I find out what homes are selling for in a given neighborhood?
In most areas, home sales are a matter of public record — you can get all the information you want about recent sales, including prices and listing times, by calling the county Recorder of Deeds.
An easier way is to ask your real estate professional. If you're interested in a particular home, a sales professional may be able to provide you with a list of comparables — sale prices of homes in your area that are roughly the same size and age as the home you're considering. Although there will certainly be some differences between the homes — the house next door may have an extra bedroom, or the one down the block may be older than the one you're looking at — it's a good basis for evaluating the seller's asking price.
If I'm moving a considerable distance, is there any way I can screen homes before I start traveling?
Yes. Today's Multiple Listing Services (MLS) — which include as much as 90 percent of the homes listed in any given community — have made it relatively easy for buyers to access detailed information on homes for sale practically anywhere in the country.
ERA Real Estate has taken the MLS concept into the next generation with ERA.com, our Web site, which features over 50,000 domestic listings. It's a powerful way for buyers to find the perfect home. The site also includes ERA® International listings, allowing interested buyers to expand their search to other countries without ever leaving their home.
When I start visiting homes, what should I be looking for the first time through?
How many bedrooms should I be considering?
Whether you are married or not, or have kids or not, spare bedrooms come in handy when family and friends come to stay. And when you're not having guests, extra rooms are useful as a library, den, or TV room.
Is an older home as good a value as a new home?
It's a matter of personal preference. Both new and older homes offer distinct advantages, depending upon your unique tastes and lifestyle.
What do I need to bring along when I'm looking at homes?
Bring your own:
What should I ask about each home that I look at?
As a rule of thumb, ask any questions you have about specific rooms, features, or functions. Pay particular attention to areas that you feel could become "problem " ones — additions, defects, areas that have been repaired. And above all, if you don't feel your question has been answered, ask until you understand and are satisfied.
What should I tell the sales professional about the homes I look at?
Tell the sales professional everything you like and don't like about each home you see. Don't be shy about discussing a home's shortcomings. Is the home too small for your needs? Let the sales professional know. Was the home perfect except for the carpeting? Let the sales professional know.
How many homes should I look at before I buy?
There is no set number of homes you should look at before you decide to make an offer on one. That's why providing the sales professional with as many details as possible up front is so helpful. The perfect home may be waiting for you on your first visit. Even if it isn't, the house-hunting process will help you get a feeling for the homes in the community and narrow your choices to a few homes that are worth a second look.
When you find a home you may be interested in buying, make sure the sales professional asks the owner the following questions:
When I've found the home I like, how do I make an offer?
When you've found a special house you want to call home, you'll probably feel excited and a bit nervous. Let the sales professional know you're ready to write an " offer to purchase" — a written document that declares how much you are willing to pay for the home provided that certain conditions are met. Because it's a legally binding contract that you will sign and date, it may be a good idea to have a lawyer review it, within the grace period noted in the contract.
How do I determine the amount of my initial offer?
What is "earnest money" and how much do I need?
Is there any way I can protect myself against emergency repair bills in my new home?
Yes. Home warranties offer you protection against many potentially costly problems not covered by your homeowner's insurance. Such warranties have become increasingly popular in recent years, and for good reason. The coverage can save you thousands in the event of a major mechanical breakdown at a time when your cash reserves have been depleted by your down payment and moving expenses. For more about home warranties, see the information on the ERA® Home Protection Plan®.