The Family Home Buying Guide
As winter fades into spring, many families begin to consider buying a new home. Spring is the most popular time of year to both buy and sell a home, and a spring sale often means moving during the summer, when most children are out of school. According to the National Association of Realtors, from the mid-1980s until 2008, most American families remained in a home for about six years. Since 2008, that number has increased to an average of nine years. While the housing crisis left many families feeling financially insecure and afraid to risk selling or buying a home, the rise in wages and improvements in the economy of the last decade have created a market where many houses are for sale and lots of families ready to buy. So, if you are ready to take the step and purchase a home, where should you start? Here are a few tips to help make your home-buying experience a smooth one!
Establish your priorities. Some families are looking for a forever home. Others are looking for a starter house or an older home to rehabilitate. “We knew we wanted a fixer-upper. We love DIY and were excited to take on the challenge. But not everyone wants to spend their weekends on home projects!” says Stacey Keller, Kansas City, MO, mom. Communicate with your partner and get on the same page about what you want in a house. This will help you narrow down the area where you want to live and the type of home you want to buy, as well as guide your budgeting.
Set your budget. As with any large purchase, set a budget and to stick to it. Once you know what you are looking for in a home, you will better understand what you will need to spend to get what you want. “We had to set the budget right up front. Once we started looking at houses, it helped us to weed out the ones that were out of our price range, and it kept us from wasting time on houses that were way below our range,” says Debbie Brown, Olathe mom.
Do your research. Researching on your own will help save you time and ensure you get what you want. “We wanted to understand the neighborhood, the schools, the buying and selling trends in the area. We wanted to know everything,” says Rachel Thornton, Shawnee mom. So many things can impact the value of your home long-term. This includes the local school system, the age of the neighborhood and the amenities in the community. Spend time driving around the areas where you are considering purchasing a home. This will help you get a feel for the entire area, and you can decide whether it is a good fit for your family.
Look at the big picture. When putting a house on the market, sellers will stage the home to look its best. They often put on fresh coats of paint and have the house professionally cleaned. Although these touches are nice and help to show the home in its best light, other things are important to consider for the long-term. Walls can be repainted, knobs and pulls can be replaced and carpet can be cleaned or removed. When considering buying a home, you’ll benefit by looking carefully at whether or not the layout, location and functionality of the house work for your family. “It was hard not to get distracted by pretty lighting fixtures and gorgeous carpet. But in the end, we needed a house that fit our family’s lifestyle. We can always update the light fixtures,” says Barb Reynolds, Raytown mom.
Decide when to compromise (and when not to). We all know the difference between want and need, and that difference is never more important than when you are buying a house. “I really wanted a huge walk-in pantry, but I knew we needed a big yard for the kids. I compromised on the pantry for the house with a great backyard. And really, I’m happy about it every day. We have so much fun in that yard,” says Grace Wilkins, Overland Park mom. Your home-buying experience will be much smoother if you create your want and need lists ahead of time. Do you want a whirlpool bathtub? Hardwood floors? A finished basement? Great, put those on the list. But what can you not live without? Four bedrooms? A fenced yard? Identifying your deal-breakers in advance will save you time and stress.
Home Buying 101
What are the most common mistakes buyers make when purchasing a house?
“Not budgeting closing costs and other fees! Hire a good professional inspector and don’t be afraid to ask any questions. Remember, your dream home is also an investment,” says Choo Lee, realtor with SBD Housing Solutions.
Here are some additional lessons learned by the experts:
- There are lots of different kinds of loans. Shopping around for your mortgage loan is important. Some loans can require 20 percent down, for example, while others require as little as 3 percent. Shopping around can help you get the best deal and help you find the right loan for you.
- You are typically required to pay mortgage insurance until you have 20 percent equity in your home. However, your mortgage company is not going to stop charging you for mortgage insurance automatically when you reach that 20 percent equity mark. You will need to talk to them when you’ve reached the right point.
- The asking price on a home is negotiable. When you make an offer, you can make one well below the asking price if you choose. In a good housing market, the seller will not be as willing to negotiate on the price as in a down market.
- You should always have a home inspection. You have the right to have a home inspected after you’ve negotiated a contract with the seller. You should have the home inspection done and have your contract reflect that you can request repairs or back out of the deal based on the inspection results.
- Sellers pay the realtor fee. When you’re a buyer, you don’t pay a fee to the realtor.
Melissa Bellach is a freelance writer, wife and mother of three living in Overland Park.