If you are thinking about buying a home, we’ve put together some home buying tips to help make a successful purchase.
#1 – Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage
Of all of our home buying tips, I can’t emphasize this one enough. I know you are anxious to start looking for your new home, but before you begin your search – even online – you’ll want to get pre-approved for a mortgage. This will let you know how much home you can afford. If your target price range tops out at $300,000, it will only lead to disappointment if you’ve been looking at $500,000 homes online.
When it comes time to make an offer on a home, most sellers will only seriously consider an offer from a pre-approved buyer. The seller’s agent will request a copy of your pre-approval letter so they can assure their client that you are qualified to purchase their home. Pre-approval letters are good for a certain period of time so make sure yours is up to date.
Check with a couple of lenders to find the best rates and be mindful of fees the lender may charge at closing. Check out Keller Mortgage as one of your options. Keller Mortgage charges zero lender fees, zero origination fees and provides $1000.00 back at closing that can be used to offset other closing costs.
#2 – Consider All of the Expenses of Owning the Home
The mortgage payment is only one of the expenses of home ownership. You will need to pay property taxes (usually paid along with your monthly mortgage payment), HOA dues, the water bill, utility bills, etc. You’ll also want to create a budget for ongoing repairs and improvements.
The lender that provided your pre-approval can estimate your mortgage payment but make sure you add in these additional expenses. Be certain you are comfortable with the full monthly cost of owning the home.
#3 – Know the Costs of Closing
Your Realtor should draw up a net sheet that estimates your closing costs. Typical costs include things like a title search, recording fees, title insurance, title agent fees, local taxes related to your mortgage, HOA dues prepaid by the seller, and lender fees. You’ll also need to make the downpayment required by your lender.
You will have other expenses to consider that are paid before closing such as a home inspection and appraiser fees (with Keller Mortgage the appraiser fee is only paid if the home closes).
#4 – Know the HOA Rules
If you are buying a home in the Sarasota area there is a very good chance the home is located in a community with a Home Owner’s Association. Get a copy of the HOA rules before the end of your due diligence period. Make sure you understand the rules and that you are OK with them. If you have pets, ensure your pets meet the association guidelines for the number of pets, size and breed. If you are purchasing a condo, the rules for pets are usually more stringent than with a single family home.
Make sure you understand the services the HOA provides. Some communities, even single family home communities are no maintenance communities. The HOA may handle lawn and garden care, exterior maintenance including the roof and may even provide cable TV or Internet service. If the HOA provides services like these, you will not need to budget for these expenses yourself.
#5 – Check Out the Neighborhood
If you can, drive through the area at rush hour, on the weekend and during a typical day. This will give you good feel for what it might be like to live there. If the home is on a busy road, you’ll get to hear how much road noise is present.
Even if you don’t have kids, check out the local schools as they can influence property values in family-friendly neighborhoods. We’ve created a map that shows the best schools in the Sarasota area according to info from greatschools.org.
BONUS TIP – Making a Strong Offer
Once you’ve found your dream home, it’s time for one of the most important home buying tips – making a strong offer. You’ll want to make a good offer on the home and if the market is very competitive you’ll need to ensure it is a very attractive offer.
Price is only one component of a strong offer. Terms provide options. For example cash offers are often successful over higher offers with financing because sellers believe a cash offer is more likely to close. Fast or flexible closing dates are attractive to some sellers. They may need time to move or may want to move as quickly as possible.
Make a sizable good faith deposit. This deposit is placed into escrow and can be fully refunded to you if the seller breaches contract, if you terminate the contract within your due diligence period or you cannot obtain financing. This amount of this deposit sends an important signal to the seller about your sincerity in making the purchase. The minimum we usually recommend for most homes is $5,000 but $10,000 is better if possible.
That said, price is still the most important part of a strong offer. Make sure your realtor has provided you with a market analysis to help determine the market value of the home. You don’t want to pay far above the market value but you don’t want to lose your dream home because you offered far less than what the owner can reasonably expect to receive for their home. Make your offer expecting a counter from the seller but don’t offer so little that your offer will be rejected out of hand or insult the seller. Things to consider when pricing your offer are how long the home has been on the market, the seller’s motivation for selling, market conditions and how the home compares to recently sold homes in the area.
Unless absolutely necessary, don’t ask the seller to pay your part of the closing costs. FHA loans allow a buyer to request that a seller pay up to a certain amount of closing costs, but that doesn’t mean the seller expects to pay your costs.
Finally think outside of the box. What can you offer the seller other than price that would make them entertain your offer over others? One buyer we worked with offered to handle the clean out of the home for a wonderful older lady that was moving into an assisted living facility, saving her the expense of hiring a clean out company. She accepted their offer and was very thankful for their thoughtfulness.
There you have just a few of our home buying tips. We hope they will be useful to you when you purchase next or first home. If you are thinking about purchasing a home in the Sarasota, Venice or Lakewood Ranch areas, we would love to discuss your options with you. Just contact us here and provide a few details of what you are looking for.