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Things To Do Before You Buy A House

The next step on your checklist for selling a house? Sellers should remove any distractions so the buyers can visualize themselves and their family living in the property, says Kipton Cronkite, a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman in New York.

things to do before you buy a house

Selling almost any home can be tricky, but selling a home with lots of little problems and small repair needs can be downright difficult. When buyers walk into an open house, or go on a home tour, they want to fall in love with the house, not add a bunch of small repairs to their to-do list.

When staging your house, remember that green is good: Plants create a bright and more welcoming environment. You might also want to consider a bouquet of flowers or bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter or dining table.

Home stagers will evaluate the current condition and belongings in your house and determine what elements might raise the bar. They might recommend you buy or rent some items, or they might just reorganize your knickknacks and bookshelves in a whole new (that is, better) way.

Very few people will ever make a purchase bigger than ahouse. In fact, most people will only buy a home a few times in their life.That makes it critical to get the right home, at the right price, and with the right financing.

Whether it's your first house or your tenth, the more money you have to invest, the better your odds of getting what you want. From the point you decide you want to purchase a home, take a tough stance on your budget.

If you can't afford to pay your cable company the $300 you owed when your service was shut off, then you can't afford a mortgage. Get your finances in decent shape (or at least have a plan to get there) before you even consider trying to buy a home.

Your credit reports are maintained by the credit bureaus, and they contain the history of your debts, your payments to lenders, any accounts in collection, and more. You can check your reports for free once per year by visiting, and you can purchase them from the credit bureaus at any time. In any case, you should certainly check them long before you apply for a mortgage.

In reality, though, many people aren't comfortable spending that much, especially if a down payment wipes up much of their savings. Whatever your number, knowing what it is makes it much easier to figure out what houses are worth looking at.

What you don't want, however, to be is inflexible. Rejecting a house that's perfect because it doesn't have a dual vanity may be taking things too far. The same is true of any other style point -- especially those that can be changed.

When my son was under three and we were looking for a new house, open staircases were on our "absolutely not" list. For other people, deal-breakers may include a swimming pool, an unfinished basement, or any number of things.

When you get serious about buying a house, it's time to find a real estate agent. In general, it's OK to meet with different agents who have a listing you want to see. Before picking someone to work with, you'll want to make sure your personalities match. You'll also want to assess whether the realtor is committed to finding the right home for you or merely sees you as another sale.

When my wife and I moved to Connecticut about 20 years ago, we called an agent to see a listing he had in the town where we wanted to live. After talking with me for a while, he told me that he would show me the house, but he didn't think it was the right one for me based on what I had told him.

He easily could have shown me the house and sold me on it. However, because he put our interests before his own, we hired him for several more transactions, including the sale of our final Connecticut home before we moved to Florida.

Even before you pick a real estate agent, you can do some basic research using sites like Zillow and, which can give you insight into exactly what you can afford and where. That doesn't mean your agent won't find you a hidden gem, but if your budget is $200,000, and downtown two-bedrooms start at $400,000, it's best to know that up front.

If the length of your commute means more to you than anything else, then tell your real estate agent that. That should save you time and keep you from looking at houses that will get crossed off your list because they break one of your clear demands.

My wife and I have a 13-year-old, so before we bought our West Palm Beach condo, we did some research on the local school system. We learned that although the assigned schools would not be right for our child, the district's rules gave us some viable options.

When my wife and I first moved from a house to a condo, we didn't give much thought to having to pay a homeowner's association fee. In that case, it sort of made sense, because the HOA paid for things we had previously paid for each month, like snow removal and lawn maintenance.

When my grandfather died, my grandmother turned the entire upstairs of their house into one giant bedroom suite. It worked for her (and that was great), but it essentially turned a four-bedroom house into a two-bedroom house, and converting it back was not easy.

That hurt its resale value (and the buyer ultimately tore it down). Be careful when buying a house that meets your current needs but will be tough to resell because of how specific those needs are.

You can tell a lot about a house based on how its toilets flush. When you search for homes and find one you like, make sure you give the toilets a flush. If the water flow is weak, that may be a sign of an emerging plumbing problem.

For example, we once sold a house that had a minor plumbing issue. In solving that problem, we learned that the pipes were directly under our living room, and a major problem would require digging them up.

That's not something that needed to be disclosed, but it's information we would have volunteered if someone had asked, "Is there anything that worries you about the house?" Not everyone will be as honest, but you can learn things just by asking.

Even if you don't have kids, schools can be an important factor when it comes to buying a house. A lousy school district can impact resale value. Of course, that can also be a positive if you don't have kids, plan to stay for a long time, and aren't worried about resale.

If you do plan to use the schools, look into things like how busing works and whether your child can walk to school. It's also useful to know the private, charter, and alternative school options even if it's only on a just-in-case basis.

My wife and I are cautious with our finances. Because of that, when we bought our first few houses, we kept our budget smaller than we needed to. That left us with houses that only met our short-term needs.

Because we were too careful, we ended up moving more often than we otherwise would have. That cost us more money in closing fees, commissions, and moving than we would have spent to buy a house that fully met our needs in the first place.

Your lender should give you an estimate of your closing costs well before the closing date. The number is a moving target due to changing escrows, partial payments, and other factors that change based on the exact day you closed. Still, the final number should not surprise you, and it should be factored into your budget early on.

Sometimes people get so caught up in the financial considerations of buying a house that they forget it can be expensive to move. Look into moving costs before you figure out your budget, but remember that you can bring the expense down by doing things yourself.

It sounds silly, but sometimes the house-buying process gets so intense that you forget to think through what it will actually be like to live on the property. This once happened to my wife and I after we had been outbid for a number of houses we really liked.

We ended up buying a house that neither of us cared for all that much. We had "won" the bidding process, but we had lost sight of what we really wanted. It's an easier mistake than you may realize, so before you sign anything, step back and make sure you're excited to live in the house you're buying.

Pay close attention to cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms, but also check your gutters, backyard, flowerbeds (if applicable), dryer vents, chimney, and the carpet. If you think the carpet needs a more thorough cleaning, you can also schedule a professional carpet cleaner to come, preferably before you move in.

So, learn from me. Go ahead and unpack your boxes one by one. Put things away. Then, take those empty boxes and give them to someone else who is moving or recycle them. If you hired movers, this is also a good time to make sure nothing is missing. If you find out something is, contact your moving company to determine who is liable.

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You can find homes for sale on your own, but a good broker can help you make sound decisions and guide you through the home buying process. A broker can also help you get access to homes as soon as they hit the market, before they may be listed online.

Understand that making an offer on a home is sometimes the start of a psychological game. You likely want to get the home for as little as you can without losing the house outright. The seller wants to maximize the selling price of the home without scaring you away. Where should you start with your first offer? Conventional wisdom says to begin at 5 percent below the asking price, but market conditions will largely determine how much wiggle room you have. The more competitive the market, the more likely you are to face multiple bidders. In a soft market, where listings have been sitting unsold, you will have more negotiating power. In a rising market, prime listings will command the full asking price or more, and sometimes offering just a few thousand dollars above listing price can help your offer stand out. Either way, keep your budget in mind when you make your first offer and set a cap of how high you are truly willing to go. 041b061a72


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