Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Home Buying~Some Frugal Ideas. . .

Chances are IF you are looking to buy a home right now, then you know that this is a buyers market. I've had the pleasure of buying in both buyer and sellers markets, but buying at a time when the power chip is in the hands of the purchaser is definitely a plus! We are selling our pre-1880 Victorian home because of job relocation. This is tough, but if you are looking, deals can be had. Following the economic real estate trends says that home pricing is at a low~good news for those who are shopping. Remember that I encourage shopping, not necessarily buying all the time as we need to know our prices, so if you need is not immediate, shop and be sure you are getting the best deal for your money.
(Check out our home for sale http://www.1909homeforsale.blogspot.com pictured left: 3060sq ft/9 car garage~$65K)

Over the years, we have been blessed to have owned four homes. Not but two at the same time as we are not landlords, but due to relocation twice. Shopping for a home comes with challenges I will address so you can think on these if you would like to look around...NOW is a great time to buy~if you can!

1. Can you buy? Size up your finances and get to your lender (shop rates and programs) to get preapproved. This will make your purchasing go better and faster.

2. Begin on your own to look. I must confess, and all my realtor buds may hate me for this, but they'd do this too ;-)) CHECK out any for sale by owners first. Look at trade papers, newspapers, online ads, FSBO.com, historicproperties.com, zillow.com, Craig'slist.com and any others out there...there are even online free classified, and often from your area. LOOK all over! Ride the neighborhoods you want to live in. . .SEARCH! Of course I am thinking a local purchase, but if you are relocating, I will make other suggestions: Make a trip to the area if possible. Spend as long as you can, if over night is all you can, then do that. Get acquainted, talk to hotel, restaurant, shop owners, anyone you can find who will talk to you about the area you are researching. Look up community statistics such as crime and economics on line~many communities have websites and offer loads of info. Search Realtor.com for out of town listings as well as the other sources...just know that likely if on this one, it's listed by a realtor and the price is generally higher by atleast 4-6% or MORE! There are advantages to have a realtor, and I used some of the very best, so I don't dis them. . . it's just that if money, and it should ALWAYS be, is an issue knowing this upfront is helpful~also that interests are generally served to the seller who will pay all commission. I learned this the hard way on our first home purchase. Different laws affect practices too~there are dual agency agreements where one realtor can legally represent both buyer and seller that is required in some states I have live in, and then again, I am not sure that an actual contract is necessary. Biggest thing to remember is that the realtor wants to sell and make commission based on the highest sales price. OK~now said, buyers must KNOW values and understand how to take care of their own money or others will get more than they should. Using a realtor or not, take along your notebook and camera~you won't be sorry because you can study the picutres long after the visit to get a real feel for the home. Sometimes the camera "remembers" what you can't! Make notes and study them later~make comparrisons-feature for feature!

3. What is your style? Home styles vary as much as do conditions and prices. Over these years, I have discovered a few things that are essential in a home for me. I want a bathroom nearby at all times so if our home is two story, it must have one up and down! I want my laundry near the bedrooms and bath upstairs so I am not toting it up and down! With this said, many homes that I happen to like do not have this feature; generally the laundry is in the basement! So is there room to add laundry to the area I want it in? Sit down and write down what you want, what you can't live without and where you would like it all to go or become. Prioritize these features. Houses will all vary, so having a strong sense before you get into looking is a great idea!

4. Research not just the area you want to live in by online resources and riding through, do something you may not have thought of...ride at night~all hours if you can! If you are an out of towner, make SURE you do this! There's a lot of information about a neighborhood to be gained from a nightly ride. . .who's out? WHAT are they doing? What businesses are open? Does the whole town roll up the sidewalks at 9:00PM? You MAY want to know this if you like late night shopping! OR is this a tiny burg of a bigger town that has one redlight and one gas station that is just a bedroom community that rests quietly without stresses? YOU need to know this! AND when you find that home you are interested in, go see the neighbors. Size 'em up for whatever makes you comfortable. I personally don't appreciate loudness or rude behaviors. So when I'm shopping, I am looking for people who are asleep in their beds at a reasonable hour and NOT walking the streets! The night is a great time to check out the potential neighborhood. Quiet is best for me. . .

5. Take your time, if you have time...sometimes purchasing can be more economical if you wait, but remember if your heart is set on a home, it could sell right out from under you. I've had this happen too! But I will say that I have also waited and saved tens of thousands. One good point though, and I've not discussed offers yet, but if you offend a seller with too low an offer, it's not likely they will work with you. . .but then again~this IS a buyers market! So always be mindful that both parties are looking to make a deal~to benefit both! Time is money a good deal of the time. Just remember it comes with risks~risk of losing the home (IF you have to have it~or it's really a great value!) As a seller right now, I could have sold our home (OK~given it away!) about 5 or 6 times to date, and not being rude now, but by the end of this week, I expect to have at least ONE more person to approach me with an offer I AM going to refuse! Sellers must take care of their financial needs too. . .another blog entry ;-)) But it's wise to understand it all ;-))

6. Don't get too caught up in colors and decor as you look. NOW the type or style of home is as important as age and condition, but whether or not it has purple paint in the livingroom is not a total concern to me~it's NICE if the colors are ones I love, but if THE PRICE IS RIGHT none of this sort of thing matters. . . but consider too if anyone in your family is handy or if you have the funds to "fix" what you hate. The home we are in now while the price was very good, needed a HUGE extensive renovation...ceilings were down, all floors had to be ripped, plumbing had to be redone...kitchen..Oh my! But so you know that some issues are non issues where value is concerned. Some I have known, and truly only ONE person refused to consider older homes because they didn't want "issues." OK..so they paid the "sticker price" and then got issues! ;-)) ALL homes have issues~but how smart are you at finding them?

8. IF you know your game on homes, then you can reasonibly forgo the home inspection for it's costs. I have had several~but there were things they didn't catch~even the best of the best will miss stuff that as a home buyer you may, may meaning it may NOT be a deal breaker, want to know! Home inspectors are a good idea if you don't know and aren't too handy. Just to get the pro's ideas is good thinking! I am married to Mr. Fixit, the real mccoy! So we are pretty safe on most things~we do look at age of mechanicals~their continue life expectancy, roof, insulation, heating and air, foundation...Just because it's a pretty home, that pulls my eye does NOT always get the sale. When looking and finding THIS house, there was an earlier home I just knew was THE ONE! Well, it took hubby going to a showing, and hearing the train in the BACKYARD screatching by every 8-12 minutes for ME to know it was a deal breaker! I could never have lived in a home that close to the train THAT busy, but three times now, I have lived close enough to hear it, but never so close I could count every spoke in the wheels! If you can, see the home as many times as possible~under all conditions possible~rain, shine, sleet or hale~~ok, just kidding about ALL of those conditions, but go see it and look, smell, touch and feel...measure...

9. When making an offer, here's a huge tip. Always do some research. Look at as many homes as you can find that are comparative in features and location to come up with what is a reasonable offer, but always less than asking. I mentioned this earlier, but if you make a seller upset, they can refuse to work with you. The other thing is to consider what the home is genuinely worth. I really believe in thrift, but I don't believe in stealing though. Fair is fair, but I will wait until the price is what I can afford or it comes down. This was the case in our current home~the price lowered which brought us BACK to it, but since it had been on the market for some time and the condition, we offered WHAT we believed would be immediately rejected. To our surprise, they accepted. Now this was also unusual in that it was a forclosed property, so there were no sellers involved who had feelings to consider. There are just other challenges to purchasing forclosed or distressed properties~beware! But with caution, they can make very nice homes! Comparing homes of similar features and conditions~an appraiser once told me that location, and major things like h/a, square footage, and other spaces like garages make property values~not decor or clean and neat issues...now number of bedrooms/baths will matter. . .lot size...but if you have 1985 lights or the latest most expensive crystal chandeliers~MATTERS NOT! Remember this if you plan to sell too~another post-another post!! ;-))

10. Consider the needs of yourself and your family. How many kids, pets? HOW MUCH STUFF? Are you downsizing or upsizing? Large yard? NO yard? GARAGE? Carport? How many baths? Do you want to be the 11 person family with one bath and three bedrooms??? HOW do you live~in the den, greatroom or livingroom or kitchen/den combo or WHAT? Features will matter when it comes to your family. . .My husband had grown quite accustomed to the NINE CAR~yeah, you read that right, 1500 sqare feet garage we moved from. When shopping, there were a couple of homes that were right for me without much less more than a one car bay situation. WE HAD to consider~where was the air compressor and wood shop and, and, and. . .GOING! We really needed and became blessed with a 3 car garage! Oh, it's smaller for sure, but think of HOW bad it would have been and the adjustment to no garage! Now you may want to make such changes...changing states and all that goes with THAT were enough for this family! Pets need space as do kids! But I hate yard work, not because I dislike gorgeous yards, but because of the work they take to maintain them. We are busy~I guess doing other things and since the yard is not my priority, I prefer very very small and what I do have, often I will make as much of a rock garden as possible! Laugh if you want to! But somebody had to cut all that grass~and with little time for THAT, it is't pretty~so we make a choice about yard size...We also came from tornado country without a basement, and having lived through the F5 of my life, I will if possible always have a basement. I've got one now! Praise God!

I hope I've given you some things to consider when looking to purchase a new home. This is an incredible time, especially if you are credit worthy and a first time home buyer. With the 8K stimulus, WOW~that makes DEALS EVEN BETTER!

Taking care of my money, so it stays!

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