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Buying a House? 4 Things to Take Off Your Must-Have List Now

1. Create a homebuying wish list

You probably have your picture-perfect house in mind — but what parts of that vision are non-negotiable? You’ll need to get clear on your list of “needs” versus “wants.”

Consider the following:

  • Which part of town you want to live in
  • What price range do you want to stay in
  • The home’s school district
  • Whether you want a new home or an older home
  • Which type of house you want (e.g., one-story, two-story, townhouse, mobile home)
  • Which style of home (e.g., contemporary, traditional, southwestern, colonial)
  • Whether you’d be willing to make renovations, and if so, what your budget is for repairs
  • Transportation needs (buses, trains, or distance from work)
  • Special needs, such as wheelchair access
  • The lot and yard size
  • How many bedrooms do you need?
  • How many bathrooms do you need?
  • The home’s size
  • Home systems (like A/C, security systems)
  • The home’s age
  • Whether you want a garage
  • Whether you want a fenced yard
  • Whether you want a home office
  • Whether you want to live in a neighborhood with a homeowners association

Your list may include swimming pools, home theater rooms, or a fireplace. What you can’t live without is totally up to you — the important thing is to decide your priorities so you can confidently rule out potential homes when you begin shopping.

2. Find a real estate agent

A competent real estate agent could mean the difference between getting the home you desire and settling for less. The agent’s job is to assist you find a home at the best price by monitoring market circumstances, creating competitive offers, and bargaining until the offer is accepted.
The appropriate agent for you depends on three factors:

  • Local market expertise. Top agents are familiar with the neighborhoods you’re interested in and can provide timely and reliable information on anything from school trends and local homeowners’ association standards to current pricing trends.
  • Personalized touch. Buying a home is an emotional and often difficult process, and you don’t want to spend full weekends house-looking with someone you don’t get along with. If you don’t trust — or even like — the agent you’re working with, you should go on to find a better match.
  • Communication skills. The homebuying process comprises numerous legal and real estate jargon and certain dates that must be met along the route. Set clear expectations for your chosen contact mode and frequency of contact, and keep your representative to them.

3. Do an in-person neighborhood ‘checkup’

After looking at various houses with your real estate agent, plan a journey on your own to explore the neighborhood and nearby places. You want to acquire a sense of the place at different times of the day and night.
Drive about and assess each home’s closeness to supermarkets, pharmacies, parks, schools, and restaurants. If you don’t live in the area, get a local newspaper. Starting a conversation with a neighbor may reveal information that seals the deal or raise warning flags.
If you are concerned about safety, you can easily conduct additional research. For example, you can look at local crime statistics and neighborhood watch reports.

4. Keep an open mind about for-sale-by-owner deals

If you find a “for sale by owner” sign in a location you like, phone the owner to see what price they are asking. If it is competitive with other homes for sale in the region, owner financing may be an option for getting your ideal home at a reasonable price. property sellers frequently use this option to avoid paying real estate commissions, which can save you money on a property purchase.

However, be aware that you will be on your own when negotiating the price and closing charges with the seller. Also, don’t skimp on title insurance; it will prevent you from purchasing a home with judgments, tax liens, or other ownership difficulties that could pose serious problems later.

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