Finding Your Home
Finding a Real Estate Agent
At one time, the only ways to search for homes were checking the classified section of your local newspaper, contacting a real estate company or driving around your community in search of “For Sale” signs. Today’s homebuyers have more options. The internet is full of ways to browse, schedule viewings and learn detailed specifications of homes near you. However, you may still find that it’s worth working with an agent.
Like all professions, some agents are better than others, but many people agree that a good agent makes the buying process much easier. Your agent can find available homes for you, arrange showings and help you write an offer. Best of all, in most cases, the seller pays your agent, not you.
How can I be sure that I’m working with the right agent?
- Ask for referrals: Use your social network to find a reputable, personable agent with knowledge and experience. Many of your friends and relatives have probably bought and sold their homes through real estate agents. Make some phone calls, and get the names of the agents they had a good experience with.
- Comparison shop: Talk to several prospective real estate agents and ask questions about the areas and types of homes you are interested in. Do they seem knowledgeable? Is their personal style a good fit with your own?
- Avoid using the seller’s real estate agent: Many people choose the real estate agent selling the house they want to put an offer on. This is usually not a good idea. Because the real estate agent is working for you and the seller, he or she is not really able to be an advocate for you. It’s important to have someone on your side.
Determining What You Want
Your housing search will be more efficient and focused if you think beforehand about what you want. Some prospective home buyers might call this the “fun part,” when they can be vocal and deliberate about the specifications that make their “dream home.”
What primary considerations should I make while searching for a home?
- Price: This is an all-important consideration. A wish list of amenities, bells and whistles will only come to life if your budget can support it. Price is the factor around which all compromises and limitations are determined, so give yourself a reality check.
- Size: It’s important to decide how much space you need, like a desirable number of bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as overall square footage. You might also prefer to buy a single-family property instead of a condo, or vice versa.
- Location: If you have children, finding the best school district might be a priority. Also determine how much noise you can tolerate, and neighborhood safety statistics that will make you feel secure at home
What secondary considerations are worth making in my search?
- Renovation need and potential: You might pay slightly more for a home that is “turnkey” or “move-in ready,” but a less expensive home in need of renovations might cost less in the long run if your home improvements come in under budget. Decide which resources (time, manpower and most importantly, money) you can dedicate to updating a kitchen or restoring hardwood floors. You’ll also want to find out whether unpermitted work was done for repairs or if there are renovations that require a permit.
- Amenities and special features: Perhaps you’d like to have a spare room to convert into a home office but don’t necessarily need one. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of owning a pool but its absence isn’t a deal breaker. A two-car garage would be great but you could make do with space for one car. These are bonus features that could help sell you on a property that meets your primary considerations and bring you closer to that “dream home” ideal.
Most buyers’ budgets are limited, so you may not be able to get everything you want. Think about what is most important. You may not be able to get a hot tub and screened-in porch, but if you have three children, you probably do not want a one-bedroom, one-bathroom house.
The Home Search
If you use a real estate agent, he or she can find available houses for you by looking them up on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). You can also drive around the neighborhoods you are interested in and look for “For Sale” signs. Then, your real estate agent can either bring you to open houses for the properties or arrange showings at another time. Taking pictures and filling out a checklist can help you remember the features of each house.
Before making an offer, try to visit the home more than once, during different times of the day. This way you will know if, for example, your neighbors are loud at night or the traffic is very heavy during the day. If you see any neighbors outside, ask them how they like neighborhood. Your real estate agent should have information on the neighborhood as well.
Making an offer
How is an offer determined and what are its standard components?
Once you find the house you want to purchase, your real estate agent will prepare an offer. Offers typically have at least three components: the purchase price, the closing date, and how long the offer is good for. To determine an appropriate offering price, your agent will probably look at comps – similar houses that have sold in the neighborhood.
Other considerations are how long the house has been on the market and whether there are other buyers making a competing offer. In a slow housing market, it is common to offer less than the asking price. Conversely, in a hot market, where it is not unusual for there to be multiple offers on one house, it is common to offer more than the asking price.
What are additional components like concessions, inclusions and contingencies?
- Seller concessions are costs that the seller pays for the buyer, which reduce the amount of money the seller receives. Typical concessions include cash back for repairs or renovations.
- Inclusions refer to what stays in the house. If you want the appliances, blinds, chandeliers or anything else, make sure to put it in the offer.
- Contingencies are conditions that must be met in order for the sale to go through. A home inspection, financing and an appraisal are common contingencies.
How is an offer submitted and what are the costs?
Once the offer is written, your agent will present it to the seller. Along with the offer, it is customary to give the seller earnest money, also called a good faith deposit. Usually the amount is between 1 and 3 percent of the offered purchase price, but this can vary from place to place. This money is part of the down payment and shows the seller that you are serious about purchasing the house. The money should go in an escrow account, not given directly to the seller.
How does a buyer proceed after the offer has been submitted?
The seller will accept, counter, or reject the offer.
If the seller accepts the offer, the house is taken off the market, and you are under contract. The only way to legally cancel the contract is if a contingency is not met. Otherwise, if you walk away from the house, you lose your earnest money deposit. When sellers counter, usually it is with a higher purchase price, but they can also counter on the closing date, concessions, inclusions and contingencies. You can accept the counter or respond with your own counter.
If you do not get the first house you put an offer on, try not to get discouraged. There are likely many houses out there that meet your needs.
Finding a home that’s right to buy can be a challenge, but the first step is ensuring your financial fitness. At Bethpage Federal Credit Union, we’ve helped our customers secure mortgages, improve their financial standing and navigate the process of buying a home. Visit our mortgage center today to ask a question, meet our team and begin the application process.