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Tips for House Hunters

Buying a home can be an emotional process and although you can't completely remove the emotions involved in purchasing a new home it is important to keep your goals in perspective. We sometimes want what we can't have and often aim too high straining our purse strings. Identify and write down what you need and then when you find the house that meets your needs write down what the property  has for features you want.

1. Identify what you need: Why are you moving to begin with? Do you need a shorter commute, more bedrooms, and larger yard? Make a list of what you need and prioritize them.   If you moving to gain living space, then what living space, bedrooms, kitchen or baths?   Determine location, style, size, age and condition.

2. Which features would you like but don't have to have: If you have always wanted to have a fireplace but don't feel this is necessary to your purchase, when a property has everything you need plus a few things you want, this may be the house for you.

3. Buy the floor plan not the decor. Try to visualize the property without the owner's furnishings and decorating. Although this can help you to see the potential of a room it may be deceiving as to how you would actually use the room. Picture your furniture in the room and picture your family living there. Do you really need that 4th bedroom or in-ground pool? How does your family live now? What would enhance your lifestyle?

4. Consider the up keep. Sometimes the property that has it all can also consume all your free time to maintain it. Ask the owner for the costs involved with owning the property. You should be able to review fuel bills, electricity, property taxes, water and sewer bills, and service contracts such as landscaping, plowing or pool maintenance. Knowing the age of the systems and house structures such as the roof, septic and furnace is also helpful in determining the efficiency and possible replacement costs. Most sellers provide a property disclosure that answers numerous questions about what the seller knows about their property and gives some costs associated with it.

5. Hire a Home inspector: Even though the Seller's Disclosure is informative, the home inspection provides a wealth of knowledge. This is a hands on see it for yourself lesson on the property you are about to own. Home inspectors are trained to see and identify conditions and factual aspects, not the cosmetic or personal perceptions. Most home inspectors are a part of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Try to hire a home inspector who includes photos in their report. This can be especially helpful when negotiating repairs in order to identify to the seller where and what repair is needed.

6. View more then one property. In order to gain perspective and comparisons you need to see at least three properties. It's also a good idea to view one below, one above and one in the middle of your price range. You should also know what has recently sold in the neighborhood. You don't necessarily want be the most expensive house on the street that increases others value while your value stays flat.

7. Narrow down your search and investigate the property and the neighborhoods. Visit the property a second time and measure rooms and open closets and storage areas you may have missed the first time through. Drive by the property at different times of the day and check the commuting time.

8. Finding the right Realtor for you. Treat your meeting as a job interview and determine how knowledgeable the agent is and whether they will be providing the best service for you. Have they listened to what you requested? Did they take the time to address your needs and wants? What services can they offer?

9. Get pre-approved for financing before you start looking. Knowing your true price range can take the mystery out of looking. The seller will respect your offer and be more willing to negotiate knowing you have done your homework and are serious. Being pre-approved also takes the last minute stress of finding financing in order to submit an offer on the house you truly want. A general rule of thumb is your mortgage payment should be approximately one third of your gross income. If possible try to have 6 months of mortgage payments in a savings account for an emergency account.

10. Be prepared for your closing day. In the process of financing your lender should give you a Good Faith Estimate, itemizing the estimated closing costs, pre-paid items and down payment. Your total estimated mortgage payment should also be on this form. You should have a good idea of what funds will be required to close. The title company should be able to provide you with a HUD 1 Form 24 hours prior to closing.

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