Owning your own home is a rush like no other. When you finally get those keys in your hand and step through the door of “your house” at last, there’s a sense of pride of ownership, a feeling of security, and plenty of excitement about the years to come. However, many first time homebuyers don’t think of ten very crucial factors when they buy their first home – especially if they’ve failed to consult with a professional Florida real estate agent.
- What’s the long term plan? Sure, the house you are looking at might be perfect for right now – but what happens if your family expands, your commute changes, or your elderly parents suddenly need a place to stay where they can be observed? Sure, this might be your forever home, but it’s only realistic to think of every potential future scenario and have an exit plan. Think about the trends you see over the past decade or so, and where the neighborhood is heading – school district, public transport, access to shopping and more can all affect how salable this house may be in the future.
- Priorities need to be considered carefully. That home with the deluxe chef’s kitchen may have you drooling in anticipation – but are you really willing to settle for just one bathroom and no basement? Make a checklist of your must-haves, your would-like-to-haves, your deal breakers and your dream ideals. Shuffle them in order of importance, slide the deal breakers off to one side, and assign points to other items to allow for trade-offs – for example, maybe a 1 ½ bath will suit if the master bath has both a tub and a shower.
- Budgeting is more than the house sale price. All of the expenses associated with home-ownership must be figured in for at least the first year- you won’t have a landlord to step in if the AC unit burns out or the roof needs repair. Besides home repairs and maintenance, figure in the cost of your commute, ask the utility company for a basic estimate of monthly bills based on other similar houses in the area, and don’t forget insurance and property taxes if they aren’t rolled into the house cost. If the assessed value were to change, your taxes could increase.
- Get pre-qualified. You may think your credit is fine, but it’s embarrassing and frustrating to find the perfect home and then get turned down by a bank. Make the bank your first stop, not an afterthought, and ensure you are pre-qualified before you start your home hunt. This has the added advantage of letting you know exactly what your budget is and how much of a down payment you will need come signing day.
- Check out the HOA. If you think you might want to rent out your home at a later date, run a home business, or any other possible deviation from simply living in the home, ask your local Home Owners Association for a copy of their bylaws / contract. If anything exists that might prohibit your future plans, it’s better to know now rather than later.
- Look into grants and other sources of funding. A dedicated Florida real estate agent will be prepared to give you a list of potential resources, but do some of your own research and keep in mind that your profession might put you in the running for specific grants available to teachers, farmers, pastors, and so on. Never assume you don’t qualify based on income or family size – you’ll be surprised at how many grants are out there for first time home-buyers.
- Read the contract, then read it again. Get someone to explain the parts you don’t understand. Your new house is probably the largest purchase you will ever make, so understanding what you are in for is crucial. Your mortgage broker and your real estate agent are your first line of defense against being taken advantage of or blindsided.
- Look past the view and the staging. A great view can be wrecked in a few years by additional construction in the area, so don’t count on that mountain valley being visible forever. Also consider zoning around you – having a gun range go up in your backyard not only makes your home unpleasant to live in, but trashes chances of being able to sell it to someone else. Also, if a house has clearly been staged, look deeper – wall plugs may not be where they are expected based on furniture layout, and those gorgeous rugs could be hiding damaged flooring.
- Consider the neighborhood demographics. Maybe you are young and single or newlywed now – but if the neighborhood is full of young people you could end up being the only couple on the block with kids in a few years. Alternately, maybe the area has a lot of rental houses – and it only takes one bad landlord or unruly renter to ruin an entire block.
- Don’t skip inspection. Better yet, have two or three done. You need to know everything about your new house before you commit. Finding out about a terrible insect infestation or a destroyed foundation after the fact can be devastating.
- BONUS TIP: Use a Florida real estate agent. Going into home-buying unrepresented is a good way to find yourself over-committed and hoodwinked. Real estate agents are trained to look at every possible side and dig up anything that could help or hurt the sale – your agent will be on your side throughout the transaction to ensure you get what you pay for.
As a first time homebuyer, you should get to fully experience the joys of real estate hunting – just make sure you have thought ahead and planned for all contingencies as well as making sure you are represented by a professional. For more tips from the pro’s, follow the Official Real Estate Agent Directory Blog.