Home Buying Process – Step Two
This is the second in a series on the home buying process.
You’ve chosen an agent, secured your financing, and determined your housing needs — now comes the fun part! House hunting is the second step in the home buying process, and though it may seem as though there’s not much to it, there is a strategy to it. Finding the perfect house takes time and patience, and following a few basic tips can make sure you find the right home within your budget.
Do Your Research
Naturally, most home buyers begin their search online. In fact, 95 percent of buyers used online tools to find their home, according to the National Association of Realtors. There are numerous real estate sites out there, including Lyon Real Estate, which allows you to search by property type, price, size, city, and much more. Lyon Real Estate’s search function taps into homes for sale throughout the greater Sacramento area (and beyond!), so you have an extensive pool from which to choose.
Your agent can also help you search for the perfect home. Agents are often aware of listings before they hit the market, so you can be first in line to view a new listing. Agents have unparalleled knowledge of neighborhoods, trends, and current market prices and can help you find the best home within your budget.
When starting your search, be sure to keep it relatively broad. Think of the search as a funnel: at the top, or beginning, keep all your options open. Then, as you get a better idea of exactly what you’re looking for, you narrow down your search. There may be features you may not have considered, locations you were unfamiliar with or options that weren’t even on your radar when you began your search. Keeping an open mind can help you in the long run. For example, if you’re having trouble finding a home with a pool within your budget, and instead find a less expensive home that’s perfect in every way except a pool (but with plenty of room to add a pool later), you would have missed what would otherwise be the perfect home.
Make a List of Priorities
When searching for a home, it can be helpful to make a list of priorities. For some, it may be location —within a certain school district or close to work, for example. For others, it may be space — larger homes on bigger lots. It’s important to remember that there’s really no perfect home (unless you have an unlimited budget, of course). In almost all cases, buyers will have to compromise. For example, they may realize a large home in their favorite neighborhood is simply out of their budget. Or, they may find that a home with all the bells and whistles may require a longer commute. It’s important to be aware of the give-and-take involved in home buying.
Another tip when searching for a home is to consider your long-term goals. The general rule of thumb is to look at a minimum of five years down the road. Do you plan on starting a family? If so, you may want to consider a home larger than you think you need. Does your job require you to travel frequently? You may want to consider a home with minimal maintenance. Is there a possibility you may be caring for an aging relative? It may be a good idea to look for homes with ADUs or in-law quarters.
Consider the Neighborhood
Once you have a solid handle on your priorities with regards to the home itself, it’s time to consider where exactly you’d like to live. The greater Sacramento area has every type of neighborhood imaginable, from the family-friendly suburbs to the hip, urban core. Where you start your search depends on your individual lifestyle. Do you like to be close to the action? Do you want easy access to outdoor recreation? Do you value privacy and exclusivity? Other things to consider include the following:
- Availability of parks and recreation centers
- Crime statistics and general safety
- Proximity to schools
- Walkability and bike scores
- Noise levels
- Traffic patterns
Visiting several neighborhoods to get an idea of the vibe is also a good idea. Try to go during different times of day and different days of the week. Are people out walking their dogs or keeping to themselves inside? Are yards kept up or do properties need a bit of TLC? These factors all contribute to the decision-making process.
Attend Open Houses & Showings
Once you’ve got a firm handle on the “what” and “where” of buying a home, it’s time to go see some in person! Talk to your agent about scheduling showings of your top picks, and don’t be afraid to ask to see multiple properties — after all, shopping around can help you narrow down your options and get you the best deal. If possible, ask your agent to attend the open house with you. Agents see a lot of homes and know which questions to ask and what to look out for.
Open houses and showings can provide insight into a home that you would otherwise miss on an internet listing. A picture is worth a thousand words, but these days, pictures can also be manipulated to downplay a home’s faults. Seeing a property in person can give you a clear picture of both the good and the bad. Some things to look for during an open house or showing include the following:
- Smells. Too many fragrant candles can sometimes mean the owner is trying to mask unwanted smells, like mold or mildew. This can be a sign of more serious problems beneath the surface. The same goes for cigarette smoke and pet damage, both of which require extra work to repair.
- Leaky faucets. Sure, leaky faucets aren’t necessarily a deal breaker — they are usually quick and easy fixes. But they can be signs that the owner didn’t maintain the home properly over the years. Other things to look for are broken lights and dead landscaping, which may lead buyers to wonder if more serious home systems weren’t maintained.
- Storage. It’s perfectly acceptable to open cabinets and drawers when viewing a home. Storage is important to nearly every home buyer, and it’s important to know just how much space you’ll have. If the closets and cupboards are chock full of disorganized stuff, it may be a sign that the home doesn’t have enough storage.
- Cracks. Nearly all homes, especially older homes, have hairline fractures here and there. But larger cracks, particularly near windows and doors, can signify more serious foundation issues. Check to make sure windows open and close properly and doors sit properly within their frames.
Don’t Ignore Flaws
The best strategy to choose a home is to focus on those with “good bones.” Sure, the wallpaper may be ugly, the paint hideous, and the light fixtures haven’t been updated since the ’70s. But if a home is structurally sound, it’s almost always a great investment. Some of the things to look for include the following:
- A solid foundation
- An intact roof
- Quality materials
- A well-designed floor plan
- Up-to-date electrical and plumbing systems
Fixer-uppers may seem like a budget-friendly alternative to a move-in-ready house, but only if you have the money, skills and time for repairs. Many buyers realize too late that the required updates are just too costly or far above their DIY skill level (as comedically depicted in The Money Pit). Still others don’t realize the impact that construction will have on their lives.
That said, small updates and repairs are normal and expected when buying a home. Paint, new floors, updated hardware and light fixtures not only bring new life to a home, they also allow you to make it your own.
Once you’ve found the home of your dreams, it’s time to make an offer! In our next post, we’ll cover the ins and outs of making an offer, negotiations, and closing.