So you want to buy a home in the Houston area. Besides the pride of ownership and sense of belonging to your community, there are also tangible, financial, and tax benefits to home ownership. Like your rent payments, interest rates will most likely trend upward. With a fixed-rate mortgage, you can essentially lock in your housing costs for as long as you own the home. Homeownership is also a form of forced savings, allowing you to build equity and net worth. And while there are no guarantees, real estate has historically been a very solid investment. If you decide to take the plunge, here is my advice:
1. Use a Realtor Yes, I am a Realtor, but that's not the only reason I recommend it. In almost every transaction in Texas, the agent fees are paid at the closing table by the seller. So, if you are the buyer, you are getting a wealth of knowledge and experience, free of charge! The purchase of a home is probably the largest financial transaction you will ever be involved in. Why would you ever dream of making such a leap without professional advice and guidance. An experienced Realtor knows the questions to ask and the things to look for. A Realtor will have access to valuable pricing information (that you cannot get on Zillow) and should also have a vetted list of home inspectors, contractors and lenders to share with you. As an agent, I feel my role is advisor versus salesperson. My role is to facilitate, look out for your best interests and make sure you are making well-informed decisions.
2. Make a list, but be flexible Write down the features that you want in a new home. Location, bedroom count, school district, fireplace, pool — anything you can think of. Then differentiate between features you need and features you want. After you begin to view homes in person, revisit your list.
3. Talk to a mortgage lender Your Realtor should be able to give you a few reputable names. Don't start looking at your dream homes, then realize they are priced about $100,000 more than you can afford. Keep in mind that, in addition to the down payment, you will have closing costs to pay both before and at the time of purchase. These fees include things like property appraisal, inspection, home owners insurance, attorney fees, etc.
4. Train your eyes to see what matters Unless you are purchasing a furnished home (which almost never happens), it comes empty. Don't let great interior design, awesome artwork or the smell of fresh baked cookies distract you — they are not included. After closing, the home will be empty when you take possession. What you should pay attention to: neighborhood, school district, room sizes, floor plans, and kitchen and bath upgrades. These are the things you are purchasing. Designing, furnishing, and making the home fit your style is the fun part and you'll have plenty of time for that later.
5. Trust your instincts Once you feel comfortable with your local market, have pre-qualified for a home loan with a reputable lender, and you have seen enough homes to establish a baseline, you are in a good position to start making offers. If a home seems to be everything you are looking for, it probably is. Don't second guess yourself. The best and most successful offers are ones that can be backed up with facts and data. Most of the time, homes sell for the price they are worth when compared to recent sales in the building or neighborhood. A good Realtor will be able to run "comps" - recently closed listings for nearby homes - so you can feel comfortable that you are making a competitive, but not overpriced, offer.
6. Be ready to strike You see a great property, but decide not to make an offer because you hope there might be something even better coming. Meanwhile, another buyer purchases the home and that's when you realize how great it was. But……
7. Don't obsess over the one that got away It wasn't meant to be. That was someone else's home and yours is coming soon. Again, buying a home is a process and even though watching one get away can be a huge disappointment, there is always another great home out there.
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