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Insider Tips on Finding the Best Home for You

8. Finding the Best Homes for Sale

Getting Lucky

Finding the best homes for sale relies heavily on your ability to be lucky.

When I say “lucky”, I am using the Seneca’s definition “luck is what happens when preparedness meets opportunity”.

Being prepared means that you’re doing what you’re doing now, educating yourself about the home buying process.

When you approach buying a home with the full amount of research and respect that it deserves, you become an empowered homebuyer.

As an empowered homebuyer, you have a considerable competitive advantage over a buyer that does not have your confidence and acumen.

Managing Expectations

There are many things that can influence the timelines associated with buy the home buying process from beginning to end.

30-120 days is not an unusual amount of time for a new home buyer to find the right home and start making serious and competitive offers.

Since market conditions can change very quickly, the sooner you enter the process, the better prepared you’ll be when market conditions fall into place for you and your home.

Home Buyers that search for homes longer than 60-90 days are probably either not with the right Home Buyer Team or slowly taking their time, looking purposely for specific areas or amenities.

Searching for Homes for Sale Online and On Mobile

The best way to search homes for sale online is to get direct access to the MLS from your Real Estate Agent.

You can expect that a full time Real Estate Agent today will have online and mobile resources that they can provide or suggest to make your search more accurate and increase the communication of your needs and wants to your home buying team.

Communicate often with your Real Estate Agent about what you like and do not like about the listings that they are sending you.  This will help to expand or restrict your search to only the homes that meet your minimum “needs” test.

Stalking the Neighborhood

I know it sounds bad, but stalking the neighborhoods is the best way to really get the flavor of a new community.  Drive by during the day, in the afternoon, in the evening (listen for garage bands!).

Do business in the community.  Go to the grocery, clothing and entertainment spots in the community – make sure you’re close to a good movie theater!

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Call 911

Ok, not really, don’t call 911.  You can, however, find out if anyone else has in your new neighborhood.  You also have the right to go to the Police Station (or online) and request a crime blotter for the community over a period of time.  This will tell you about calls to the Police and occurrences that happened over this time period, in that community.

That’s valuable information.

You can request this same report from the local Fire Department as well.

Consider Other Areas

If you experience too much competition, or home prices drifting just out of affordable reach, you should keep your options open to consider other areas.

This is where an experienced, full-time real estate agent can be invaluable.  Especially if you’re new to the area, your trusted agent can help explore similar neighborhoods in neighboring cities or Counties.

Visit the County Government Buildings

I would also recommend that you visit the County planner and building department to see if any construction or major projects are being considered for your community.

If a home that you have an interest in has “extra” rooms, or a converted patio or garage, the building department is where you can research to see if permits were taken out.  If the addition is permitted, it may be used in the square footage of the home.

If an addition or space is not permitted, it is not considered livable space.  This is important if the seller is counting the unpermitted areas when advertising the square footage of the home.

You might want to know if a public park or major superstore is opening next door in the next few years.  That’s free research that only requires your time.

Make Offers as a Pre-Approved Homebuyer

Once you are pre-approved or approved for your financing, that gives you a significant competitive advantage over any buyers that are not as secure a position.

The greatest advantage you have when you trust your loan officer, is you have armed yourself with the ability to confidently be more flexible in a competitive situation.

Know Your Limits

Most homebuyers will have three limits to pay attention to.

The first limit is how much you want to pay each month including taxes, insurance, mortgage insurance and HOA dues if necessary.

It’s a good idea to speak to your tax planner to discuss the tax benefits of homeownership so you can compare apples to apples.  Comparing rent to a mortgage payment is not a fair game.

Related Reading: The Four Pillars of Homeownership – VIDEO

The second limit is your qualifying limit.  It is not unusual for you to qualify for a much higher payment than you think you want before actually entering the market.

You will just have to trust me when I tell you that your initial “want to pay” limit will be tested, and tested hard if you’re buying in a competitive market.  Every market is different, so your experience may vary.

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In a competitive situation, it’s good to have had a conversation with a tax preparer so that you know the net tax benefit of whatever choice you make.

The third limit is any loan limit restriction dictated by the loan program you are using, FHA for instance.  If you hit a loan limit, and your qualifying limit is higher than that, you have to be careful switching from one loan type to another.

Your debt to income ratios are much more restrictive for conventional financing than what is allowed for FHA.  Jumbo financing is even more restrictive than conventional.  Know your limits.

Now You’re Prepared

You’ve done your homework, you’ve hired the right homebuyer team, you know your numbers, you’re empowered.  Seriously, that’s all you could ask for.

We have come full circle, and you are fully prepared.  Being prepared means that you’re doing what you just did, educating yourself about the home buying process.

When you approach buying a home with the full amount of research and respect that it deserves, you become an empowered homebuyer, and you make more informed decisions.

As an empowered homebuyer, you have a considerable competitive advantage over a buyer that does not have your confidence and acumen.


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