House hunting can be tough. You may spend endless weeks or even months searching for that perfect home you are envisioning. When you do find it, your first impulse might be to jump right in and sign on the dotted line. After all, you don’t want to lose out to another buyer. However, before you take that plunge, here are 14 important things to do in order to ensure your dream home doesn’t turn into the stuff of nightmares.
1. Research the Neighborhood
Find out all you can about your new neighborhood online. Search government websites, tourism agencies, and any community forums or blogs. These places will let you know what’s going on in the community, what development is planned, and if any festivals or celebrations are in the works.
You’ll also want to check crime reports before moving in. Try the local police station for crime statistics, or try your search online. There are websites, such as CrimeReports, where you can find specific information linked to an address or a ZIP code.
Before you agree to a mortgage loan, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into. Do you want a fixed rate or adjustable rate loan? What will your monthly payment amount be? Do you want it for 15 or 30 years? Are there any penalty fees, such as for early repayment? What will your closing costs be? Make sure you understand all these points before signing.
3. Take a Test Drive
Sure, traffic may be light on the weekends when you’re visiting the home, but what will your workday commute be like? In order to avoid any unpleasant surprises, take a drive during rush hour to see exactly how much traffic there is and how long your commute will be.
Be sure to check and see if your home is located in a good school district. You can check school district performance at GreatSchools. A school district that consistently performs well will help your home retain its value, so it’s important to look into this whether you have children or not.
5. Get It in Writing
Make sure your real estate agent includes everything that’s necessary in your offer – your price, finance terms, if you want the seller to assist with closing costs, a home-inspection contingency, what appliances will stay, closing date, etc. Read your offer carefully, and be sure to read anything you receive from the seller just as carefully before signing anything.
6. Get a Home Inspection
It’s vital to schedule a home inspection before agreeing to purchase a home. You need to know if the house is structurally sound, if any repairs are required and how much they would cost. You can request that the seller pay for any necessary repairs, in whole or in part.
If the home has a well, make sure the water has been tested. You should also check the tap water quality to see if you would need to put in a water purification system if you moved in.
7. Get Full Disclosure
Demand full disclosure from the sellers on any issues the home may have had. Were any major repairs ever required? Is there a history of termites? Have there been issues with water damage or mold? If the home was built before 1978, was lead-based paint used? Is the home at risk for natural disasters, like flooding, earthquakes or tornadoes? Has anyone died in the house or were any crimes committed there? These are all things you are entitled to know.
8. Visit at Different Times
Be sure to visit the house on weekends, weekdays and weeknights in order to see how quiet or noisy the neighborhood is. Are there loud weekend parties at the house next door? Does a train a few miles away honk their horn every Saturday morning when passing? It’s better to know these things in advance and avoid any unpleasant surprises.
Keep in mind that your mortgage will include much more than just your principal and interest payment. You will also need to figure in your tax and insurance payments. If you must join a homeowner association, know the fees. Also, don’t forget to include your utility bills to your list of monthly expenses. It all adds up.
10. Check Out Amenities
Research amenities that are near your new home, such as parks, pools and golf courses. Will you be able to walk there? How long will you have to drive? It would be nice to know if a playground is nearby if you have children, or if the library is a mere five-minute drive away.
This may not be something you’d usually think about, but it can be important, especially if you love having the sun wake you up in the mornings. Be sure to have windows facing east and west so you can have natural light the majority of the day.
12. Be Neighborly
Talk to neighbors to get a good feel for the neighborhood in general and the people you’ll be living near in particular. They can clue you in on fun events, like neighborhood garage sales, or on any problem neighbors, like the grumpy old lady who doesn’t like kids. (This is also a great time to ask about that train!)
13. Figure in the Cost of Furniture
If you’re moving from a tiny apartment to a large, single-family home, you will need to buy furniture. If you haven’t been shopping lately, you may be in for a rude surprise when you see those price tags. Try visiting flea markets and garage sales, or try a website like Freecycle, where people go to unload items they no longer want for free.
14. Consider Your Future
Buying a home is a huge investment, and you’ll likely want to stay put for a while. Make sure the house will fit your future needs, whether you plan to have children, retire or face any other major life changes. Make sure the house works for you now and later.
With this information at hand, you should be able to find the perfect house, in a great neighborhood, for you.
Featured photo credit: Charles L via unsplash.com
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