As millennials and other first-time homebuyers are looking to enter the market, now that home prices are settling down from the recent pandemic surge, here are some tips from realtors that every homebuyer should follow.
Stigmatized properties are where scary events like murders or suicides have occurred. In Virginia, homeowners are not required to disclose this information. You can ask, and the homeowner should be forthcoming if he knows, but he can't be sued if you find out later that something like this occurred in a house you've bought. Do a google search on the property address to see if anything comes up in the news. You may find something that is a dealbreaker for you, like drug sales, murder, or "several break-ins."
Think twice about buying a home near a school or church. There is a lot of activity associated with these two places. Your driveway could be blocked by parents picking up children throughout the day, or navigating down your street between parked cars may be difficult during services or other events. Check out your street on Sundays during services and on weekdays during morning drop-off and afternoon pickup times to see if both foot and vehicle traffic could be an issue for you.
Virginia is a caveat emptor (buyer beware) state. This means the responsibility for conducting a thorough inspection of the property being considered for purchase is on the buyer. So be sure to check local police records as well as sex offender lists for the area.
If you are looking for a nice, peaceful neighborhood, visit it at different times during the day to check for sound levels. Park with the engine turned off and the windows open to see if commuter traffic, construction noises, or the drone of leaf blowers stand out. If the home is near a park, weekend visits will show if recreational activities nearby (like soccer games with screaming kids and parents) will intrude on the peace and quiet being sought.
Some historic homes may have graveyards or graves on the property. In Virginia, homeowners of these properties are required to allow ingress and egress (with reasonable notice) to the burial sites for family members or descendants of those buried there, as well as anyone seeking genealogy research. Fences, walls, or other structures that prevent ingress or egress are not allowed.
Realtors are an excellent source for affordable and reliable handypersons, electricians, roofers, plumbers, or any other home-related services.
Consider what a home can be, not what it is when touring it. Consider the house's footprint first and whether it meets your needs – knowing that some walls can be knocked down or put up. Staging, clutter, and even cleanliness can all be changed. Location and layout are what really matter.
Buy an OK house in a good neighborhood, not a fancy house in a not-so-desirable location, or even the fanciest house in the nicest neighborhood. "It's better to have your home's value elevated by the neighborhood than have it weighed down by it."
See what the commute to school, work, or church will be during the times you'd typically be traveling those routes. A half-hour travel time in the middle of the day could turn into a two-hour drive in rush hour.
Be wary of comments in online listings. Trolls will make remarks on the location, flooding issues, crime issues, etc., and they have never visited the house or area before. Check flood maps, call local police precincts, and walk around the neighborhood to talk to other residents you see to get their insights.
"Build your own dream home" or "a great fixer-upper" are terms that may be telling you that the land is more valuable than the house itself. It is better to skip these kinds of homes as their issues are often beyond fixing, such as mold, hoarder/sanitary issues, or plumbing damage.
Bring a golf ball or marble with you. Why? This is an easy way to see if there are foundation issues. Kitchen floors are a great place to put down the golf ball and see if it rolls. If it does, go to the next listing. You don't want to live in a funhouse with possible significant repair issues in your future.
Know where your money is and keep it there at least six months prior to applying for a loan. Don't change any credit statuses, pay all of your bills on time, and try to lower your debt to credit ratio. Then, determine the maximum you can pay for a home, which should never exceed 50% of your net income (after taxes and retirement savings contributions). Even if your lender allows it, this amount is your cap.
Ask the realtor about "sleeper costs." These are payments like real estate taxes, utilities, homeowner association fees, and average annual maintenance costs.
Get the ages of things like the water heater, washer/dryer, refrigerator, roof, exterior painting, septic, and irrigation systems. Knowing if something will need to be replaced or repaired because it is reaching the end of its average life span will help you prepare and keep you from getting gauged should it break down.
Measure your furniture before you start touring prospective homes. Will your sectional sofa fit? Is there a wall large enough for your 60" TV? Bring along a tape measure and these measurements to make sure. Staging experts can make a room feel larger by using smaller-scale furniture, so don't be fooled into thinking your California king bed will fit into a bedroom that is staged with a queen.
You can prevent buyer's remorse if you follow these tips before signing on the dotted line. Your patience and diligence will pay off in the long run.
Sources: Moghul law, Virginia Realtor Association, BuzzNews