Get Started: Trulia’s Home Buying Checklist

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Use this free home buying checklist to jump-start your real estate journey.

Buying a home can be bewildering and stressful. (We get it.) And we’re here for you every step of the way.

That’s why Trulia made a free, printable home buying checklist that breaks down the process and points you to the tips and tools you need to find your next place. Download the PDF here to get started on your real estate journey.

1. Gather financials

Before you start looking at homes for sale, get your financial house in order. First, request your credit report from all three bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Comb through each report to ensure it’s accurate — and fix any errors you spot!

Next, compile all the documents you may need to provide to a loan officer, including pay stubs, bank statements, and previous years’ tax returns.

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2. Research mortgages

Credit score and financial documents in hand, you’re ready to start researching options for your home loan.

Take advantage of online aids like Trulia’s mortgage tools. You can comparison shop from a diverse group of reputable lenders in all 50 states, ranging from small, regional providers to larger, well-known brands such as Citi and Bank of America. You’ll get a personalized quote and can read lender reviews and ratings to help gain insights into which lender is right for you.

One of the best things to tackle on this section of the home buying checklist? Find out if you qualify for a special loan, such as a Veterans Affairs (VA) loan or any special home buying financing options through state or federal programs.

Make sure you get that mortgage preapproval letter — it’ll make you a more competitive buyer.

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3. Explore neighborhoods

Now for the fun part of the home buying checklist! It’s time to explore neighborhoods.

Use Trulia’s local maps to investigate everything from commute times to walk score to school ratings and crime activity. Once you’ve honed in on the right neighborhood for your new place, be sure to check out bordering neighborhoods for even more options.

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4. Make a shopping list

As you get deeper into the process, it can be tough to keep your priorities straight. The more homes you see, the more you can lose track of what really matters.

Yes, that home has a gourmet kitchen with stainless steel appliances. But it’s $75,000 above the comfortable high in your price range — worth it?

That’s where this section of the home buying checklist comes into play: the home-shopping list. Take a few hours to hone in on exactly what constitutes a “must-have” item in your new home and then expand upon those points to determine what might constitute your “nice-to-have” and “dream features.”

For example, a well-lit kitchen with ample storage space and new-ish appliances might be in your must-have section, stainless steel appliances and granite countertops in your nice-to-have section, and a chef-style gas range and pot filler in your dream-features section.

Knowing what matters most will help you and your real estate agent navigate the home buying process more quickly — and with less confusion.

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5. Find an agent

As with any profession, there are amazing, miracle-working real estate agents … and there are some less than stellar ones. While it may seem like an easy to-do on the home buying checklist, finding a real estate agent is one of the most important steps in the process.

Read agent profiles, ratings, and reviews on Trulia’s agent directory to get a better sense of their qualifications and specialties. Ask family and friends for recommendations — and be sure to call your prospective agent’s references to get details on their experience.

But above all else, be sure to choose an agent who specializes in the type of home you’re seeking and is an expert on your desired neighborhood.

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6. Start house hunting!

You’re so close to the finish line! (Well, almost.) This is when the real action begins.

Now that you’ve completed all preliminary steps on the home buying checklist, you’re ready to start searching. Online listings are a great place to start — download the Trulia app and sign up to receive listing alerts that meet your unique search parameters. Visit open houses and work with your agent to schedule private showings.

Enjoy the house hunt, because your next steps — negotiating with sellers, home inspections, closing costs, and more — still lie ahead.

Posted by Trulia

 

 

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Buyer’s Perspective: What to Look For at an Open House

As with any big purchase, buying a home should be carefully planned and well thought out before any paperwork is signed. As a buyer, you should use an open house as an opportunity to ask a REALTOR® questions and imagine how the house you’re walking through could work as a home for you. You want to learn and know as much as you can about the house so you can make an informed decision when it’s time to buy.

What to Look For at an Open House

Here are four things to bring to an open house:

  • Tape measure
  • Smartphone/Camera
  • Notebook
  • Folder to organize spec sheets and flyers

During the Open House

When you attend an open house, start by examining the neighborhood. Check the overall condition of the houses around the open house – pay attention to upkeep in the surrounding area. In addition to checking out the area,  keep an eye out for any potential maintenance issues on the exterior of the open house including peeling paint, cracks, or missing roof shingles/tiles.

Remember that open houses are designed for the home to look great. Keep a critical eye as you enter the house and walk from room to room. Look for telltale signs of damage or poor construction including:

  • Uneven floors
  • Water stains on walls, floors, ceilings (especially in kitchen, baths and basement)
  • Mold
  • Cracks in the wall or ceilings
  • Musty smell
  • Condition of the roof

Look out all the windows and check out the view, because changing the view is something you can’t easily fix. Don’t be afraid to open cabinets and drawers. Examine storage areas and closets and consider if the storage is adequate for you and your family. Feel free to turn on the water in the kitchen and bathrooms to make sure everything is running smoothly.

Try to look beyond any furnishings and imagine yourself in the bare bones of the home. Many homes have been staged for viewing and appear to be in tip-top shape; it’s best if you can avoid being dazzled by furniture that will be removed before you move in.

Take notes, pictures and video as you move throughout the house. (Make sure you ask before you whip out a camera –– politeness still counts.) Documenting your open house tour will serve two purposes: 1) Provide a record of issues that might help you negotiate a better deal, and 2) Help refresh your memory when you are making your decision about which house to buy.

Consider asking these questions:

  • When was the house built? (Houses built pre-1978 used lead paint.)
  • What renovations were made and when?
  • When was the home listed? (The longer it’s been on the market, the more likely it is to be overpriced.)
  • If you have kids, ask about the local school district

Asking questions is key, but you should keep a bit of a poker face – in a competitive market, you want to keep your thoughts to yourself until it’s actually time to negotiate a deal. Keep your ears open for what other folks who walk through the home are saying. They may note things about the home or neighborhood that you hadn’t yet noticed.

After the Open House

If you are interested in a house you just viewed, set up an appointment to go back. This is one of the most important things you can do when you are shopping for a home. Give yourself some time to think things over and re-examine the pictures that you took.

Above all, trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t let the beauty of a perfectly staged home sway you into making a decision that isn’t right for you.

Article courtesy of realtor.com. See the original article here.

Make the Most of Your Home Inspection

A home inspection is a crucial element of any home purchase. Most buyers make their purchase offer contingent on the results of a home inspection, so they can decide not to buy if the inspection reveals significant structural problems.

Make the Most of Your Home Inspection

In a market with heavy competition for homes, buyers sometimes waive the home-inspection contingency to make their offer more appealing to the sellers. Even in those circumstances, it’s advisable to schedule an “information-only” inspection so you know what you’re buying.

Your home inspection can cost between $300 and $500, depending on where you live and the size of the property you’re having inspected. It’s worth spending a few hundred dollars to learn about the potential pitfalls of your future home.

What to expect from your home inspector

Your Realtor can recommend a home inspector, but you may also want to get recommendations from your lender and an attorney. Check out each home inspector’s credentials and reputation online and ask how many inspections each has completed. Most home inspectors will provide a written report after the inspection, but you should ask to see a sample report and how long it will take until you receive your report before choosing your inspector.

Prep for your inspection

You should always attend the inspection since this is your opportunity to learn about how to take care of your home.

Before your inspection look over the interior and exterior of the property for potential problems and areas you would like the inspector to review carefully, such as dark spots in the basement or underneath the bathroom sinks that could be water damage. Depending on the rules in your area, the seller may be required to disclose known defects in the home. Ask the seller’s agent, your buyer’s agent, and even the neighbors if they know about any issues with that house or others in the community — such as basements that flood.

Prepare a list of questions for the inspector and bring a notebook or tablet so you can take notes.

What to do during your inspection

While your inspector is looking for major issues such as a foundation problem, a leaky roof or mold, you should also use the hours of your inspection to learn how to take care of the home and its systems. Find out where the water shut-off valve is and ask for advice on how to maintain the property. Most home inspectors can tell you the life expectancy of your appliances so you can avoid being surprised when it’s time to replace the water heater. A good inspector will also point out small repairs you should make after you move into the property.

If the inspector finds a major problem with the home you intend to buy, you’ll need to consult with your Realtor and review your contract to decide how to handle the problem. Depending on what the inspection reveals, you may want to pull out of the deal or request that the sellers address the issue. You, the sellers and your agents can negotiate whether you want the sellers to fix a problem, give you a credit at settlement, or cash to make the repairs after you move in.

A good home inspection should do more than look for flaws, it should prepare you for homeownership.

This article was originally published by Michele Lerner on realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.

Buying Old Homes vs. New Construction

By Diane Tuman | Zillow.com

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Picture the home you’d like to live in. Chances are it bears a passing resemblance to the one you grew up in. A traditional “Leave It to Beaver” colonial or, perhaps, a brownstone townhouse straight out of “The Cosby Show.” Then again, maybe that is not what you are looking for. Maybe you’d prefer something newer, something with contemporary style, the latest amenities and a lot less maintenance. Or maybe you’re not ready for that whole “3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and 1.5 kids” thing at all, and a condominium or co-op fits the bill. When it comes to home buying, one size does not fit all. But it does pay to understand the differences when it comes to options between an older house and a new construction.

They Said It

“We wanted to live in one of those cool, funky neighborhoods, but we didn’t want to have to renovate. It just made more sense to get into a new place.” – Jeff W.

New House, New You?

Unless you are looking at a custom-built house on an individual lot, most new homes are built in developments with a unified style. These developments can be as small as a cul-de-sac, or as massive as a former farm field filled with dozens, if not hundreds of homes. Built to the latest codes and standards, they tend to be contemporary styled, energy efficient and often are more expensive than resale homes of a similar size. Sometimes, these types of developments can represent a savings over established developments with existing homes. Either way, the decision about whether to forgo an establish community is worth taking time to consider. Specific details vary, of course, but consider the pros and cons.

Pros and Cons of New Construction

PROS

  • Contemporary style
  • Some flexibility on design during construction phase
  • Cheaper to maintain (new appliances = fewer repairs)
  • Cheaper to operate (energy-efficient construction)
  • Extended warranties
  • Cohesive neighborhood (consistent layout, common areas)
  • Frequently have a homeowners association (helps protect resale value)
  • It’s brand-new!

CONS

  • Cookie-cutter design
  • Limited negotiating room on price
  • Potential for homeowners association dues
  • Frequently less character, or homogenous design
  • Frequently have a homeowners association (can put limits on how you use your property)

Of course, one home buyer’s pro (“No one has lived in it before us, so we won’t inherit any problems.”) can be another’s con (“No one has lived in it before us, so we have no way of knowing about any problems.”). Fortunately, there are ways to make sure the house you’re buying is really the house you want:

  • Check the builder’s track record. What else has the company built? Were previous projects completed on time, on budget and without bad blood between the builder and buyers?
  • Walk the streets. If you live nearby and previous stages of the development are occupied, ask the residents if the builder did quality work and lived up to contractual commitments.
  • Picture your home, not the model home. You can certainly have the granite counters, surround-sound home theater and jetted tub you saw in the model home, but they’re not included in the base price. You will pay extra for them.
  • Bring your own agent. If the builder has a real estate agent on site, the agent will be more than happy to help you. But, on-site agents work for the builders who hire them. Their best interests will be for the builder, not you.

Finally, consider the intangibles. Similarly styled homes attract like-minded buyers, and most developments are built with families in mind. Depending on your point of view, the consistency, conformity and kids playing in the street can be a blessing or a curse.

Existing /Resale Homes

They Said It

“We liked the charm factor of an older home — even if it meant living in a construction zone for months during our renovation.” – Leslie C.

Old = Charm?

With new developments springing up seemingly overnight, it’s obvious that new construction is popular. And yet, most people buy a resale home; i.e., a home that someone else has lived in but is now on the market again. Call them used if you must — existing home sounds better — but they’re the kind of houses that many people would like to call home.

Of course, there are pros and cons with existing homes, too. (That darling farmhouse with the big windows? It can be mighty drafty come winter.) Generally speaking, resale homes tend to be more available and less expensive than new homes, but they are also full of surprises.

The Pros and Cons of Resale Homes

Pros

  • Availability: More choices, more styles to choose from
  • Price may be more negotiable
  • Track record: Known issues will be revealed in disclosure documents
  • Established neighborhood
  • Could contain more charm and character

Cons

  • More maintenance: Things break or wear out
  • Less energy-efficient: More costly to operate
  • Dated design, older appliances and amenities
  • It’s been lived in!

As with new construction, there are ways to make buying a resale home less scary:

  • Have the home inspected. You do not want to find out the foundation is cracked or the roof needs to be replaced after you move in.
  • Consider a counter-offer. If the inspection reveals fixable flaws, propose the seller do the repairs or lower the price.
  • Expect the unexpected. Pipes leak, electrical work becomes outdated and furnaces fail — get used to it.
  • Be honest with yourself. If major repairs are required, you’ll either have to do them yourself or bring in the professionals. Some people can handle the disruption; others can’t.

The bottom line on resale homes is this: Don’t buy someone else’s problems unless you can tackle the solutions. Find a house you like, consider its pros and cons — objectively, as well as emotionally — and think about the compromises you’re willing to make. The more logically you approach buying the house, the more you’re going to love living in it.

 

Source: http://www.zillow.com/home-buying-guide/buying-a-new-home/

Top 5 Mistakes Home Buyers Make — And How to Avoid Them

Top 5 Mistakes that Home Buyers MakeFrom the beginning of your home search through closing escrow, there’s an awful lot to think about and do. It’s not unusual to make a mistake along the way. But with the financial stakes so high, a false move can end up costing you a lot of money.

Here are five common home buyer mistakes, with tips on how to avoid them.

You expect to get the price down after making an offer

The real estate market is heating up across the country. In many markets, homes are selling for more than asking price. Some buyers win the bidding war by going over asking — only to try to negotiate the price down by asking for credits during escrow.

This strategy may work sometimes, especially in a weak seller’s market. But we’re in a competitive market for buyers now, so don’t count on it. The seller most likely will have a backup offer from another buyer who really wants the home — and who is hoping your deal falls through. If you start asking for unwarranted credits, the seller may simply go with the backup offer, leaving you out in the cold.

A better strategy: Make your best offer, and don’t assume you can negotiate it down later.

You wait until the eleventh hour to ask for credits

In Houston, a seller had put his house on the market with full disclosure that it had termites. A buyer made an offer and went into contract with the seller. After further inspections, and at the eleventh hour, the buyer demanded an unreasonable amount be deducted from the sale price. The buyer assumed that the seller, not wanting to put the house on the market again, would agree, just to close the deal. But that’s not what happened. The seller agreed to reduce the price, but not by the full amount the buyer wanted.

The buyer ended up walking away from the deal. The house sold soon after at a higher price than what was negotiated with the first buyer.

Of course, you should ask for credits if an inspection turns up potentially costly repair work you didn’t know about when you made your offer. But even in a buyer’s market, don’t assume you can get sellers to cave in to unreasonable demands at the last minute.

You chase a deal at all costs

Everyone wants to save money, especially on a high-ticket item such as real estate. Unfortunately, this causes some would-be buyers to make lowball offers in hopes of getting a “deal.” Or, potential buyers lose out on homes they might have been able to get otherwise, which ends up costing money in the long run.

For example, a renter in San Francisco spent three years looking for the best “deal” she could possibly get, passing up many good opportunities. Eventually, her landlord wanted to sell the place she was renting. This forced her to finally buy, but under pressure. She ended up buying at the top of the market. If she hadn’t held out for so long in hopes of scoring an amazing deal, she’d have saved herself a lot of money and time. She’d even have built up some equity in a home over those three years.

In a strong real estate market, the deals are in homes that have been overpriced and haven’t sold as a result, and/or properties that don’t show well because they need work. If the home you want is well-priced, in a good neighborhood and doesn’t need much work, the best strategy is to make a solid offer and be prepared to go over asking if necessary.

You think you can do it all yourself

With so much information about homes available online today, many people, such as tech-savvy Gen X and Gen Y home buyers, may assume they can buy a home without a real estate agent’s help.

But this strategy often backfires. First of all, the real estate agent’s role isn’t just about finding listings. With Internet access, buyers can easily find listings themselves. The agent’s role today is more about presenting your offer to the seller’s agent in a way that will help get it accepted and making sure it sticks through an escrow.

A savvy agent knows the ins and outs of the local market better than an uninformed buyer with a full-time job and family. A good agent will know the back-stories behind the comps, for example. He or she will know that a comparable home sold for 5 percent less (than the home you’re considering) only because the sellers were divorcing, or the property had a retaining wall problem. Without an agent, you’d simply see that the comparable home sold for 5 percent less. You might ask the seller of the home to match that 5 percent reduction — and you’d be surprised when the seller says, “No thanks.”

Also, experienced agents have a strong network in the local market, which can give you an added edge. Good agents like to work with other good agents. And if nothing else, keep in mind that a listing agent might not even consider working with an unrepresented buyer.

Finally, the seller pays the buyer’s real estate commission, so having an agent for your home search costs you nothing anyway. Most importantly, there’s bound to come a time during the complicated real estate transaction when you have serious doubts or big questions. Your agent can be the trusted adviser you need to walk you through the maze.

You don’t think like a seller

Most likely, at some point in the future you’ll need to sell the home you’re about to buy. That’s why it’s important to think like a potential seller as well as a buyer.

Case in point: In 2005, a buyer in San Francisco bought a home with no garage. The house was on multiple transit lines, he used his bicycle to get around and he knew he’d have access to a leased garage space if he needed it. So he felt he didn’t need a garage.

Three years later, the market was slower, but the owner had to sell. He didn’t feel his home should be priced less than a comparable property with a deeded garage because his house was so centrally located. Plus, he had that leased garage space to offer. The problem was, many buyers drive to work, and they don’t want to risk losing a leased garage space. The result was that many buyers wouldn’t even look at his home’s photos online, let alone go to the open house — because it lacked a garage.

So when you’re buying a home, put yourself in a potential seller’s shoes. The last thing you want is to buy a dream home that becomes a nightmare when it’s time to sell.

This article was originally published by Brendon Desimone on Zillow Blog. To see the original article, click here.

Top Five Easiest Real Estate Markets To Buy In

Though recent signs have pointed to a lessening of the ongoing housing inventory crunch,  many markets are still experiencing shortages of homes for sale, with inventory overall declining 15.22% in March year over year. Still, there are some bright spots across the nation where the number of listings are growing, enabling first-time home buyers in particular to enter the market more easily than in cities where inventory remains low.
Top 5 Easiest Real Estate Markets to Crack
By looking at realtor.com site listing data, we were able to identify the top five markets in inventory growth – and the five easiest markets to crack – over the past year:

5) Ocala, FL
This Florida city experienced the fifth-highest growth in listings since 2012, with an increase of 3.09% year over year. Median listing prices have remained relatively stable at $129,900, with a slight 1.01% increase in the past 12 months.

4) Huntsville, AL
Listings in the fourth-largest city in Alabama increased 3.94% year or year, while median listing prices actually declined 2.66% to $179,964, making Huntsville a good entry market for first time buyers.

3) El Paso, TX
Inventory in this West Texas city grew 4.79% over the last 12 months while prices declined by 1.34% to their current median level of $149,950, landing El Paso the number three slot in our list.

2) Springfield, IL
With listings climbing 5.67% since last year and median prices falling by 7.69% to $119,900, the capital of Illinois is a prime entry market for first time buyers looking for affordable starter homes.

1) Shreveport-Bossier City, LA
Coming in at number one on our list of top easiest markets to crack is tourism, energy, and film production hub Shreveport, Louisiana. Listings shot up over 17% year over year, by far the highest increase on our list. Prices have eased up 4% to a median of $182,000, making this city on the Red River our top easiest market to crack.

This article was originally published by  on realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.