Buying Tips, Choosing An Agent- Buyer, First Time Buyer, Uncategorized

5 Habits To Start Now If You Want To Buy A New Home In 2017

It’s the end of another year (thanks for nothing, 2016), which means it’s also time for our end-of-year new resolutions series for home buyers. This installment: good habits to start!

Have you vowed to buy a home this year? It’s time to get moving!

Even if you’re months away from hiring an agent and touring homes, there are things you need to do now to make that dream happen. After all, this is a huge purchase and it requires some preparation. Getting the building blocks in place will ensure a seamless transition from renting to buying, both financially and mentally.

To make sure you hit the ground running once you start checking out houses in earnest, here are some good habits to start now that will pave the way to the home of your dreams.

Habit No. 1: Automate your down payment savings

If you’re trying to squirrel away the recommended 20% down payment, that works out to about $40,000 for a $200,000 home. That’s a huge chunk of cash, so unless you’ve been the recipient of an inheritance or have recently won the lottery, you can never save too early or too much.

“The down payment takes more money than 99% of people plan for,” warns Joshua Jarvis of Jarvis Team Realty with Keller Williams Realty Atlanta Partners in Duluth, GA.

Yet one practically painless way to get started is to automate your checking account to regularly set aside a small amount of your paycheck into a separate savings account dubbed your “house fund.”

“Amassing enough for a down payment takes discipline and perseverance, but setting up automatic savings can make it easier,” points out Realtor® Marcia Goodman with Re/Max Gateway in Gainesville, VA. “If you never see the cash, you won’t spend it.”

And you don’t have to put down the full 20%, either—there are other options. But it’s best to save as much as you can.

Habit No. 2: Build your credit history and keep it clean

To get a mortgage, lenders will want to see evidence that you’ve paid off past debts. As such, keeping on top of your credit cards and car and college loans is a crucial mortgage must-do.

But don’t steer clear of credit altogether. If you’ve never had a credit card or a bank loan, you won’t have a credit history. Once you have credit established, keep it pristine. Pay all your bills on time—this cannot be overemphasized.

“I had a client who made $250,000 a year and was denied a mortgage because his credit card payments were always late,” says Alexandra Axsen, managing broker of Lake Okanagan Realty Ltd. in Kelowna, BC.

Dean Sioukas, founder of Magilla Loans in Sacramento, CA, also advises not using more than 30% of your available credit, as recommended by the credit bureaus.

Habit No. 3: Practice living on a budget

Think owning a home is pricier than renting? Not necessarily—it depends on your area, so make sure to compare the costs of renting vs. buying near you. But if you expect your mortgage to take a bigger bite than your rent, create a budget that factors in your new reality so you can get used to living on less disposable income, suggests Kevin Lawton of Coldwell Banker Schiavone & Associates in Yardville, NJ.

Downsizing your budget early also means you’ll be able to save more for your down payment, pay down debt, or save for furniture for your new home.

Habit No. 4: Get your handy on

One of the big perks of renting is that any problems around the home—leaky faucets, broken boiler—are your landlord’s responsibility to repair. But once you own, you should probably know how to roll up your sleeves and fix it yourself if you don’t want to shell out for a handyman every time something goes wrong.

“Consumers thinking about buying a home should learn the basics of property maintenance and general ‘handy habits,’ since maintenance is an ongoing effort for homeowners,” says Evan Harris, co-founder of SD Equity Partners in San Diego.

“Knowing how to fix basic home issues such as electrical shorts, repair drywall, and tackle basic plumbing problems will save thousands of dollars in the future,” he says, noting that it’s smart to learn how to fix these issues before you’re scrambling around a dark kitchen where you blew a fuse.

Habit No. 5: Prepare to pounce

The more pieces you can put in place, the better, says Lawton, who advises buyers to spend time getting to know the real estate market before they’re ready to buy.

“It’s a good habit to start browsing homes online to get a sense of what is available in your price range and the neighborhoods and amenities you’ll realistically be able to afford,” he says. “This can help avoid disappointment when it comes time to really look.”

Now that you know the good habits to start now to buy a home this year, come back tomorrow to learn the bad home-buying habits to ditch before it’s too late!

http://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/habits-to-start-now-to-buy-a-home/

After reading this article, Melissa Christopher, Ocean County, NJ Realtor® Associate has the following insight:

The Spring market is going to be here before you know it.  Sellers will be on the market and new buyers will be ready.  Don’t let red tape hold you back.  First if you are considering buying a home, get pre-qualified with a bank and ask.. WHAT DO I NEED TO DO TO MAINTAIN THIS PRE-QUALIFICATION? Example, don’t buy a car! You’ll need x amount to close.  There are real estate agents and mortgage brokers here and ready to help!

Save

Buying Tips, Choosing An Agent- Buyer, First Time Buyer, Uncategorized

4 Reasons You Must Buy in 2017

Buying a house in 2017 will feel kind of like you’ve jumped onto the subway just as the doors were closing. Your heart’s pounding and you’re winded from the race, but you made it—just in time.

 

OK, so maybe that’s a little exaggerated. But here’s the thing: Interest rates have begun to rise and will likely climb higher. Inventory is low and could shrink more. And home prices? Well, home prices are increasing—and they’re not predicted to fall any time soon.

If you don’t jump aboard the real estate train now, you might be too late.

“It’s tough to buy a home today in most places in the country because there are so few homes for sale,” says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for realtor.com®. “But if you wait to buy, then you’re gambling that the market will be better for you to purchase in the future.”

And that’s not a smart gamble, our real estate experts say. If you’ve been toying with the idea of buying, or you anticipate a life change that might force you to move—such as a new baby or a job transfer—you should be “buying as urgently and as soon as possible,” Smoke says.

So finish reading this, then start looking for a house. Here’s why.

1. Rates are rising

In 1981, when mortgage rates hit 18% and seemed to rise every day, single-digit rates seemed like an impossible dream.

Last August, however, rates on 30-year mortgages bottomed out at 3.55%. Now that the Federal Reserve finally decided to raise its key interest rate, mortgage rates have been climbing slowly. Today, the average rate is just above 4%; by 2019 or 2020, rates could easily climb to 6%.

“All signs point to this trend continuing,” says Richard DeNapoli, managing director for Coral Gables Trust and a former Florida real estate commissioner.

Before you freak out, take heart: Rising rates aren’t necessarily a deal breaker for buyers. The National Association of Realtors® calculated that a rise from 4.2% to 5% would increase average monthly mortgage payments by $90—not nothing, but not a catastrophe, either. And if you take the long view, those higher rates are still historically low.

“For buyers there still is opportunity,” says Danielle Hale, managing director of housing research for the NAR. “For those who are still able to get into the market, these low rates continue to be helpful.”

Another upside: When rates go up, competition and prices often go down.

“I’d tell buyers not to panic, because higher mortgage rates eventually cause sellers to be more flexible on pricing,” DeNapoli says.

2. Inventory is shrinking

In November 2016, there were only 1.85 million homes for sale. That’s a nearly 10% drop from the year before. And it continues a trend of steady decline since just before the housing crash, when inventory peaked.

Real estate experts predict that inventory will continue to shrink, at least for the foreseeable future. That means that in most areas of the country, buyers have more homes to choose from today than they will next year.

Or even next month. If you get moving now (during the winter, which is largely considered to be real estate’s off-season), you’ll have less competition for those homes than you will in the peak spring and summer months.

Bottom line: Every day you wait to start looking for a new home, you face stiffer competition for fewer homes.

“If you think it’s bad right now, wait until April to August,” Smoke says.

3. Home prices are still rising

The bad news for buyers is that home prices now stand higher than before the 2007 crash, increasing 5% from 2015 to 2016. And housing experts expect an additional 2% to 3% jump in 2017, DeNapoli says.

“Prices continue to go up; we have yet to see that ceiling,” says Trevor Levin, a real estate agent with Nourmand & Associates in Los Angeles. “I think they have room to grow.”

How high prices will rise and how long they’ll remain high is anyone’s guess. Rising mortgage rates and the new Trump administration have introduced “uncertainty” into the real estate market, Levin says.

“And uncertainty is never ideal,” he says.

The good news? If you jump into the market pronto, you just might make it before those doors close

After reading this article, Melissa Christopher, Ocean County, NJ Realtor® Associate  has the following insight:

As of now, it is not Spring 2017 yet, but there are not many houses on the market right now for buyers to choose from in Ocean County.  For example, there are under 200 homes for sale in Lacey NJ, (and yes this sounds like a lot, but realize you have a wide range in there!).  As new homes come on the market as the weather warms up, it will be more difficult possibly for you to win that home that came on yesterday.  Don’t sit back and wait.  Personally, I would contact a Realtor and have myself signed up for updates on the market in my range so as they come on, I know right away!

Buying Tips, Choosing An Agent- Buyer, First Time Buyer, Researching to Buy, Uncategorized

NerdWallet: January, February prime months to purchase a home

Research using realtor.com data indicates that buyers would be wise to find a deal now

 Key Takeaways

  • Ready to become a homeowner? Nerdwallet and Realtor.com Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke say January and February are the best months to purchase a home.

  • The median home sold in January sold for $7,003 less than the listing price, and home sales drop by 47 percent.

  • Smoke says another reason buyers should act now is an upcoming hike in mortgage rates, which are expected to reach nearly 5 percent.

     

New year, new home?

The NerdWallet team says January and February are the prime months to purchase a home, thanks to lessened competition, lower home prices and higher mortgage rates looming ahead.

Take advantage of savings now

According to two years of realtor.com data that includes the 50 most populous metro areas, home prices in January and February are, on average, 8.45 percent lower than prices in July and August — two of the most popular homebuying months.

This trend is expected to hold true in 2017, but realtor.com chief economist Jonathan Smoke says the savings won’t be as large as seen in years before.

The fall 2016 housing market, which the National Association of Realtors dubbed the “autumn revival,” was especially strong, which means sellers didn’t feel the pressure to lower their sales prices in order to get their home off the market.

Despite this, Smoke still suggests homebuyers grab whatever savings they can get because spring home prices will likely increase more than normal.

Cold weather keeps competition at bay

According to NerdWallet, home sales in January are 47 percent lower than in June, which means less competition for buyers looking for the perfect home.

But there’s one caveat — buyers will still have to battle with low housing inventory, although the offset in competition helps.

“You basically face almost half of the competition with almost the same amount of inventory in the market,” Smoke says.

For the savvy buyer and agent, this can lead to savings through tactful negotiations with sellers. NerdWallet says the median home sold in January sold for $7,003 less than the listing price. Score!

Higher rates ahead

Out of the three reasons to buy a home now, homebuyers are most likely concerned about higher mortgage rates, which are predicted to rise to nearly 5 percent.

“As we look toward spring and later in 2017, that’s another reason to buy in January and February,” said Smoke. “Because rates are expected to be about 50 basis points, or half a percent, more as the year goes on.”

http://www.inman.com/2017/01/23/nerdwallet-january-february-prime-months-purchase-home/?utm_source=weeklyheadlines&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=sundaysend&utm_content=20170127_hero

Choosing An Agent, Choosing An Agent- Buyer, Preparing to Sell, Uncategorized

What Is the MLS? The Multiple Listing Service, Explained

Whether you’re looking to sell or buy a home, you will no doubt encounter the multiple listing service, or MLS. This is, in many ways, the very lifeblood of the real estate business. But just what is the MLS? Sure, it’s a huge database of home listings, but there’s a lot more to it than just that. Let’s jump in!

History of the MLS

Yes, the MLS seems like an invention of the modern age. But, in fact, the term “multiple listing”—and the overarching concept behind it—was first coined in 1907. Back then it described the old-timey practice in which real estate agents would gather regularly at offices or conferences to trade info about homes they were trying to sell, hoping this network could help connect them with buyers. In 1908, the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges (the organization that later became the National Association of Realtors®) endorsed the use of this system by all agents. It quickly caught on from there, evolving, stage by stage, into the modern system in use today—online and fully searchable by price, neighborhood, and home features.

While the MLS may look like one large national database, it’s actually a suite of approximately 700 regional databases. And they’re quite territorial: Each regional MLS has its own listings, and agents pay dues to access and post homes on each one. This is why agents who want a broader reach for their clients may become a member of more than one MLS.

There is a growing trend in which regional databases “share” listings without agents needing to become members of each, but that’s still more the exception than the rule. In general, only one MLS has the keys, both figuratively and literally, to any one home.

While numerous websites aggregate home listings through highly condensed versions of MLS listings, realtor.com® is by far the most comprehensive, with 99% of all MLS-listed “for sale” properties in the U.S. (And to further toot our own horn: Our listings are also the most accurate and up to date. Over 90% of “For Sale” listings are refreshed at least every 15 minutes, which can come in handy in a fast-paced housing market, where every second can count. OK, we’re done!)

How the MLS works

Home sellers can’t post their home directly to the MLS, because access to this database is limited to licensed agents and brokers who pay for membership. Once they have a client selling a home, they gather the necessary details such as the square footage, number of bedrooms, and other noteworthy attributes—as well as photos—then post a complete (and hopefully eye-catching) listing on their client’s behalf.

When agents log in, they have access to a wealth of data that they can pass along to their clients—or just help them do their business better and more strategically. And much of this goes far beyond whether a particular listing’s driveway is made up of gravel or asphalt.

“Agents are able to upload and download documents on the MLS, such as seller disclosures and HOA regulations,” notes  Florida Realtor® Cara Ameer. So even if you don’t see the info you want on realtor.com, be sure to ask your agent, who may be able to deliver what you need with the click of a mouse.

Alternatives to the MLS

Home sellers who don’t want to pay a real estate agent’s commission can also list their home on a For Sale By Owner, or FSBO, site rather than the MLS. But do so with your eyes wide open: Selling a home on your own is far from easy, and FSBO homes sell for less money—on average $39,000 less. This may explain why only 8% of homes sold every year are FSBO, and the vast majority go through the MLS.

There are also a few high-profile markets—namely New York City and Seattle—where the MLS is not the only way to list a home with an agent. In these areas, large real estate brokerages such as Sotheby’s and Douglas Elliman use their own proprietary databases to list homes rather than syndicating them on the MLS. So in these markets, you may want to check directly with these brokers’ sites in addition to the usual avenues if you want to make sure that all your house hunting bases are covered.

What is a pocket listing?

Sometimes high-profile sellers working with an agent will choose not to list their home on the MLS, for privacy reasons such as to avoid publicity or looky-loos. A property that is not entered into the MLS is often called a “pocket listing,” as in, “hidden in an agent’s pocket.” That means that only those potential buyers with whom an agent works directly will be aware the home is on the market.

Typically celebrities or other high-profile people may try this route; but if you’re just a regular Joe who wants to get the word out that you’re selling, the MLS will get you the most eyeballs—and top dollar—for your home.

—————

 http://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/what-is-the-mls-multiple-listing-service/
After reading this article, Melissa Christopher, Ocean County, NJ Realtor has the following insight:
The MLS is only accessible to agents.  Homeowners wishing to list their homes as a For Sale By Owner (FSBO) will not appear in the MLS.  As a result, your home will need to be marketed to buyers and buyers agents on other platforms in different ways.
When choosing a Realtor to buy or sell your home in NJ, one should know that there are multiple MLS platforms in the state.  Find out which MLS your real estate agent is enrolled within.  For example, I am registered and utilize the Jersey Shore MLS.  Monmouth County is separate from this MLS platform.  As a result, for example, if you are selling your home in Lacey, NJ and utilize an agent that is from Monmouth County that does not hold dual powers, the listing for your home will be in the MLS for Monmouth.  What does that mean?  For agents looking in the Jersey Shore MLS which covers Ocean County the town that holds Lacey, NJ, Realtors will not find the home in a search within the parameters for Lacey, NJ Cranberry Hill neighborhood.  So choose a Realtor for the location you are looking to sell within.  Although your cousin may be a real estate agent, they may not be the best for the job to list your home.  Any questions? Contact me!
Choosing An Agent, Choosing An Agent- Buyer, Uncategorized

What Is Dual Agency? Know When It’s Right, and When to Beware

Most people familiar with the housing market know that a buyer’s agent works for the buyer, a listing agent for the seller, but there’s a third category that’s much more mysterious: the dual agent. What is dual agency, anyway?

The short answer: Dual agents, also known as transaction brokers, work for both the buyer and the seller, combining both roles into one. Buyers might stumble across this scenario when they fall in love with a home where the agent they’ve hired to represent them also happens to represent the seller. It’s rare, but it happens, especially in smaller markets where there aren’t a whole lot of properties to go around. Dual agency can also mean that the buyer and seller have separate agents at the same real estate firm, which most often happens with large brokerages with lots of listings.

Certain states (but not all) permit dual agency as long as it’s disclosed to both buyers and sellers. But is dual agency a good idea? Well, yes and no. There are both advantages and disadvantages to buying a house through dual agency. Here are the pros and cons.

Benefits of dual agency

Dual agency can certainly streamline the home-buying process. Think about it: If both buyer and seller have their own separate agents, there will be four people’s schedules that must be consulted before the property can be shown. Cut one agent out, and it makes scheduling 25% easier. Or thereabouts.

Another potential perk of a dual agent is it can save you on the commission—the money home sellers pay their agent for all their hard work (typically 6% of the sales price of a home), which is then split with the corresponding buyer’s agent for all their hard work. A dual agent, however, keeps the whole kit and caboodle. (Good for them!) As a result, dual agents may be more open than usual to lowering that commission a bit.

Downsides of dual agency

A dual agent is supposed to be neutral, helping clients on both sides of the deal equally. But staying truly neutral can be difficult. For instance, since an agent’s commission is a percentage of a home’s sales price, it’s inherently in an agent’s best interest to get a high selling price, because he’ll make more money. That’s good for the seller, but not so much for the buyer.

Melanie Atkinson of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate, in Tampa, FL, points out, “Even if you see savings on commission, how do you know you wouldn’t have negotiated a better price if you had your own capable representation?”

Also, since a dual agent works for both buyer and seller, he must tread carefully not to betray the confidence of either party. So, he might stay mum about juicy tidbits that you might have more easily learned if you’d had your own agent in your corner.

For instance: A listing agent might know his clients are desperate to sell. If the buyer’s agent finds that out, he can inform his clients of their added negotiation power. A dual agent, on the other hand, might be compelled to keep mum about all personal matters.

“An example would be a buyer’s broker who may be aware of a divorce situation and may share that information to a buyer,” says Joyce Mitchell of Mitchell & Associates, in Bigfork, MT. “But a dual broker cannot share that information. As a dual agent, he/she can only address issues regarding the property itself and not the people or situations involved.”

In states that allow this practice, agents are required by law to inform clients if they’re facing a dual agency scenario—and they can’t move forward without all parties’ informed consent. What’s more, both buyers and sellers have the right to opt out and use another agent so both parties have their own representation.

There are situations where using a dual agent makes sense.

“The best way to describe a transactional Realtor® is one who neither represents the seller nor the buyer but facilitates the documents necessary for the sale,” says Mitchell. “An example of that would be if you and your neighbor struck up a deal to sell your home and have already negotiated the terms, price, etc. You might want to use a transactional Realtor to assist both parties toward the closing.” (This is also a case where you may want to ask for a lower commission, since so much of the deal is already ironed out.)

Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award winning author and journalist covering lifestyle, entertainment, real estate, design, and travel. Find her on AtHomeInHollywood.com.

http://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/dual-agency/

After reading this article, Melissa Christopher, Ocean County, NJ Realtor has the following insight:

Dual agency is legal and practiced within NJ (but it must be disclosed to both parties!).  Knowing the roles of buyer agents and seller agents within NJ will help you understand better the real estate transaction you are entering into.  Remember, your home is your largest investment, so I urge you to trust your instinct and ensure that you feel as if you did everything properly and so did your agent in the process.  There are many Ocean Count NJ Realtors at your disposal to choose from no matter which side of the real estate transaction you are on!

Buying Tips, Choosing An Agent, Choosing An Agent- Buyer, Preparing to Sell, Uncategorized

6 Reasons You Should Never Buy or Sell a Home Without an Agent

 It’s a slow Sunday morning. You’ve just brewed your Nespresso and popped open your laptop to check out the latest home listings before you hit the road for a day of open houses.

You’re DIYing this real estate thing, and you think you’re doing pretty well—after all, any info you might need is at your fingertips online, right? That and your own sterling judgment.

Oh, dear home buyer (or seller!)—we know you can do it on your own. But you really, really shouldn’t. This is likely the biggest financial decision of your entire life, and you need a Realtor® if you want to do it right. Here’s why.

1. They have loads of expertise

Want to check the MLS for a 4B/2B with an EIK and a W/D? Real estate has its own language, full of acronyms and semi-arcane jargon, and your Realtor is trained to speak that language fluently.

Plus, buying or selling a home usually requires dozens of forms, reports, disclosures, and other technical documents. Realtors have the expertise to help you prepare a killer deal—while avoiding delays or costly mistakes that can seriously mess you up.

2. They have turbocharged searching power

The Internet is awesome. You can find almost anything—anything! And with online real estate listing sites such as yours truly, you can find up-to-date home listings on your own, any time you want. But guess what? Realtors have access to even more listings. Sometimes properties are available but not actively advertised. A Realtor can help you find those hidden gems.

Plus, a good local Realtor is going to know the search area way better than you ever could. Have your eye on a particular neighborhood, but it’s just out of your price range? Your Realtor is equipped to know the ins and outs of every neighborhood, so she can direct you toward a home in your price range that you may have overlooked.

3. They have bullish negotiating chops

Any time you buy or sell a home, you’re going to encounter negotiations—and as today’s housing market heats up, those negotiations are more likely than ever to get a little heated.

You can expect lots of competition, cutthroat tactics, all-cash offers, and bidding wars. Don’t you want a savvy and professional negotiator on your side to seal the best deal for you?

And it’s not just about how much money you end up spending or netting. A Realtor will help draw up a purchase agreement that allows enough time for inspections, contingencies, and anything else that’s crucial to your particular needs.

4. They’re connected to everyone

Realtors might not know everything, but they make it their mission to know just about everyone who can possibly help in the process of buying or selling a home. Mortgage brokers, real estate attorneys, home inspectors, home stagers, interior designers—the list goes on—and they’re all in your Realtor’s network. Use them.

5. They adhere to a strict code of ethics

Not every real estate agent is a Realtor, who is a licensed real estate salesperson who belongs to the National Association of Realtors®, the largest trade group in the country.

What difference does it make? Realtors are held to a higher ethical standard than licensed agents and must adhere to a Code of Ethics.

6. They’re your sage parent/data analyst/therapist—all rolled into one

The thing about Realtors: They wear a lot of different hats. Sure, they’re salespeople, but they actually do a whole heck of a lot to earn their commission. They’re constantly driving around, checking out listings for you. They spend their own money on marketing your home (if you’re selling). They’re researching comps to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

And, of course, they’re working for you at nearly all hours of the day and night—whether you need more info on a home or just someone to talk to in order to feel at ease with the offer you just put in. This is the biggest financial (and possibly emotional) decision of your life, and guiding you through it isn’t a responsibility Realtors take lightly.

http://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/why-you-should-use-realtor/

After reading this article, Melissa Christopher, Ocean County, NJ Realtor has the following insight:

Think you can sell a home without an agent?  You can, but…. Are you a seasoned pro?  Trust the real estate professionals with your largest investment.  Although you may be able to get a buyer on your home and you think save your commission, most FSBO contacts we have met will tell you it was a roller coaster/stressful transaction.  Let me make it as easy as possible for you, by being your listing agent.  Contact me with questions you may have anytime.  Not only do we guide you on price, we market the home bringing in buyers and ultimately work on getting you to the table.  Don’t be blinded because you wanted to save some money at the closing table or through the process.  Hire a real estate professional in your area!

Buying Tips, Choosing An Agent- Buyer, First Time Buyer, Researching to Buy, Uncategorized

Real Estate Survival Guide: Buyer’s Checklist

Refer to this 10-step checklist to get you through the homebuying process.

1. Figure out how much house you can afford.

  • Calculate your monthly income and debt.

  • Check your credit report and FICO score.

  • Use FrontDoor’s mortgage calculator.

  • Figure out your down payment.

2. Get pre-approved for a mortgage.

  • Choose a type of mortgage.

  • Speak to at least five lenders and mortgage brokers.

  • Shop for the best interest rates and programs.

3. Determine what you want and need in a home.

  • Choose a location (downtown, urban, suburban, rural).

  • Choose a type (single family, townhouse, condo, loft).

  • Choose a price range.

  • Choose a size.

  • Choose an architectural style.

4. Research your target neighborhoods.

  • Look online for information on schools, crime rate, traffic and zoning.

  • Determine your work commute.

  • Scout local amenities, such as parks, shops and restaurants.

5. Work with a buyer’s agent who knows the neighborhood.

  • Get referrals.

  • Consider working with an exclusive buyer’s agent.

  • Interview at least three agents.

  • Look for experience and good chemistry.

6. Search for homes in the MLS and For Sale By Owner (FSBO).

  • Browse listings online, including FrontDoor.com.

  • Ask your agent to set up tours of homes that fit your criteria.

  • Check local newspapers.

  • Pick up flyers and attend open houses.

7. Research each home you want to buy.

  • Ask your agent for comps to estimate the property’s fair market value.

  • Ask the seller’s reason for selling.

  • Review all property disclosures.

  • Find out about liens, easements or other restrictions.

8. Make an offer and negotiate.

  • Determine the purchase price.

  • Include contingencies, such as financial, inspection or purchase.

  • Spell out any special requests and repairs you want included in the sale.

  • Determine an earnest money amount.

  • Define a move-in date.

  • Once both parties agree to the terms, sign the Purchase and Sale Agreement.

9. Finalize the deal.

  • Get the house appraised.

  • Get a professional home inspection.

  • Consider getting specific inspections for structural engineering, roof and termites.

  • Use the appraisal and inspection reports to re-negotiate if necessary.

  • Choose a home insurance company.

  • Complete the loan process with the lender.

  • Do a walk-through inspection prior to closing.

  • Set aside cash for the closing costs and down payment.

10. Close the purchase.

  • Review the settlement document at least 2 days before closing to see how funds will be collected and distributed.

  • Get a cashier’s check for the amount you need to bring to closing, including the down payment and closing costs.