Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, particularly when it comes to buying a home. Features that attract one home buyer may not attract another. However, the one feature of interest to every home buyer is price. Getting the most home for your money is paramount. The real problem is figuring out whether that fixer-upper on one street is a better buy than the home in next-to-new condition two blocks away. That's why knowing what to look for before you buy can save you time, energy, and money down the line.
In a distressed market, or buyer's market, there may be many short sales and foreclosures for sale. Sometimes they are terrific buys, but don't look for any help from the seller for repairs. There will also be a lot of inventory giving the buyers many more choices. In a seller's market, there is often limited inventory combined with a lot of demand. This will often cause and escalation in prices and multiple offers. A more normal market with about a 6 months inventory is where you often find more give and take between buyers and sellers. If you plan to keep your real estate for several years, almost any time can be a good time to buy.
The first step is figuring out what kind of house you need
A good buy is only a good buy if it meets your current and future living requirements. Before shopping for a home, decide how much space you and your family require. How many bedrooms, and bathrooms? Is a family room necessary? Do you need a layout that will accommodate a lot of entertaining? Do you prefer a spacious or compact work space in the kitchen? If you have small children, can the house be easily childproofed?
Evaluate the front and back yards. Is there enough to accommodate your children? Do you want a park-like or garden setting? Do you enjoy yard work and gardening or do you want a low-maintenance yard? Take into consideration the cost for of extensive landscaping and upkeep. Do you need a garage?
Next, determine how much
work is required to make the home you are considering livable
Make an honest assessment of your fix-it abilities. How much work are you willing to do or pay someone else to do? Do you have the basic decorating, carpentry and plumbing skills? If you plan to learn as you go, make sure you have accurately determined what you are getting into. Ask an experienced, friend, family member, or you CENTURY 21 Hart Realty agent for their opinion. Make sure you consider how much inconvenience the rest of the family can handle. If you are able to hire all the work done, good for you. Just be careful how much money you spend if you only plan to own the home for a short period of time.
Unless you are ready and able to tackle a major remodel, look for a home or condominium that only needs cosmetic improvements. These include painting, wallpapering, and replacing items like flooring, window treatments, bathroom and kitchen fixtures, cabinet and interior door hardware and appliances. Remember that even these simple changes can be costly if you have to make many of them.
Beware of improvements that seem easy enough at first glance buy may turn into major headaches and require a lot of money once you're moved in. Remodeled kitchens and bathrooms, changes to the floor plan, room additions and redesigned landscaping are examples of seemingly minor changes that can easily eat away the money you thought you saved by selecting a so-called "bargain priced" home. Of course you may be perfectly willing to spend whatever money is needed to customize the house to match your tastes and needs.
Make sure the major systems of the house are in good working condition. The furnace, air conditioning and plumbing should be up to date, since repairs can be costly. Your agent can arrange to have a professional inspection to determine if there may be issues with the wiring or electrical service. Local utilities often offer free or low cost inspections to tell you if the house is energy-efficient. Even when everything is in good condition, systems or appliances may fail. If the seller doesn't offer one, it may be wise to purchase a Home Protection Plan to cover your home for a year. We have an affiliation with American Home Shield which has such a plan.
Look for a house with universally popular selling points
If you're impressed, the next buyer down the line may be too. For example, a room, modern, easy to clean kitchen is the best selling point a home can have. A house with only one bathroom is less desirable than a house with two ore more. Many buyers expect at least three bedrooms with a master bedroom that offers a feeling of privacy. Lots of storage, space, and closets, especially walk-in closets, will be a real selling point. Family rooms or "great rooms" also are desirable. On closer examination, a house that looks like a bargain may lack some of these key features.
Don't forget the old adage: location, location. Unless you're looking for a fixer upper, the house should be in a condition that is comparable to other homes in the neighborhood. Avoid buying the biggest house or fanciest house on the block. Consider the amount of traffic or noise. Homes located in a quiet area away from a busy street will command a higher price. Make sure the schools in your district have a reputation for quality education and safety. Nearby supermarkets, gas stations, restaurants, and theaters also will make the location more desirable.
Good community facilities also add appeal, pools, athletic fields, community centers, libraries and hospitals all add to a neighborhood's value and desirability. Transportation needs also should be considered. Is local public transportation available? How long are typical commutes to places of current and potential employment? Are there several alternate routes? How close is a major airport? All of these can affect a home's pricing.
Consider the cost of living in a home
It is important to consider not only purchase price but monthly cost of living in a home. Estimate your utility and maintenance costs. Ask your agent about the property tax rate and whether increases are anticipated. Will you have to pay special assessments for a homeowners association? Consider the point in the life cycle of major household systems, such as air conditioning, furnace, roof and kitchen appliances.
You can find a bargain! Your first step should be to seek out a CENTURY 21 Hart Realty real estate agent. Our agents have knowledge of most areas in the Portland Metropolitan area. Your agent can help you locate the properties that are true bargains and closely match your desires and needs. Sometimes it is difficult to find great bargains, but your agent should be able to give you information that would show you are getting a good value in the current marketplace at the time of your purchase.