House hunting checklist | The bank rate

Congratulations! If you’re embarking on a house hunting adventure, you’re about to make a major transition. The goal, of course, is to come out better than you started. It all depends on the home you choose and whether it suits your specific wants and needs.

Because buying a new home can be a daunting process with a lot to consider, it pays to be prepared. There are online house finder apps that can help you. However, it is not enough to find an ad that catches your eye and make an offer. If there was ever a place to do your due diligence, this is it.

With that in mind, we’ve developed this house hunting checklist. Here are six things you should have when shopping for a home.

1. A price range from a mortgage pre-approval letter

As with any type of shopping, knowing how much you can afford is very useful. This will only set you up for the heartbreak of falling in love with a property only to find out later that it’s not realistic for your budget.

The best way to get a clear idea of ​​how much home you can afford is to get a mortgage pre-approval letter. It goes beyond pre-qualification, essentially getting you started on the path to securing your mortgage. This way your lender has seen your key financial details. The mortgage they pre-approve you for is a realistic amount based on your income, expenses and more.

Armed with this pre-approval letter, you get more than just a budget. You also get something you can show sellers to prove that you are serious about buying their home and are in a position to make an offer.

2. Separate wants and needs

Many house hunters have gone off the rails by not knowing their wants of their needs. Without a clear idea of ​​what you need to have and what you would like to have in a home, you could be doomed to always see homes that would be great, if only they had this or that feature. It’s best to make a list of what you need and stick to it, and if there are some nice things to have, great.

3. Find a trusted real estate agent

Your agent is your ally, the person in your corner who has your back (i.e. negotiates on your behalf) and can keep you out of potential trouble. At least that is the case if you choose a good real estate professional.

To do this, interview at least a few agents. See if you feel heard. Note how difficult or easy it is to set up that first meeting. You can learn a lot from this first contact.

Also read their online reviews and ask if they have any references you could talk to or testimonials they can share. The buyer’s agent shares the commission paid by the seller, so there’s really no downside to having a pro on your side when buying and a lot of upside in that they’ll know the market and negotiation tactics.

4. Understand the neighborhood

You’ve probably heard it before: When it comes to real estate, the top three priorities are location, location, and location. You can change a lot of things in a house, except its location. This makes the surrounding area just as important as the property itself.

Get to know the neighborhood. Eat at some of the local restaurants and browse the local shops to get a feel for what life would be like there. If you have or plan to have children, also take the time to research schools in the area.

Your real estate agent should be able to give you a good overview of the area, but it’s also important to do your own research. It could be your future, after all.

5. A list of things to check during your visit

When you visit an ad, you will of course look at its interior and exterior. But you should also take this opportunity to get into some of the finer details. Are there any leaks under any of the sinks? Are all switches and faucets working? What’s the condition of the landscaping – and how much work will you need to maintain? Are the HVAC and other systems working?

Ask the seller’s agent if the house has any upgrades or additions. If so, ask if the permits have been withdrawn or if you should be prepared to buy the house as is.

Obviously, there’s a lot to think about while you’re at the screening. To make sure you don’t forget anything, create a section of your home search checklist dedicated to things you want to look into while you’re in the property.

6. Home Inspection Options

You can glean a lot just by looking around a property. But there could be problems hidden behind the walls. To learn more about potential deal breakers, be prepared to have your home inspected.

Your real estate agent can probably recommend a home inspection company. Since these are such an important part of the home buying process, you should check them out yourself. Research at least a few companies to make sure you choose an inspector who has the skills to really examine the home thoroughly.

For more help here, you might want to add some of the home inspection checklist to your house hunting checklist.

A list of important questions to ask

Finally, you can gain a lot of clarity about your potential future home by asking the right questions. These include:

Why are they selling?

If it’s something simple like moving for a job or downsizing for retirement, no worries. But if the seller can’t provide a clear answer, beware. It is possible that the neighborhood has deteriorated or that the house has maintenance problems that they have not revealed to you.

What are the taxes/HOA fees/insurance?

You should do your own research here too. Specifically, you can get a home insurance quote and view property taxes from the local assessor.

The current owner (usually through the listing agent) should be able to give you an idea of ​​the costs of owning the home beyond the mortgage itself.

Is the house in a flood zone?

Some states require sellers to disclose if the property is in a flood zone, but there is no federal requirement here. The best way to find out if the home you’re considering is at risk of flooding is to ask. FEMA has flood zone maps here for the whole country.

What problems need to be solved?

If you are seriously considering buying a home, you will eventually reach a point where the seller is legally required to disclose certain things to you. Again, different states have different disclosure requirements. Ultimately, these are designed to protect you, so be sure to read any disclosure material carefully.

Talk to your real estate agent to see if there are any potential areas of concern. If there are issues that need to be resolved, ask the seller how they want to handle it. They can lower the price or put a condition in the contract saying that they will take care of the work themselves, for example.

Ultimately, buying a home is a big decision. Armed with this home hunting checklist, you’ll be in a better position to consider all the key things so you can rest easy and love life in your new home.

About Nunnally Maurice

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