Buying a House
BY NANCY BIERENGA, REALTOR®, E-PRO, ABR, éLAN REALTY, PAST PRESIDENT, WEST MICHIGAN LAKESHORE ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Once you’ve decided to stop paying into someone else’s retirement account by renting, here are some basic suggestions for getting the most impact from your purchase.
Consider Resale Value. Your REALTOR can help you with this by telling you about the neighborhood values over the past couple years. Even if you don’t have children you should check the school district ratings on websites designed for that. Your REALTOR cannot possibly tell you whether there are lots of children or any other demographic. The number of children may be perfect at five per house for one person while another thinks one at every other house is plenty. Those items of choice can best be determined by driving through the neighborhood to get a feel for yourself or there are websites that give demographics (age, financial, etc. breakdowns of the residents).
Don’t Hire Their Agent. Rather than working with the REALTOR whose name is on the sign, you should find and sign a contract with your own agent. This REALTOR will then be your buyer’s agent and will be working specifically for you in negotiations, buying advice, and smoothing out wrinkles in the transaction.
Look past cosmetics. Many buyers can’t see possibilities in homes that have wallpaper or bad paint choices or need new flooring. Try to save enough money on the purchase and closing costs to do cosmetic work after you close on the home. Even if you don’t like the colors or the wallpaper, consider living with them for a brief time while you save up money or take the time to do the updating. This is especially true if the expensive things, like new windows, kitchen updates, or a new roof, have been done. If the rooms look small, check out the measurements – maybe the seller just has over-sized or too much furniture that makes the room seem smaller. Those items won’t stay and you’ll have a clean slate to arrange furniture to fit your own needs.
Don’t Ignore the Basics. A good home inspection will show up anything major that needs work, but don’t try to get the seller to pay for everything that the inspector hits on. Health and safety items as well as large things like furnace and roof should be cared for by the seller or at minimum pro-rated so you only must pay part of the cost.
Finding a Buyer’s Agent. Don’t just go for the name you hear on ads or see on billboards. Ask around for recommendations and then interview agents to find out what they see as their area of expertise.
Make Two Lists. Get ready to help your agent find you the best home for your needs by making a list of what you must have in a new home (Needs). Then make a list of what you’d like to have, but it isn’t a deal breaker if the rest of the house checks the boxes (Wants). Wants are things like a fireplace or hardwood floors, or even a swimming pool. Central air conditioning could be a want for one person, but if you have terrible allergies, it could also be a need.
Decide on the Area. Is it close enough to work? Is the school system the one you want for your children if you have or will have them? Drive through the neighborhood at various times to get a feeling for traffic, noise, and activity levels.
Buying the perfect home requires preparation. In the current market that is setting records for the shortest time on the market that preparation should take place in the weeks leading up to the actual search for a home. Find a Lender, find your own REALTOR, and hit the road running to be sure that once you find the perfect home you’re ready to make an offer.
Nancy Bierenga, of élan Realty, is past president of the West Michigan Lakeshore Association of REALTORS®, a member of the National, Michigan, and West Michigan Lakeshore Associations of REALTORS®, and the Greater Muskegon Woman's Club. She is an Accredited Buyer's Representative, a Certified e-Pro REALTOR®, and a Certified Fair Housing REALTOR®. She and husband Robert have lived in Muskegon since 1996. Phone Nancy at (231) 730-0887, email Nancy@HousesByNancy.com, stop by élan Realty's office at 4075 Airline Rd., Muskegon or visit the élan Realty on Facebook here.