The following is a contribution from my blogging buddy Sean at One Smart Dollar. If you’re interested in contributing to Frugal Rules, please consult our guidelines and contact us.
If you have looked for a home to buy or are currently shopping, you have become familiar with the time-honored tradition that is the realtor’s showcase event: the open house. This is typically a weekend activity simply because homebuyers are working people and homes present their best face during daylight hours.
You can always identify the open house in the neighborhood. The signs put up down the street and in front of the home are giveaways, but as soon as you enter the home, you notice everything is clean and in its place, there is no clutter, all the lights are on (even in daylight, homes show better with the interior lights on) and there is likely music playing in the background. There may be an air freshener in an outlet somewhere out of sight, the dining table may be set ready to receive a dinner party with no invitations and the realtor is waiting for your arrival.
You may wonder what role you play in this process. You are expected to buy the house, but are you and this particular house the right marriage? Know that the realtor may know nothing about you, your needs or your ability and readiness to buy. Here are some tips to help your buying effort.
Know Where you want to Live
If you are reeling from the sheer volume of homes for sale, narrow down the volume by eliminating homes not in your ideal neighborhood. If you are moving to a new area, a new state, and you know nothing about the area, don’t start looking for a home until you become familiar with where the best neighborhoods are located considering your budget. Start asking questions of people familiar with the area and then start your search.
Know your Budget
You know homes of higher value are going to impress you and start generating dreams you cannot fulfill; you should not waste the time. When it comes to home buying, we tend to stretch our available dollars to limits that may exceed our capability. Discipline is a hard lesson to learn on the backside of over-indulgence. On the other hand, it is a good thing to learn what is available for what price ranges. You may be mildly surprised to find amenities you would not have thought possible within your budget. Be as flexible as your budget will allow to establish a comfortable price range you can afford.
Know the Circumstances of the Open House
While a particular home may normally be priced above your price range, it may be under the strain of a quick sale to avoid foreclosure, or the house may have already foreclosed. If you are pre-approved, you may be prepared to strike a deal within your budget for a home that would have been above your price range.
Know the Current Market Trend
Is this a buyer’s or seller’s market? Even if the above circumstance is not a possible scenario, maybe the seller is under urgent circumstances to sell, or the market, the neighborhood and the conditions of the home do not support the asking price. Don’t be afraid to offer a lower price if it is a slow market.
While Touring the House, pay Attention to its Condition
How old is the house? Is paint peeling on exterior wooden trim? Are carpets worn? Do the kitchen and bathroom appliances and amenities look dated? How many outlets are in each room and what are your electrical needs? Landscaping? Condition of the roof, HVAC system and water heater? You do not want to rush into a home purchase that is going to require immediate refurbishing unless the sale price reflects these known deficiencies and you have the budget to update the home, particularly if you have the skills to do the labor yourself.
Know what is Included in the Sale
Are the kitchen appliances included? Washer and dryer? The freezer in the garage? Storage shed? Patio furniture? The hot tub? Large potted plants?
Know how long the Home has been on the Market
If it is a heated market and it has been listed for several months, over 100 days, why isn’t the home selling? Are there undisclosed issues? The home will have an independent inspection, usually at the seller’s expense, but it would be best to know about them before making an offer.
Knowing the answers to these questions before and during the open house visit will help to find your ideal home.
Photo courtesy of: James Thompson