I thought I'd do a little post on house hunting since I have now been down this road of house hunting twice. I'll admit, there are tons of ups and downs and places in between. It can be very emotional and stressful at times but you have to keep your head up, stay positive, and know that it will all work out in the end. So to help you out, I'm going to list a few tips for y'all.
1. Find the Right Realtor for You
Finding the right realtor is key in starting your house hunting journey. You want someone you feel like is actually listening to you and not pressuring you into buying a specific house or pushing you to look at completely different houses that don't meet your requirements. And don't be afraid to speak your mind. My realtor for my first house was HORRIBLE. Besides the fact that she was a conniving slacking lazy B****, ugh I don't even want to go into it that much, so I won't. But she made me sign a 6 month contract in the very beginning so that I could only use her as my realtor and she showed me houses in areas that were way too far away in different cities than I had said I wanted to live in and she kept showing me condos and pushing me into living in a condo. She almost tricked me into buying a condo that had an HOA rule of a 1 dog limit. Anyway, do not commit to a realtor that is pushing you and pressuring you. My realtor I have now is awesome. He is calm, cool, professional, and listens. It's also a plus that he texts- LOVE that! And he has shown that he is looking out for me and completely on my side.
2. Do Not Expect your Realtor to do all of the Work
Just because he or she is your realtor doesn't mean you should just sit back and let them do all of the house hunting for you. Some realtors will look for houses that may meet your requirements and then present you with the list and take you to see them. Some don't. If you are like me, and especially if you are eager to quickly buy a house, do it yourself. And I'm not saying realtors should be searching for you and that if they don't, they aren't doing their jobs. I'm not saying that at all. But it will help the both of you if you are actively searching. I was on Realtor, Trulia, and Zillow almost everyday saving houses, looking for new houses that were recently added, reviewing my list of houses again and again and again, and comparing the houses. Every week I would send my realtor my list of 2-8 houses and the day I wanted to go look at them and he would let me know which ones we could see that day and the times. I think this speeds up the process big time.
3. Be Open, Optimistic, & Realistic
This is very important with house hunting. Unless you are rich and have an unlimited budget, you most likely won't find a house that has every single thing you want to a T. Make a list of things you want in a house. And then go over that list and make a second list. Put the things you have to have/ really want in a house in one column, the things you'd like to have but are open to a house without those qualities in the 2nd column, and list your deal breakers in the third column. This is your platform, your starting point. And this is probably going to change, but it's going to really help in the long run.
One of my deal breakers was HOAs. That was a deal breaker that wasn't going to change. Another deal breaker was if the house had no type of fence. That deal breaker changed because even though I wanted some type of fence to start with, I knew that I would need to get the fence taken down and a new fence installed the following day anyway with pretty much any house in order to meet my standards for the dogs (I have to have a 6' tall privacy fence with no spaces in between the panels and no openings at the bottom of the fence). I was not finding much in the price range I wanted to stay in and in a good neighborhood with a fence. So ultimately, I decided to nix the fence requirement and it definitely gave me a lot more options.
4. Do Not Settle... Completely
You might get so frustrated that you are willing to just settle with any house. Don't. Believe me, I've gotten to that point myself but dragged myself out of there. Get on the computer everyday if you can to search for houses and review your lists and see if anything can be edited or tweaked. The house for you is out there. And sometimes you might find a really great house, or it might seem great b/c you were at the point of throwing the towel in, but it is just a tad over your budget. A lot of people are willing to overlook that and jump to make an offer. Don't! You have to really think about this. Think about the extra costs you will face with being homeowners and remind yourself of all of the closing costs. Can you really afford it? If you buy this house, will you have to live paycheck to paycheck or on a super tight budget for the next 15-30 years? This is really important. Don't be so quick to jump all in. I have been here as well. When I felt like I wasn't going to find anything right for me, I found a gorgeous house. It wasn't exactly what I wanted but I loved it. And then I snapped myself out of it. It was out of the budget I had given myself. So I did the smart responsible thing and didn't go look at it or even tell my realtor about it.
5. Do Not Put in a Full Listing Price Offer or Your Maximum Budget Amount
It's really up to you, but you really shouldn't. I was actually close to doing this on my new house but my realtor, being the good realtor he is, told me not to. When you put in an offer, there will most likely end up being some negotiating back and forth if they don't completely reject your offer altogether. If you can get the house cheaper- then why the hell not?! If you start a little low, it gives you room to negotiate and increase a potential counter offer so that you are aren't going over your budget and still have a chance at buying the house. The sellers of the house I bought rejected my first offer and came back with a counter offer of the full listing price BUT they agreed to pay 6% seller help, which was very important to me so that I didn't have to pay as much in closing costs at settlement. Some people also think about making an offer that is more than the listing price because they want the house so bad. This sometimes works but besides the costs and potential unexpected expenses, you have to think about the appraisal. What happens if the appraisal comes back and it's less than the amount you offered? The bank isn't going to approve your mortgage loan. And then you have to see if there are any other possible options or you are left heartbroken and back to square one.
6. Don't Forget About Inspections!
When house hunting and considering putting an offer on a house, keep in mind that although the house looks great, it might not pass inspection. It might need a lot of work done to it in order for it to pass and the seller might not be willing to pay some or all of those expenses. So if you want the house and they aren't willing to fix things, then you have to pay for it. Sometimes there will be just minor cosmetic things to fix but there could be some hefty expensive repairs needed. Just keep that in the back of your mind.
7. Taxes and Homeowner's Insurance
Taxes and homeowner's insurance get added into your monthly mortgage payment. In some cities and states, you have to pay extra taxes. In Pa, you have to also pay school taxes. This will increase your monthly mortgage payment. The taxes on a house can range greatly from city to city. The taxes for my new house are almost double the amount I paid on the old house.
On the Good Faith Estimate (GFE) you receive from your mortgage broker, the estimated price for mortgage insurance will most likely be less than what it will actually cost you. So before you get homeowner's insurance for the house and get that final amount locked in, your estimated monthly mortgage payment on your GFE will usually be lower than what it will actually be unless your interest rate decreases when they lock in everything or something. Just keep those things in mind because things can always change.
8. Don't Do Anything that Could Jeopardize Your Ability to Pay Your Closing Costs at Settlement
Some people forget they had a trip/ vacation planned or get so excited that their offer on a house got accepted that they go take a trip or do something to celebrate. Then they end up spending too much and don't have enough money to cover their closing costs. Be responsible and just wait until settlement is over and everything is official.
9. Expenses in the First Week to the First Month
During the first week to the first month of living in your new house is probably going to be the most expensive. Besides the fact that you are going to be buying a bunch of stuff for the house and starting the process of making it your home, a lot of things tend to break or you find out they are broken and need to be replaced during that time. I have gotten pretty lucky so far *Knock on Wood*. I would consider the majority of my stuff pretty minor but at the same time, I haven't lived here for a full month just yet.
10. Relax and Breathe
As I've said before, it will all work out. What is meant to be is meant to be and everything happens for a reason. Do everything you can and don't give up.
I hope this helps!