house-buying tips
Mood: chipper
Posted on 2007-10-23 14:50:00
Tags: house
Words: 162

It is gorgeous weather outside!

Since our apartment will be converting into condominiums at some point in the undetermined-yet-apparently-not-too-distant future, we're looking into buying a house. (or at least pricing houses so we can compare, but more likely actually buying a house) Obviously we've never done this before, but here's what we think we know:

- Rough estimate of size, location (north of here but not too far), and dollar amounts that we're happy to spend and able to spend. I've checked on trulia and they seem reasonable enough.
- A list of things about the house that are important (storage space, etc., etc.)
- ???

You'll notice this is not a long list. Do we start with a buyer of some sort and tell them this and have them suggest houses to look at? Do we talk to the bank first about a mortgage or is that after we have a house in mind? What other important questions don't I even know to ask? Help!


Comment from fartingmonkey:

When you figure this all out, be sure to take detailed notes...then forward them to me.

I hear you can go to the bank and get a loan pre-approved before you go out shopping.

Comment from omega697:

You can buy my house!


Comment from omega697:

In all honesty, if you want help, I can give you some advice, since I've bought 2 houses now :oD

Comment from onefishclappin:

Get a real estate buyers agent. Tell them what you want. Their job is to then find houses and take you to them; listen to your feedback (We need more closets; I want a bigger backyard; The traffic noise is too much) and pare down the choices and show you more. They will also walk you through stuff like mortgages, insurance, escrow, etc etc etc. On the mortgage, you can usually get a note from the bank detailing your max mortgage (more than you are likely to spend) in order to put an offer on a house. You can have this in hand before you decide on a house without commitment (or money).
If you want the recommendation of an agent, we were happy with ours. And she's up close to your area so would know it well.

Comment from destroyerj:

I second the recommendation to let a buyer's agent take you through the questions you have. If you get one and they're not being helpful enough for you, ditch them and get a new one, cause there's tons out there. It's their job basically to know everything you don't know about buying a house.

The one thing I want to add though is to definitely remember that you are under no obligation to act on anything. The agent may be somewhat 'enthusiastic' about houses that seem to your liking, but you should definitely use your own timetable until you're completely comfortable with any decisions. Listen to what they have to say, then go home and do your own research on the subject.

Also, as you do your hunting, bring a notepad with you. Keep a list of must-have's and like-to-have's, and add to them as you go, cause you'll think of new things as you look at the actual houses.

Comment from onefishclappin:

Take a notepad. Take a camera. Ask for HOA rules before you put an offer on the house. Research online stuff like crime stats, sex offender registry, etc. It's there and easy to get.
Any place you are thinking of putting an offer on, drive around it at night or dusk to get a good feel of the neighborhood.

Comment from onefishclappin:

Oh, and it sounds funny to say, but you are under no obligation to your agent to buy a house. They get paid a ton of money when you buy - it's their risk and job to spend enough time with you to get a good match for you. Don't get guilt tripped or over enthused.

Comment from destroyerj:

And as much as they might push one particular house, as soon as you give a firm no, they know the only path to their $$$ is to help you find a new house that you will say yes to, so don't think that if you say no they'll just say "well screw you then, bye".

Comment from djedi:

Thanks for all the info. I can see one or both of us getting...emotionally manipulated by the whole process.

Comment from llemma:

Maybe we just never found the right broker, but we found that all the ones we tried were unbelievably unhelpful. They had no more information than we did -- the listings are mostly searchable online -- and they didn't seem particularly gifted at helping us sort through it. Unless you find somebody really smart and passionate and expert in your market niche, you're probably better off just searching yourself.

Comment from fartingmonkey:

My hypothetical approach that I have been formulating in my mind while procrastinating the whole house buying thing was this:

1. Go to a few open houses, get a feel for what you get for what price, see house styles blah blah. Basically break myself in.
2. Do some online browsing and find houses I specifically think I would like, and go visit them.
3. If I find a sweet one, find a realtor to help me buy it, if not I find a realtor to help me find a house for real.
4. If all else fails, give up...they say renting is better than buying with heavy investments. I'm sure it'll work out. ;)

Now if only I wasn't too lazy to proceed to step 1.

Comment from llemma:

Once you find the place you want, your best bet is just to contact the seller's agent. If you're willing to read up a little bit and keep a close eye on things, you can do just fine without a buyer's agent; personally I trust my own fine-print reading comprehension and with-it-ness more than that of most of hte professionals we met through this process.

Comment from krikwennavd:

Our agent was good. We sent her a list of what we thought we were looking for, and she narrowed down our search tremendously. And while MLS listings are searchable online, you just don't get a good feel for a house without visiting. A good agent will also be able to point out features/problems that you might not notice yourself. Ours gave us good advice on making an offer, and wasn't pushy at all. It helped, of course, that we found what we wanted so quickly, but she didn't even push on mortgage offers, even though she works for Coldwell Banker.

Comment from anonymous:

Re searching MLS listing yourself or having the agent do it:
You know what you want more and things in the descriptions might jump out at you and as something you didn't know you wanted.
They have likely been going to some of these houses and know that the great one with low price/sq ft actually smells like smoke and there's no way in hell you would want it.

And if you have a good agent who notices things like where the pipes run mean that if someone is taking a shower in the guest bath, it sounds like a waterfall in the master, it's invaluable. (Especially for a first time buyer who doesn't know what to look for.)

Comment from onefishclappin:

That was me. Sorry.
If you don't have a hard deadline (like you are in town for 3 days and you need to buy a house by the end of that), there's no problem with searching every weekend for a few months. It takes a while to find the right one.
And ask your friends what their mistakes were. What did they not notice about their house that they wish they had (mismatched appliances). What did they think wouldn't bother them that really does (tons of flowerbeds). What did they not look for that they got and now couldn't live without (tons of closets, 3 car garage)

Comment from yerfdogyrag:

Kris ended up running our agent pretty ragged. She probably looked at 20-25 homes and narrowed it down to about 5 that I went back with her to look at. But, for the most part, she would search the internet for homes and use him to get into the places. He seemed pretty knowledgeable, but I found a number of things that he told us with complete confidence, ended up not being completely correct. And we used a couple of his highly recommended contractors and they were duds as well. All in all, our agent got $8000 for a few days work.

In retrospect, I'd likely use for the buying since they'll give a rebate on the buyer agent's 3%. I'm not overly fond of the way that the real estate industry has fixed prices and does their best to keep a monopoly. It was only recently that they were forced to make MLS listings public. The only way to change the monopoly is to support agents that are working against it. What turned me on to Texas Discount Realty was that I found the owner, Aaron Farmer, had testified in congress against monopolistic real estate laws. I like that.

Comment from taesmar:

I cannot stress enough to ask about Homeowner associations!!! If you don't pay on time, they can foreclose on your house. They can also charge you with ludicrous attorney fees to try to recover money you owe them... and then when you don't pay THAT trumped-up charge, foreclose on your house.

So ask:

1) What are the bylaws. If they can't give you a copy of the bylaws, walk away and don't look back. You have to know what rules you will be expected to follow, and if you can't get a copy, something is fishy.

2) Find out whether members get to be involved or vote.

3) Find out how often they institute legal action. I.e. if you are in violation of some ridiculous bylaw, do they immediately haul off to the attorney to write you a nasty letter (and stick you with the attorney fees for writing said letter)

4) Have they EVER foreclosed? This is important.

5) What is the procedure for changing the bylaws, electing board members, etc. If the association is run by a small group of "elite" who can never be un-elected, you're more likely to run into problems.

6) Often the HOA is run by a management company, research it to make sure it's reputable.

7) Ask what your HOA fees cover. Many times, the HOA's charge you for sewage and trash and such... stuff that you are already paying taxes on at the city level! Consider whether you want to be paying twice for the same crap.

8) Ask yourself seriously whether you care about an overgrown lawn enough to get yours mowed on a regular basis. Think about the worst case scenario of not having an HOA - a car up on blocks in the yard, for example, and see if you'd be willing to live with that. On the other hand, think of the worst case scenario with an HOA (mowing the grass every 3 days) and see if you'd be ok with that.

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