You probably know how to find good deals on clothes, flights, and maybe even a used car. But a house? That’s uncharted territory. Fear not, future homeowner?we sat down with Trenton Hoggard, a CENTURY 21 agent at Wright-Pace Real Estate in Jonesboro, AR, for some tips on finding the home that’s right for you at a price that won’t burn holes in your pockets.
COVER YOUR BASES
Finding your home sweet home is a process that begins with knowing your credit score, finding a lender, and getting pre-approved for a mortgage. One surefire way to ensure your credit score is acceptable is maintaining a low debt balance?it should be no more than 30% of your available credit limit. Hoggard says, “show me what you think your credit score is, and this kind of tells me if a lender or two are suited towards you.” Getting pre-approved for a mortgage puts you at an advantage because it means that the lender is confident you can make the necessary payments. Use your realtor as a resource to establish what your loan options are and then connect with a lender that fits you. Check out our Credit Score Fundamentals article to learn more.
LOOK FOR THE SIGNS
Once you find a potential home, it’s crucial that you play detective?Nancy Drew style. Appraise, investigate, and look for red flags. Is there wood in the living room that’s starting to rot? Are the railings on the porch or the stairs a little bit wobbly? Note these things so they can be fixed before you move in. If not, you may be stuck cleaning out the gutters on day one. It’s also a good idea to ask for an inspection on the house just in case there are any issues that only a professional could see. Always keep in mind the home’s resale value, because the resale value of your first home can predict what kind of house you can buy the next time around. Hoggard says, “I not only want to help you find your next house, but I also want to help you sell this house. So, I’m very clear about which properties are going to be smarter, or could be mistakes later on when it comes to resale.”
Always keep in mind the home’s resale value
KNOW THE MARKET
The real estate market is constantly changing. Sometimes the market will be working in your favor (a buyer’s market), and sometimes it won’t (a seller’s market). Depending on the state of the market, the bang you can get for your buck will differ. In a buyer’s market, it’s likely that you’ll be able to get a great deal on a home. In a seller’s market, that same home may be well out of your price range. Use your agent as a resource and know what your ideal home is worth in the current market before you start taking walking tours.
PLAY HARDBALL WHEN YOU CAN
If reading the word “negotiation” makes your stomach turn, the thought of doing it may cause you to break out in hives. Placing an offer on a house can be stressful, but don’t sweat it. Know that sellers are under just as much pressure?especially in a buyer’s market. Negotiating in a buyer’s market will be easier because you have the power. Sellers are much more likely to accept low offers, especially if there’s a time crunch. So, depending on the home, your first offer can be at least 10% under the price you want to pay.1 In a seller’s market, negotiating may be harder as sellers probably have the upper hand. In this situation, your offer shouldn’t be much under the asking price. And no matter how much you want to, don’t ask to keep their furniture or other personal items. Since there are more buyers than sellers in this situation, you’ll want to be ready to make decisions quickly.
Negotiation is essential, but don’t worry if you’re not the sweet-talking, persuasive type?that’s what your realtor is for. As difficult as it sounds to get a good deal on a home, it is 100% doable. As long as you work with your agent and lender, diligently prepare for every situation, and know the market, you’ll be putting your key in the door to your new place in no time.