I am in the process of buying a house for the first time… There are so many little things to keep in mind, that sometimes I feel like I should have majored in a different field. So to alleviate some of the headaches, I got myself a real estate agent. I think it would be a bitch to do this without one. She put me on a list so that I get emails of houses that just entered the market. Also, she knows what to look for in a house (good & bad)… Not to mention that she gets paid by the [sellers] listing company, not by me.
So, I took a short trip to Milwaukee yesterday. I hopped a flight at 8:00am from Baltimore and made it to Milwaukee by 11:00am CST. At that point, I was able to call a good friend and he proceeded to cart me around for the rest of the day. I had a 3:00 appointment with my agent, so we had some time to burn. Got some lunch and then we went to an open house in the neighborhood that I am interested in. It was a good measure to see the price range of the neighborhood, as well as get a feel for looking at a house.
We then met the agent at the house and she proceeded to lead the way. One side note, she mentioned that it is illegal to enter a property without the representing agent. Found this out because we got to the house a little sooner than she did and were invited in by the owner.
My realtor mentioned the three major things that she looks for in a house. The location, structure, and mechanicals… Meaning that you should keep the location in mind; when the time comes to sell the house, the location doesn’t really change, so the next buyer will factor that in also. The overall structure of the house is important. Is the room layout what you want? Finally mechanicals like circuit breakers, heat/air, appliances, etc.
Other than that, these are the major things that were pointed out right away at each house:
- The roof: How many layers does it have? Noticeable bows/bends?
- Gutters: Are they new? Do they have plants growing out of them?
- Siding: Material used/Type of siding… Did the builder do it correctly or was it quickly done? (Caulk between the separation gaps)
- Windows: Old/New?
- Basement: Does it smell of water? Water stains? Inspect water heater(s) and furnace(s). Solid foundation, bowed walls, cracks/patches
As far as financing is concerned… It was brought to my attention that there are distinct differences between being pre-qualified and pre-approved. Being pre-qualified basically means that the lender has looked over the numbers and suggested an amount that you can afford. This is basically an educated guess, as the numbers have not been verified. Pre-approved is a bit better, as the lender basically verifies the information provided on the application. Including how much you earn, what you owe, and your credit rating/score. A letter of pre-approval is furnished to you, and in turn will be given to the real estate agent to be included with offers. Ideally, you want to be pre-approved before making an offer, so that you’re not scrambling to get financing.
Outside of the mortgage, it is common to include earnest money with the offer. This is basically an up-front cash deposit that shows the seller that you are interested. If the offer is accepted, the earnest money is applied directly to the mortgage. It is recommended that the earnest money should be less than 2% of the cost of the house, for various reasons…
This is all for now. If I think of more, I’ll make sure to say something…