1. Hire a real estate agent.
Finding a good real estate agent is all-benefits, no drawbacks for buyers. It costs you nothing, but will save you so much time—and you’ll have a pro’s know-how throughout the process. Agents have access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which gives them first glance at what’s for sale in the neighborhood you want at the price you can afford.
Prepare a list of questions to ask a real estate agent, and interview them before committing.
2. Shop for a mortgage.
Compare mortgage rates online, and look at the types of mortgages available—conventional, FHA, fixed-rate, adjustable rate—understanding the difference between these will help you figure out how to buy a house that’s right for you.
Get mortgage pre-approval. You may have heard of pre-qualification, which gives you a general idea of how much you might be able to borrow. Pre-approval is the next step—a commitment from a lender for the amount that you can borrow. Pre-approval makes you a stronger home buying candidate—one who’s ready to close a deal quickly, which sellers love.
3. Make a list of needs and wants.
Make two lists: one of must-haves and one of nice-to-have items like the Olympic-sized swimming pool you dreamed about as a kid.
On the must-haves include location—walkable to work, in your favorite neighborhood, by good schools, etc.—as well as number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and whatever else you absolutely can’t (or won’t) live without. Your real estate agent can help you decide what items might best fit on which list based on homes in your market.
4. Browse online house listings.
Take out that handy list of needs and wants and start looking around at what’s available. Use our home search to filter quickly to find the right listings to explore. The goal with online browsing isn’t just to find a potential home, it’s also to make sure what you want, what’s available, and what you can afford all line up. If not, you may need to adjust your wants and needs.
5. Go to house viewings.
Once you start seeing homes you like, call your agent and ask them to start scheduling viewings. And another, and another. Visit as many homes and open houses as you can. The more comparing and contrasting you can do, the more knowledge you have about the market and your options. Ask your agent for advice about how to buy a house that really fits your needs.
6. Make an offer and negotiate.
Once you’re ready to start home buying, it’s offer time. Here’s where you’ll thank yourself for working with a real estate agent. They’ll help you determine the right offer to make for a particular house, including things that go beyond the dollar amount. For instance, offering an accelerated closing date or to buy and lease back to the buyer if they can’t move right away may be a smart move in some situations. When you make an offer on a house, the seller may accept it or counter-offer, and then your agent will help you decide how and if to negotiate. Once you arrive at a deal everyone likes, you’re considered under contract to buy the house.
7. Get your loan approved.
Remember back when you got pre-approved? Pat yourself on the back. Now you just have to finish things up by making it official. Let your lender know you’ve found a house. The lender will order an appraisal and give you a bunch of paperwork to fill out. Your loan now goes through the underwriting process before it’s finally approved.
8. Wait for the appraisal.
One of the ways your lender makes sure you and your house are a good bet is with a home appraisal. This is when someone does a professional evaluation of how much your home is worth. If the appraisal ends up higher than your offer, go celebrate. If it’s not, you may either have to make a larger down payment, get a second opinion, or renegotiate the price. Or you may decide to walk away from the deal.
9. Hire a home inspector.
Being under contract means you can still back out if you learn anything unexpected about the house. And a home inspector is the one who finds any potential surprises. It’ll cost around $300 to $500 for your home inspection, but it’s well worth saving you from buying a house with a major problem. Your agent can often help you find an inspector, or you can go through the “American society of home inspectors”.
10. Close on your house.
This is the day you get your house keys—but first, you have some serious paperwork to do. You’ll set an appointment for closing on your house, and you’ll need to bring your driver’s license, a cashier’s check for your down payment and closing costs (which range from 2 to 5 percent of the home’s purchase price) — and a lot of patience. You will sign and initial dozens of papers.
But at the end of this meeting, you will be a homeowner. You can take your keys and go home.
Your home is one of your biggest purchases, so it makes sense that you'd want to protect your investment. Read on to learn about 10 surprising things that decrease a home's property value.
Have a neighbor with a junk-strewn yard, loud dogs or a penchant for wild parties? If so, know that it erodes your property value in addition to theirs. Another issue is living by a registered sex offender—find out if there are any in your neighborhood by searching the National Sex Offender Public Website.
Poor Exterior Paint
QualityYour home’s exterior is the first impression people get of your house. So exterior paint that’s faded, cracked or peeling is a big turnoff. Another negative is painting your home an offbeat color. Buyers favor neutral colors like gray, white, cream and beige. So pick your colors with care and repaint the exterior when it starts to look bad.
Have a backlog of serious repairs, such as a Leaky roof, damaged siding or a sputtering HVAC system? If so, it’s best to tackle them ASAP. Letting them languish on your to-do list will only chip away at your home’s property value. What’s more, it’s often more expensive to remedy these issues the longer you wait.
A foreclosure close to your home hurts your home’s property value. That’s because appraisers look at comparable selling prices in your neighborhood when estimating your home’s value. What’s more, foreclosed homes may sit vacant without any maintenance for a long time. That also doesn’t bode well for your property value.
Proximity to Certain Facilities and Businesses
Studies show that living close to certain businesses and facilities can drag down property values. Being in close proximity to the following are associated with these drops in property value:
An Unsightly Yard
They call it curb appeal for a reason. If your yard is in poor condition or overrun with stuff, expect your property value to suffer. On the flip side, elaborate landscaping or a koi pond can also put a dent in your property value since many homeowners don’t want to handle the extra maintenance. A final yard-related turnoff: trees located too close (less than 20 ft.) to your house.
The Address Suffix
It may sound crazy, but your address suffix could increase your property value up to 36 percent. Research shows that boulevard, place and road addresses are the most “expensive.” Suffixes associated with lower property values include street, drive and avenue.
Too Much Personalization
When a buyer tours a house, they quickly take note of all the projects they’ll need to do. Topping their lists are things like removing quirky wallpaper, painting over unusual colors and replacing unconventional fixtures. If you’re going for something offbeat, try to ensure it can be easily removed or reversed when it’s time to sell.
A Garage Conversion
Converting your garage to a gym, playroom, home office or anything else besides a place to park cars is a sure way to lower your property value. That’s because the vast majority of buyers want a space for their cars and yard equipment. If you want to use your garage for any other purpose, do so in a way that makes it easy to convert back to a conventional garage.
Lots of Carpet
Carpet tends to show damage easily, can be difficult to clean and retains odors. What’s more, many buyers are turned off by certain colors. A better flooring option is hardwood or laminate. In fact, one study revealed that 54 percent of home buyers are willing to pay more for hardwood floors.
From the down payment to closing costs to property maintenance, we've rounded up all the costs involved with buying a home.
“Can I afford a home?” may seem like an overwhelming question, but really, there are just two major types of expenses you have to consider: upfront and ongoing costs. Here’s a breakdown of each, so you can figure out how much you’ll need — and if you’re ready to get going.
What to consider when asking, “Can I afford a home?”Upfront costs
This’ll vary, too. If you have a green thumb, a ladder, and spare time, you might only need to budget for materials. Or you may want to leave it all to the pros. For each home you consider, you’ll want to eyeball the property and get an estimate for maintenance services or for the tools you’d need for a DIY home project.
Staging a house helps buyers imagine themselves living in it.
If you want to sell your home faster, staging a house may help. Staging a house gets your place showroom-ready and allows buyers to imagine themselves living there. Home buyers are used to seeing picture-perfect houses—in person, on home decorating shows, and in online listings, so learning how to stage a house can make a big difference when selling.
What does staging a house mean? Staging a house is the process of strategically arranging furnishings and decor to make a house look its best while selling. This may involve paring down and refreshing your own belongings, or moving all of your own stuff out and renting furniture and decor.
Here’s how to stage a house.
8. Add little extras.
Once you’ve learned how to stage a house and yours looks perfect, add some finishing touches inside. People love to see fresh flowers in vases, a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen counter, and folded towels in the bathroom. If you’re living in your home while selling, you can keep your nice extras in a closet so they’re ready to go quickly when your real estate agent calls to say a buyer is on the way.
Thinking of moving to Florida? You’re not alone. Every year, the Sunshine State attracts thousands of newcomers to its sandy shores – and it’s not hard to see why. From the lack of state income tax to the sunny weather, there are plenty of reasons to love calling Florida home. Its diverse population, delectable food and many theme parks and attractions also make it a particularly interesting place to live. Here are 10 reasons why you should consider moving to Florida today.
10 reasons why moving to Florida is a great idea
1. The majority of the year is sunny and warm
Why are so many people moving to Florida? For the weather, of course! With more than 200 sunshine-filled days a year, Florida offers newcomers exceptionally warm and sunny weather. Despite the hot and humid summers, Florida seasons tend to be mostly mild and warm. Those living in the southern portion of the Sunshine State will likely never need more than a sweater during the winter. With so many warm and sunny days a year, residents can spend less time indoors and more time outdoors exploring all that Florida has to offer.
2. There’s no state income tax
Looking to save more money on a monthly basis? Consider moving to Florida. While the majority of U.S. states require residents to pay state income taxes, the State of Florida does not. Fortunately for Florida residents, this lack of income tax allows them to save more of their hard-earned money for fun activities, vacations and belongings.
3. The beaches are fantastic
Life really is a beach in Florida. Residents have access to some of the world’s best and most beautiful beaches right outside their doors. Well-known and award-winning beaches in Florida include Sarasota’s Siesta Public Beach, which was named the number one beach in the U.S. by TripAdvisor, Clearwater Beach, Pensacola Beach, Delray Beach, St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, Panama City Public Beach, Grayton Beach and St. George Island – just to name a few.
4. There’s plenty of cultural diversity
There’s no other state quite like Florida when it comes to cultural diversity. Throughout the state, you’ll find people of every age, religion and background imaginable, making it one of the greatest melting pots in the country. In addition to those who are born and raised in Florida, many residents include snow birds and transplants from different states who have moved for the weather, job opportunities and tax benefits. Given its coastal location, Florida also attracts a large Latino population. The state’s diversity is without a doubt one of the reasons why Florida is such an interesting place to live.
5. Locals receive discounts to a number of attractions
There’s a major benefit to living where others vacation. From Walt Disney World in Orlando to The Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, hundreds of Florida attractions and hotels offer resident-only discounts and bargains throughout the year. The majority of deals are available during the late spring, summer and early fall months when tourism slows down.
6. There’s so much to do outdoors (and indoors!)
There’s no shortage of things to do in Florida. Thanks to the 200-plus days of sunshine a year, residents are able to spend much of their time outdoors partaking in everything from water sports to cultural experiences. Popular water activities in Florida include swimming, boating, scuba diving, paddle boarding and fishing. Residents also have easy access to a number of attractions such as Disney World and Universal Studios. Miami’s many art deco inspired hotels and restaurants, along with the city’s annual Art Basil event, offers plenty to do as well.
7. Living in Florida won’t break the bank
Looking to get more bang for your buck in terms of housing and day-to-day services? Move to Florida. While the cost of living in Florida’s major cities, such as Miami, can be on the higher end, the majority of areas throughout the Sunshine State are very affordable compared to many other U.S. states. According to AreaVibes, the overall cost of living in Florida is one point lower than the national average. Goods and services, healthcare, and housing in Florida all fall below the national average.
8. The sports culture is intense
From professional sports to college sports, Florida offers some of the best sports teams in the country to cheer on. While most states have one or two professional football teams (or none!), Florida has three. Florida also offers two professional baseball teams, two professional basketball teams and two professional hockey teams. Popular teams in the state include the Miami Heat, Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccanneers, Orlando Magic, Tampa Bay Rays, Miami Marlins and more. College’s such as the University of Florida and Florida State University also offer their own teams for students and alum to rally around.
9. The food and drink are delectable
From its famous stone crabs to its locally-made craft brews, Florida is home to a plethora of delectable dining options. With its many climate zones and thriving farms, it’s a mecca for fresh produce such as its world famous oranges, sugarcane, tomatoes, watermelon, avocados, strawberries and more. The state’s heavy Cuban influence also makes it a popular place for empanadas, Cuban coffee, sweet plantains and other Cuban delicacies. Florida restaurants serve plenty of Island-inspired and Caribbean-style foods such as Key Lime Pie and coconut shrimp as well. No matter where you are in Florida, you’ll be able to find fresh and tasty fare nearby.
10. You can vacation where you live
If you live in Florida, you’ll never have to travel for vacation again. The state’s many beaches, theme parks and attractions mean there are hundreds of vacation (read: staycation) options for you – all within a few hours drive. From the secluded sandy beaches along the Gulf Coast to the family-friendly theme parks of Disney World, there’s no shortage of fun and exciting places to visit in your own state.
When it comes to selling a home, the dream scenario is to complete the transaction as quickly as possible while still getting the full asking price. Of course, home sales don’t always work out this way. Occasionally, a house languishes on the market, prompting price reductions that erode profit margins. Such scenarios can be frustrating, to say the least. With that said, there are steps to take to maximize the odds of selling your home quickly — and getting the desired dollar amount. Here are some tips:
Thinking about moving but wondering what your current home is worht? Click the link to find out your home's value, its free!