March 2018 - Comey & Shepherd Realtors

10 Things You Need to Do When Buying A Home

1. Buy for the long run. Assume you’ll own your home for at least five years.

A home is a significant investment, not to mention a linchpin of stability. According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2017, the majority of Americans who sold their homes last year had lived in their home for at least a decade before selling.

Some are even staying for the long haul. Almost half (46 percent) of all homeowners are like me — living in the first home we ever purchased. In short: Buy a home you want to live in — one equipped (or ready to be equipped) with the features and space you need, both now and in the future.

2. Buy to improve your life, not to speculate with your money.

Your home is more than a financial investment; it’s where you sleep, eat, host friends, raise your children — it’s where your life happens.

The housing market is too unpredictable to buy a (primary) home purely because you think it will net a big short-term financial return. You will most likely be living in this home for several years, regardless of how it appreciates, so your first priority should be finding a home that will meet your needs and help you build the life you want.

3. Focus on what’s important to you. Don’t be distracted by features you don’t need.

Today’s housing market is short on inventory, with 10 percent fewer homes on the market in November 2017 than November 2016.

So, focus on finding a home you can afford that meets your needs — but don’t get distracted by shiny features that might break your budget. Nice-to-have features often drive up the price tag for things you don’t particularly value once the initial enjoyment wears off.

Make a list of your basic needs, both for your desired home and for your desired neighborhood. Stick to finding a home that meets these needs, without buying extra stuff that adds up.

4. Determine a budget and stick to it. Don’t look at houses above that budget.

It’s important to set a budget early — ideally before you even start looking at homes. In today’s market, especially in the more competitive markets, it’s incredibly easy to go over budget — 29 percent of buyers who purchased last year did.

The most common culprit? Location. Zillow’s data indicates that urban buyers are significantly more likely to go over budget (42 percent) than suburban (25 percent) or rural (20 percent) buyers.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Local schools matter, and psychologists tell us that a short commute improves your life. But be realistic about your local market and about yourself. Know what you’re willing to compromise on — be it less square footage, home repairs or a different neighborhood.

5. A 20 percent down payment is ideal. If you can’t afford that, consider a smaller down payment, or lower your budget.

If you can afford it, a 20 percent down payment is ideal for three reasons:

  • Buyers who don’t put a full 20 percent down pay a premium, most commonly in the form of private mortgage insurance (PMI). This is less financially punishing than it used to be, given today’s low mortgage rates. A monthly mortgage payment (with PMI) may be lower than a monthly rental payment in many markets — but still.
  • Buyers who put more down upfront typically make fewer offers and buy faster than those who put less down. Zillow research found that buyers with higher down payments make 1.9 offers on average, compared to 2.4 offers for buyers with lower down payments (after controlling for market conditions).
  • A higher down payment reduces your financial risk. You don’t want to owe more money than your house is worth if local markets dip when you need to sell.

6. Keep a six-month strategic reserve after down payment. Stuff happens.

While a down payment is a significant expense, it’s also important to build up a strategic reserve and keep it separate from your normal bank account.

This reserve should cover six months of living expenses in case you get sick, face an unexpected expense or lose your job. A strategic reserve will not only save you from financial hardship in the event of an emergency but also provide peace of mind.

When we accumulated a strategic reserve, my wife and I finally felt ready to build for our future. Without it, we were living from paycheck to paycheck, anxiously managing our cash flow rather than saving or budgeting.

7. Get pre-approved, and if you want to avoid uncertainty down the road, stick with a boring 30- or 15-year fixed-rate mortgage.

The pre-approval process requires organizing all your paperwork; documenting your income, debt and credit; and understanding all the loan options available to you. It’s a bit of a pain, but it saves time later. Getting pre-approved also shows sellers that you’re a reliable buyer with a strong financial footing. Most importantly, it helps you understand what you can afford.

There are a variety of mortgage types, and it’s important to evaluate all of them to see which is best for your family and financial situation. Those boring 30- and 15-year mortgages offer big advantages.

The biggest is locking in your mortgage rate. In short: A 30-year fixed mortgage has a specific fixed rate of interest that doesn’t change for 30 years. A 15-year fixed mortgage does the same.

These typically have lower rates but higher monthly payments, since you must pay it off in half the time. Conventional fixed-rate mortgages help you manage your household budgeting because you know precisely how much you’ll be paying every month for many years. They’re simple to understand, and current rates are low.

One final advantage is that they don’t tempt you with a low initial payment to buy more house than you can afford.

8. Comparison shop to get the best mortgage.

Though a home is the biggest purchase many of us will ever make, most home buyers don’t shop around for a mortgage (52 percent consider only a single lender).

I certainly didn’t. This did save me some annoying phone calls and hassle, but it cost me $40 or $50 every month, for years. The difference of half a percentage point in your mortgage rate can add up to thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the loan. It’s important to evaluate all the available options to make sure you’re going with the lender who meets your needs — not just the first one you contact.

The three most important factors to buyers are that the lender offers a loan program that caters to their specific needs (76 percent), has the most competitive rates (74 percent) and has a history of closing on time (63 percent).

9. Spend no more than a third of your after-tax income on housing (unless you live in an especially pricey market).

It’s better to regret spending too little on your home than spending too much. One-third of your after-tax income is a manageable amount.

10. When getting ready to buy, always be willing to walk away.

Buying a home is a time-consuming, stressful but ultimately rewarding endeavor — if you end up closing on a home that meets your needs. But it’s important to manage your expectations in case you don’t immediately find a home you can afford with the features you need.

Always be prepared to walk away if the sellers don’t accept your offer, the home doesn’t pass a rigorous inspection or the timing isn’t right. Hold fast to your list of must-haves, stick to what you can afford and don’t overreach or settle.

It’s no tragedy to miss out on any particular house. Remember that you’re playing the long game. You want to be happy 10 years from now.

Source: Zillow.com

What NOT to Do When Remodeling Bathrooms

Avoid these top five bathroom blunders — because nobody likes to learn the hard way.

While a bathroom might not be the first room a potential home buyer asks to see, it can make or break the sale.

Here are five common mistakes both rookie and seasoned flippers and homeowners make when renovating a bathroom.

Mistake 1: Ignoring proper spacing and layout

Bathrooms may seem straightforward, but a lack of spatial awareness in the renovation planning stages can lead to problems down the road.

Remember: Just because you can fit something into the bathroom design doesn’t mean it can function within that space. Always keep function in the forefront of your mind and in your design.

For example, if you choose a shower with a door, your bathroom layout should leave plenty of room for it to fully open. No potential home buyer will want to squeeze out of a partially opened shower door every morning. Other considerations include providing enough space to comfortably get on and off the toilet, open cabinet doors, etc.

Spatial considerations also include making sure elements of the room are close enough together to function. For example, the toilet paper holder should be within a child’s arm’s reach of the toilet, and outlets should be easily accessible from the counter.

Mistake 2: Choosing the wrong materials

Because of the sink, toilet and shower, bathrooms deal with more moisture than any other room in the house. Homeowners also use many of the strongest cleaning products on bathroom surfaces. Both of these factors, if not taken into consideration, can lead to significant damage if you don’t select the right materials for the job.

Go with materials that can stand up to harsh cleaners and are not highly susceptible to mold, warping or distortion. Avoid porous materials that will retain moisture and allow hidden mold to grow.

Mistake 3: Ignoring storage space

No one complains about having too much storage in the bathroom. When planning a bathroom remodel, incorporate plenty of storage space into the design.

Consider how many people will use the bathroom. Don’t make the mistake of providing only enough bathroom storage space for one person in a 4-bedroom house.

Additionally, most people prefer a bit of privacy with bathroom storage, so a set of floating shelves, while helpful, will not be sufficient on its own.

Mistake 4: Forgetting about ventilation

Ventilation isn’t a glamorous part of a bathroom renovation, but it is essential. Forgetting to work in enough ventilation can lead to mold, mildew and other costly problems in the future. It can also make a bathroom uncomfortable if it’s not properly ventilated during or after a shower.

If possible, work in a combination of natural and artificial ventilation sources. A well-placed window can go a long way, but it won’t be very helpful during cold winter months, when a homeowner won’t open it. Make sure to install a quality ventilation fan that can handle the size of the bathroom.

Mistake 5: Putting off lighting plans until the end

Many people think of lighting as a finishing touch to a renovation. While lighting is often installed later in the process, you should plan your lighting fixtures at the beginning of the renovation.

Bathrooms are often where people get ready for the day, which is why lighting is essential. Recessed lighting can create shadows on your face in the mirror, and the last thing you want when trying to sell a bathroom is unflattering lighting.

Waiting until the end to address lighting can also lead to dark patches within the bathroom. Depending on your preferred shower style, you may or may not need lighting above the shower or tub.

Similarly, no one wants to use the toilet in darkness. When drawing up your plans, consider what type of lighting will best accommodate your space and room design. Making adjustments in the planning stages will be much easier than making them at the end of a project.

Source: Zillow.com