The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Home


Your new home will probably be the biggest purchase of your life, so it’s important to get it right. But with so many things to consider, sometimes buyers can get overwhelmed, and overlook important things. But eLocal is here to help!

We polled our panel of experts for the most important (and least-remembered) things to do during the buying process, and were impressed by the wealth of information! We present the ultimate guide to what home buyers need to do to make the best decision:

1. Equip yourself with a dream team of professionals.

• Home buying is not a DIY affair! Since this is the biggest investment you will most likely ever make, make sure to have a strong team behind you, including a Realtor, attorney, lender, insurance agent and inspector.

• Choose the right lender! Compare a minimum of 2 reputable lenders and obtain approval BEFORE looking into a home.

• Make sure your Realtor is well-rounded. Great traits include knowledge about competition in the area, experience with short sales and foreclosures, and great negotiation skills!

• Get multiple quotes from contractors to fix problems you find during inspection; even get second opinions from home inspectors.

2. Go into the home-buying process prepared.

• Keep your money in one place. Lenders need to feel assured that they are making a safe investment in you. You will be asked to provide statements from all your accounts, and moving money between these accounts will make that paper trail harder to follow.

• Go in with a budget and stick with it. Plan out what monthly payments you can afford, including mortgage and utilities.

• Think about how long you’re planning to stay, so you know if your new home will be a flip house, transitional home, or a keeper.

eLocal Tip: Go in with a good down payment! This will greatly improve your mortgage rates and save you a lot in the end

• Carefully evaluate the type of home you need for your lifestyle. You may love the idea of a home with a huge backyard, but is it practical for you?

• Make a wish list BEFORE searching. Then, narrow it down to a small number of deal breakers. A pickier criteria means less options and purchasing power.

3. What to consider when you visit each home.

• Look beyond the physical house: school districts, taxes, Home Owner Association fees, convenience of grocery stores, cleaners, crime, history of neighborhood, etc.

eLocal Tip: Keep a draft in your email or a word file on your computer for adding links when you stumble across inspiration. Make sure to write a brief summary of what the link is so you remember down the road.

• Look at the big picture, rather than dwelling on minor cosmetic changes (paint color, light fixtures, etc.).

• Know the local codes and always get permits. If you are planning on major renovations, codes vary by area, so knowing what you are getting into could affect your opinion of the location. Request permits from the previous homeowner on projects they conducted. Your home will have better resale value if you can product official paperwork for all remodeling projects.

eLocal Tip: Additions and major structural remodels are a lot more expensive than cosmetic changes, so plan accordingly.

4. Make sure your budget matches up with ALL the costs.

• Consider maintenance and indirect expenses, such as lawn care, pool maintenance, energy inefficiencies (poor insulation/windows), and customizations that will be hard to replace or fix.

• Don’t overbuy – if you buy a mansion and cant afford to furnish it, it’s going to be a dreary sparse home! The dining room is the most expensive room for furniture investments, so plan accordingly!

• Be aware of the things you can’t see that still might need maintenance, like sewage flow or appliances that have reached their life expectancy. That will be extra money you need to spend.

eLocal Tip: Take pictures on your phone of the things you find inspiring as you go around town. Whether it’s a storefront display that you like, or a set of dishes that you want to buy later, taking a photo will help you remember.

5. What to consider before the final purchase.

• All we have to say is INSPECTION, INSPECTION, INSPECTION! If the general home inspector finds problems, hire a specialty inspector and/or contractor to look at the problems right away. Try negotiating the replacement/repair of these problems by the current homeowner before purchase.

• Electrical and HVAC systems are two of the most expensive to replace, so make sure the inspector checks them thoroughly.

• Aside from a general inspection, get a sewage line inspection! A sewage line on a homeowner’s property is their responsibility (not the city’s!), and isn’t included in a normal home inspection.

eLocal Tip: Pay attention to the construction and zoning in the area. You might be dealing with construction for years after you purchase.

• Request details from the previous owner on the home’s history.

• Consider purchasing title insurance.

• Know what you are really offering: The offer is much more complicated than simply coming up with a price and saying “This is what I’ll pay.” Both you and seller will want to build in protections and contingencies to protect investment and limit risk. In the offer, include other details of purchase besides price you’re willing to pay such as: 1) how you intend to finance home, 2) who pays closing, 3) what inspections are to be performed, 4) timetables, 5) whether person property is included in purchase, 6) terms of cancellation, 7) which professional services will be used for which repairs, and lastly, how to settle disputes should they occur. A Realtor and attorney can help ensure all of these and more are included.