Above all else, the quest for
your first home should be extremely exciting and a lot of fun. At the
same time, however, it may be a little intimidating, especially in the
struggle to narrow your search. With all of the homes on the market, how
do you find the one that's right for you?
Please continue reading or
follow one of the following links:
What You Need
Where to Buy
If you're single, this step
is easy; you will undoubtedly seek advice and counsel from friends and/or
family members, but ultimately the decision will be yours.
For couples, however, it may
help to discuss ahead of time how you will resolve the differences that
will inevitably surface throughout the home-buying process. Clarify your
expectations: every home he's ever lived in has had a workshop in the
garage, and the cars have been kept outside; of course, this home will
have an attached garage/workshop. She's tired of traipsing in and out
of the cold to unload groceries and can't wait to have a garage for the
car - and a formal dining room for entertaining.
If children are involved, the
process becomes even more complicated. They will have definite opinions
about what they want in a home, and their priorities are unlikely to line
up with yours. You may want to leave them out of the initial phases of
the search and wait to show them the last two or three homes you are considering.
This way, they can have input without bogging down the process.
What You Need
By this point, you should have
some idea of what you can afford to spend on a home. With that in mind,
you need to begin thinking about what you want and then setting some priorities.
Ask yourself questions such as:
- What type of home is most
appealing to you: ranch, split-level, contemporary, two-story, etc.?
- Which construction do you
prefer: brick, vinyl siding, wood siding, stone, stucco, etc.?
- What kinds of activities
will take place in your home on a regular basis? If one of you is a
student, for example, you will need to have a quiet study area somewhere
in your home. If you plan to do a lot of casual entertaining, a rec
room may be important.
- How are those activities
likely to change with time? How will your needs be different when the
student graduates, for example?
- How long do you plan to
stay in this home? Does it need to be adaptable as kids grow and needs
change, or do you plan to move in five years so that flexibility is
- What kind of ambiance do
you want in your home? Bright and sunny? Intimate and cozy? Formal?
- How many bedrooms will you
- Do you want a master suite?
- Do you want a separate dining
- Do you need a basement?
- Do you prefer a large or
- Is it important to have
a garage? Does the garage need to be attached?
- Do you want a fireplace?
- How much square footage
do you need?
- Do you need a fenced yard?
- Do you need to be near public
Once you've defined some of
your expectations and desires, you can begin to prioritize them. Which
items are negotiable and which aren't? How much flexibility do you have?
You'll also need to decide
if you want to buy an existing home or build a new one. If you decide
to buy, do you prefer an older home or a new one? And how, for that matter,
do you define "old" and "new"? Call me about the advantages
and disadvantages of each given your lifestyle.
If you decide to build, you
will have two options: work with a production builder and choose from
pre-determined floor plans or start from scratch and build a custom home.
In either case, you will want to thoroughly investigate the builders you
are considering. Be sure to look at other homes they've built, and call
me for recommendations and to help you get the most from the building
Building a custom home can
be an arduous process. Potential pitfalls abound from zoning problems
to weather delays. If you decide to build, commit yourself to
- Do the research necessary
to know what you want before you begin the process. Don't pay an architect
or draughtsman to draw plans for your house until he or she has walked
the property with you, studied a survey with setback lines, and reviewed
any neighborhood covenants and restrictions.
- Seek out and listen to expert
advice. Be particularly careful about arranging payment for the builder
so that he or she has incentive to finish your home in a timely manner.
I can be an invaluable asset
through this process.
Where to Buy
You may have heard that location
is everything in real estate. For a homebuyer, location is very subjective;
as with deciding what to buy, deciding where to buy is a matter of determining
priorities. Is it important to you to be close to your work, your church,
your extended family, or a particular school? Do you want to be near a
recreational area? These factors will determine the area of town in which
you choose to settle.
Ideally, you'll be able to
find somewhere that meets these criteria and where property values are
rising and zoning laws preserve the integrity of your neighborhood.
When you find a neighborhood
you think you might want to live in, you'll need to do some research.
Drive through during the day to check out the condition of the homes and
infrastructure. Are lawns, homes, and streets well maintained? Are there
any parks nearby? Are they well kept? Drive through after a rain. Do streets
and lawns drain well? Drive through at night. Do the lights work, and
are the streets well lit? Walk through some stores in the area. Do the
people there seem like neighbors you would enjoy? Visit the local police
station to find out about crime rates and the schools to assess their
quality and desirability. Find out if property values have risen, declined
or stayed the same over the last five years. I can be a valuable resource
in this part of the process. As you investigate the neighborhood, you'll
also want to check out nearby neighborhoods; their condition may be a
harbinger of things to come.
The bottom line is that you
don't want to buy in an area where property values are declining. Signals
that an area is on the decline include:
- An unusual number of unoccupied
homes or homes for sale
- Single family homes being
converted into multiple-family units
- Poorly maintained homes
- Increased crime often signaled
by burglar bars over windows and doors, by vandalism and by graffiti
- Empty retail space
Before you buy in a new subdivision,
you need to know something about the developer and the housing market
in the area. Although you can't predict how the area will develop or who
your neighbors will be, if you know that the developer is reputable and
the demand for homes is high, you can be reasonably sure that the lots
will sell quickly to a fairly economically homogenous group of people.
If demand drops off, however, the developer may compromise his standards
and build smaller homes or lower his profit margin to attract less qualified
You will probably use several
resources in your search for the right home. These may include friends,
the internet, community newspapers, "catalogs" from local real
estate companies, and most importantly, your real estate agent.
Career counselors will tell
you that networking, talking with as many people as you can about your
career goals, is an important step in any job search. It's also a good
idea in your search for the right home. Talk with your friends about what
they like and don't like about living in the area they're in. If their
neighborhood interests you, ask them to let you know when they hear of
houses coming on the market. In a hot housing market, timing can be everything.
If you can get into a home before the sign goes up in the yard, you've
got an obvious advantage.
The internet is an invaluable
resource for homebuyers. Estimates are that anywhere from 30-50 percent
of potential homebuyers will search the internet for homes before contacting
a real estate agent. Searching the internet allows consumers to educate
themselves about what's on the market, and how much they can expect to
pay for it, at any hour of the day or night, without leaving their homes
and without having to work around anyone else's schedule.
Spend some time doing what
you're doing now. By visiting my Search For A Home page, you can view
all of the homes listed in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) in the Indianapolis
(The MLS is a cooperative effort
between the real estate brokerages in a community. When an agent lists
a home, he/she provides information about the listing to the organization
that oversees the MLS. That organization, in turn, makes the information
available to the other real estate agents in the area.)
Perhaps one of the easiest
ways to look for a new home is to click on the MouseTrak button on my
home page. MouseTrak allows you to specify a few parameters (e.g., number
of bedrooms/bathrooms, price, etc.) for homes that are of interest to
you. When a home that meets your parameters is listed in the MLS, you
will automatically be notified via email or fax. If you find a home that
appeals to you, you can drive by for a better look at the home and the
neighborhood it's in. If you're still interested, I can help arrange a
Be sure to include my name
when you register, so that I will also be notified. I will be able to
answer any of your questions and arrange showings for any of the homes
you want to see. There is no cost for this service.
Weekends are the most popular
time for real estate ads since that's when most people have time to look.
Pick up a weekend edition of the paper in your area and look through the
ads. If you're looking in a large metropolitan area, you might be well
advised to look in a smaller, community paper rather than the large city-wide
publication; advertising costs will be lower in the smaller papers and
more agents will have access to them.
It may take a little time to
adjust to the language and abbreviations of real estate ads. Again, I
can help with this.
Weekend papers will also have
ads for open houses. This is a great way to educate yourself about what's
available in your area and what you'll have to pay for it. Even if a home
doesn't exactly meet the criteria you have established, you might want
to visit the open house as a way of double checking your expectations.
Take one of my business cards to the open house so the agent there knows
you're already working with someone else.
Real Estate Brokerage "Catalogs"
Many larger real estate companies
will publish "catalogs" (or magazines) of their inventory on
a regular basis. Tucker's magazine is called Tucker Talks Homes and is published monthly. It's available for free at many Marsh and Kroger
grocery stores and at Union Planters banks - or contact me by phone or
e-mail and I will get you a current copy.
Alternatively, sometimes a
third party will publish a catalog and sell space to local companies to
advertise their listings. These publications are usually free and can
be found in grocery stores or at other retailers. In Indianapolis, you
can contact me by phone or e-mail and I will get you a current copy.
Your Real Estate Agent
I will be your best resource
to find your new home. I will use the MLS - and a network of professional
relationships - to help you in your search. I will contact you regularly
with updates about homes coming on the market that meet your criteria.
In general, you can expect me to work around your schedule for visiting
homes; however, you'll also want to be flexible since you've both got
a lot at stake in the process.
Once you've scheduled a showing,
be prompt. I will have a printout of the MLS sheet for the home you've
visiting. This sheet will list features of the home and provide information
regarding property taxes, homeowner association fees, etc. You should
bring a notebook and a camera - especially if you will be viewing several
homes in a short time. This will prevent confusion later when you try
to remember which feature went with which home.
If the seller or his/her agent
is present as you tour the home, keep your thoughts and reactions to yourself.
Don't weaken your negotiating position by letting them know how much you
want the house or how much you're willing to pay for it. Don't act disinterested,
but don't be overly enthusiastic. Furthermore, don't eliminate a house
with a potential problem without giving some thought to how you might
fix it. You are looking for the best home for your needs; you probably
won't find a perfect home.
on "Buying Your First Home"