Hi again folks, this technical blog kicks off a three-part series aimed at helping y’all figure out the nightmare that is the home-buying process. Not sure where to start??? Well stay tuned, you won’t want to miss these Home Buying Tips that WILL help you plan from start, to finish…so you don’t end up in an undesirable location!
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We have always heard the phrase “LOCATION…LOCATION…LOCATION”! Looking back, these were my wife’s wise, wise words when we moved from Alabama to Ann Arbor, MI! Yet, this simple adage holds true, as location drives many factors during the home buying experience… MANY of which cannot be changed, so buyer beware! Here are some tips to keep in mind while narrowing your search from Region< to State < to the Local / Town level:
1.Where to buy?
- Rural, urban, historic district, subdivision, or city center?
- What are your priorities, likes, wants, needs, quality of life issues, and deal-breakers?
- Make a list! Put it on paper…on purpose! Pros / Cons, etc! YOU…are your own best advocate. No one has your best interests in mind, except for YOU!!!
- What amenities are you looking for / do you desire? Make a list of “nice” to haves, and “must” haves – Historic homes, good schools, job opportunities, commuting distance, etc.
- Location drives property values! Fast forward 10 years, and we have almost doubled our equity here in Ann Arbor, Michigan! Want to weather an economic downturn and ensure your new home is a sound investment? Try to spot markets where homes are popular, and retain their value – college towns, ” Best Town… Lists”, etc. The goal is not to lose value, but to gain the most equity over time.
- Location drives property tax rates – yes, our property taxes are high! Just remember, amenities like public transit and great schools cost money, so make sure you get info on the current “assessed” rates, based on your home price budget. You want to make sure you can afford your property tax bill in addition to the principal, interest, and insurance!
- Location also drives career opportunities, salaries, and cost of living expenses. Educate yourself before you move!
3. Elements you CAN’T change, so get them right:
- Bad neighborhood (crime, safety, etc).
- Bad school district.
- Size/shape/location of your lot.
- Major and/or structural issues with the “core” of the house – more on this next week!!!
- Basic layout of the home – if you hate the entire layout, it may be a deal-breaker.
- Property tax burden.
- Busy/dangerous neighborhood roads and streets (can sometimes be addressed at the city
- Is the property located in a Flood Plain???
- Long distance to points of interest – hospital, work, school, leisure, food, airport, major city, etc. Do you want to live close, or far away?
- Long commute times – distance from work can be a factor and add hours to your work day.
- Environmental contamination – We all hear the stories, from the Flint, MI water crisis (lead), to superfund sites. Our industrial past is coming back to haunt us…EVERYWHERE! KNOW the area you are moving to so you don’t end up near/on top of a contaminated site or toxic plume! During the home inspection, have the water, air, and basement checked for contamination and hazardous vapor intrusions – more on this next week !
4. Elements you CAN change, so be flexible on:
- Exterior house color/details.
- Previous exterior house modifications/poorly planned additions.
- Square footage of home footprint. You can always add.
- Previous removal of old house “defining” features.
- Kitchen – Layout, color, materials, etc.
- Bathroom – Layout, color, materials, etc.
- Interior paint colors, details, and materials.
5. Other points to consider:
- Do you plan to downsize in the future? What is your short/long term plan?
- Aging in place – Will you need access to good healthcare/medical, public transportation, easy access to nearby points of interest, and different climate (warmer, etc),
- Still unsure about a neighborhood or location? Talk to the neighbors. See which cities and towns make annual “Best Lists”.
- Rent first, until you learn a new area! The return in investment can be huge! Don’t make the mistake of buying a home because you feel pressured to get a home as soon as you move. This is one of the biggest financial and emotional decisions you will make in life…make sure it’s the right one!!!
One final thought to leave you with this week. Just remember this if you get discouraged in your quest for the perfect house. 99.9% of the time there is no perfect house, on a perfect lot, in perfect condition, in the perfect town/city! It’s all about trade-offs, folks, and being able to see the potential within that “diamond in the rough” is key when managing expectations.
Good luck, and bye for now…stay tuned for Home Buying Tips Part 2: So you just put in an offer in on a new home…now what!!!???
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