Buying a home is one of the most significant decisions, and financial investments, a person will make in their lifetime. With this gravity in mind, the best approach is to know as much information as possible before you begin the journey and to find knowledgeable industry professionals to assist you each and every step of the way.
Working With Your Real Estate Agent
Real estate agents are a wonderful resource for home buyers throughout all aspects of the home buying experience.
“Realtors can be very helpful to anyone purchasing a home,” says Ben Bleicher of Woods Bros Realty. “Not only can they assist in finding properties that fit the buyer’s criteria, but they can also show houses at nearly any time, especially vacant homes. REALTORS can also help inform buyers about potential issues a home may have (or point out positive things about a property), and then help negotiate the best price when it comes down to making an offer (or counter).”
Bleicher adds, “The best advice I can offer someone interested in purchasing a home is to go into the process as prepared as possible. Speak with a lender first so you can establish what your limits are, and ask those close with you if there’s a Realtor they’ve had experience with who they would recommend. If they’re new to the area or don’t know anyone with a recommendation, I think they should shop around and find a Realtor that has experience buying/selling in their price range, and someone the buyer finds it easy to communicate with.
Among the most important things a home buyer should be aware of when looking for a house is the distance from places they frequent (work, social activities, friends, family, etc.). Also, once potential buyers find houses they like it’s definitely worth looking into the age of appliances (and/or furnace, a/c, roof, etc.) and the previous utility bills so they can avoid unexpected surprises that could arise after the purchase.”
If you’re ready to be a first-time home owner, or maybe even ready to upgrade to a different house, make sure you enlist the help of industry professionals so that you can best protect yourself from potential problems, and especially so that you have the best chance possible at buying the house of your dreams.”
Even before you have found a Realtor you like, or while you are looking for someone to work with, you can still get a few things out of the way first. “Always start with your lender, and don’t second guess what you can afford,” says Deb Wagner of Woods Bros Realty. “Instead, find out what different financing options might work best for you. This market is definitely a seller’s market with inventory being low. Buyers have to be ready to quickly move on a property. We are back in a time where competing offers are very prevalent, so serious offers need to be made or buyers risk losing out.
It is also important to note that buyers do not have to personally pay a commission to the Realtor that is assisting them with the purchase. Many buyers are not aware of that. So why not use an expert at no expense?! Realtors have the experience to know how to help a buyer understand the true value of a home, negotiate the sale, guide them on recommended inspections and oversee the inspection process. Should a warranty be recommended, especially for older homes that haven’t been updated very much, they also help negotiate who will pay. From start to finish, a Realtor is there with the buyer through closing, and you will benefit greatly from both their experience and expertise. There are many capable and qualified Realtors, so make sure to work with one who you feel comfortable with, especially in travelling around town to view all of the properties you want to see. That way the agent can best represent you, and can more easily identify potential properties that fit your criteria.”
Phillip Mendoza of Woods Bros Realty agrees that speaking with a lender should be one of the first steps in preparation for buying a home. “Gaining pre-approval from a financial institution, which is almost always a free service offered to potential homebuyers, is crucial. This will give you an idea of how big of a loan you can get and the cost to you. In my experience, buyers also need to be aware that in the instance that they want to bid on a house with more than one bidder involved, the approval will always go to the approved party. Even if you know that you will be approved for the loan, the pre-approval is a guarantee that proves it.
Your Realtor has been through the buying process multiple times, knows the problems that can occur and how to solve them, plus they can help prevent you from buying the wrong house by pointing out problems that may cost you now or down the road. The REALTOR fills out legal papers to purchase the property and must carry errors and omission insurance. Moreover, all Realtors are licensed by the state and most are constantly taking continuing education courses and related opportunities to stay up-to-date with current market trends.”
While just about everyone who is familiar with the home buying process will advise you to get pre-approval, it may be helpful to check with more than one lender when doing so. Derek Hilgert, a Realtor with RE/MAX Real Estate Concepts, explains, “Banks offer different types of loan programs that can make a difference in how much a buyer qualifies for, down payment and what the monthly mortgage payment will be. This is a very competitive market for buyers. Having a pre-approval letter is essential and could make the difference of getting your dream home or another better prepared buyer snatching it up first.”
Hilgert further advises, “Before making an offer, take a little time to check out the neighborhood. Drive by in the morning, midday, and at night. See what’s happening in the neighborhood, calculate your commute to work and other places you go often. Look for possible hang ups like parking issues, dogs barking, and loud traffic.
Also, it is important to work with an agent that takes the time to understand your needs and wants. Once I understand how to best help you, I can set up a search with the proper criteria. Details on every home will be sent to you real time as they go on the market. In today’s competitive market, this is the advantage you need to get the house you want. After you find that right home for you, I will help guide you through the negotiations, handle all of the paperwork and pay attention to the details in order to help you close on time.
As a RE/MAX agent I have the tools and freedom to better serve you. RE/MAX offers continuous education so that I never stop improving my skills and my knowledge never becomes outdated. I am not required to put in hours at the office, so I am free to work when you need me.”
The home buying process certainly can be overwhelming, but finding the right Realtor is crucial to alleviating a great deal of that stress. BancWise Realty is a locally owned company specializing in residential real estate sales, and differs from traditional real estate companies because they are able to offer commission options without sacrificing service. Joe Courtney, a Realty Specialist with BancWise Realty, has helped numerous buyers and sellers in the Lincoln area and offers several tips for home buyers:
Tips for the “First Time Buyer”:
–Be sure to interview a few Realtors before committing to one. Select someone that is knowledgeable of the market and experienced with contracts and negotiations. Remember, this person will be in your life for 3-6 months and take care of you every step of the way. Make sure they are someone you can effectively communicate with and trust. Ask your friends and family for a Realtor referral. Chances are if they had a good experience, then so will you.
–Get pre-approved for financing right away. It is important to know all the costs involved with buying a home before you get too far in the process. It’s hard to shop if you don’t know what you can afford!
–Ask questions! You aren’t expected to know everything and that’s what we (Realtors) are here for. Remember, your agent is working for you!
–Make sure the house is right! It is easy to get excited about buying your first home and jump on the first house that gives you the “warm fuzzy feeling”. Due diligence will help you get a feel of the market as you look at other homes in your price range. You will get to understand what you get for the money and where. This will make you feel more comfortable about “pulling the trigger” when you find the right one.
–Always have a home inspection. For a small fee it is more than worth the peace of mind. You aren’t an expert, so hire one to work on your behalf.
Tips for the “Move Up Buyer”:
–This process can be a challenge if you need to sell your current home before you can purchase your new home. Your first priority should be to sell your current home. Remember, that is the only thing holding you back from buying a new one. Get your home listed with a Realtor and priced right. Trying to sell and buy at the same time is a lot to take on, and having a professional in your corner to guide you is essential.
–Search for properties on your own in addition to what your Realtor sends you. I find when buyers look on their own, they adjust criteria more often to “see what else is out there”. That is good. You may come across properties you might not have considered before. You will also get a “big picture” view of what is on the market so that once your home sells you know where you want to be.
–Everyone wants to sync up the closing of their existing home with the purchase of their new home. This can happen most of the time although you have to be prepared for the worst case scenario. If your home sells and you can’t find another home in time or negotiate a closing to sync up with your existing home sale then you will need to look into some type of temporary living situation. It isn’t fun to move twice but look at the bright side; your home is now sold and you are a ready to pull the trigger when you do find the right one! Remember, it is only temporary!
Tips for the “Downsizing Buyer”:
–The kids are gone and you just don’t need 4,000 sq. ft. for the two of you. This process can be frustrating as a lot of times you will be changing the style of living that you are accustomed to.
–Have the conversation with your Realtor up front to see if your needs and wants for the new home are realistic
–De-clutter, sell, or donate those items you don’t use. Chances are there won’t be the same amount of storage as your last home.
Derek Kats, Realtor and owner of Real Estate Avenues: The Brokerage, LLC, also offers some information about how Realtors can assist home buyers:
“Realtors assist in the home buying process in many ways. We can set up the initial home search for the client so they do not have to bounce from website to website to see all homes available for sale. We assist with the showing process by scheduling the showing tours and accessing the home with our Realtor eKey. The contract writing component of the transaction is one of the most important parts of the process, and what sets a Realtor transaction apart from a self-represented or for sale by owner transaction as Realtors are trained and knowledgeable in their respective fields, and have the required forms readily available allowing to provide a safer transaction for the buyer, and a smoother negotiation for all parties involved. Once the offer on the home is accepted, the Realtor’s work really begins. We will order title and coordinate with the Buyer’s lender, as well as arranging the home inspection and appraisal… and of course, the Realtor will be there with you at the closing table to ensure you have a smooth close and get the keys to your new home!
As a #1 ranked transactional volume Buyer’s Agent*, I can attest that choosing the correct Buyer’s Agent Realtor is essential when you’re considering buying a home. The key is selecting a Full-Time Buyer’s Agent Realtor that is not only professional and experienced, but also a good fit for your personality. No one Realtor is right for every buyer, so be sure to screen your Realtor with the standard questions such as professional experience, prior sales history, area of expertise, and hours of availability, as well as questions that will indicate if your personalities will mix well. Buying a home with the help of a Realtor should not only provide you with a professional advisor to keep you from pitfalls, but it should also be an enjoyable experience for you as the buyer. Additionally, for many buyers, the decision to purchase an existing home or new construction is very important. Existing homes tend to be more economically priced, but as with any pre-owned items, they typically include shortcomings such as wear and tear or aging mechanicals. New construction homes can give the buyer an option to customize the floor plan or finish materials, but typically are less negotiable on price. Our new construction homes built by Third Generation Builder feature quality materials and workmanship with a modern design, and are built to last with a woman’s touch. This combination is perfect for the more selective homebuyer that wants more personalization and a completely new home to move into.
When making your home buying decision, always keep resale value in mind. As the owner of Real Estate Avenues: The Brokerage, LLC, I always try to take a bottom-line business approach to real estate purchases and sales. Many buyers can get emotionally caught up in customizing their home in ways they feel will suit their lifestyle, but more often than not the home you are purchasing will be the home you are selling in years to come. By keeping resale in mind, you will always be able to continue climbing up the property ladder.
I urge all potential home buyers to consider contacting a Buyer’s Agent Realtor to represent you rather than contacting the Listing Agent who works for the seller. In 2013 I was ranked as the #1 Buyer’s Agent in number of transactions sold*. My prior sales history confirms that I would make an excellent candidate to assist you on your home buying journey, please give me a call to discuss your home buying goals and to see what homes are currently available for sale.”
*Ranked as the #1 Buyers Agent in number of Residential and Multi Family transactions sold, as reported by the MidlandsMLS, period 01/01/2013 through 12/31/2013.
Obtaining Pre-Approval & Financing
Unless you are independently wealthy or win the lottery, chances are you will be looking into financing options for purchasing a home.
Kaye Krause, Vice President of Mortgage Loans at Union Bank & Trust, offers several tips for new homebuyers in the current market:
“Owning your own home is a wonderful accomplishment and a great investment. It is an exciting time in your life to purchase a new home, but it can be a nervous time as well.
Now is a great time to purchase your first home, move up to a different home, or build your dream home. Rates remain very low, which gives you more buying power. This is also an excellent time to sell, as inventory is low and homes are moving quickly on the market.
There have been many changes in the mortgage industry over the last few years so it is important to meet with a lender to be fully pre-approved before you even start looking at homes. Pre-approval gives you peace of mind that you are getting the right loan for you and purchasing the right priced home so the process is smooth and less stressful. Meeting with your lender should be your first step if you are considering purchasing a new home.
A good lender will help you decide on the right loan program to fit your financial needs. The main loan programs are Conventional, FHA, VA and USDA RD loan. There are also the first-time homebuyer’s loans such as NIFA which has income and purchase price limits. These various loan programs can be fixed rate loans, balloon loans, or adjustable rate mortgages (ARM loans). The pre-approval process is a free service that helps you understand the loan programs, the funds you will need to purchase your new home, and your new monthly mortgage payment. During the pre-approval process we gather documentation to verify income and assets. It is very important that you are comfortable with the new mortgage payment and it fits into your budget as you want to be able to enjoy your new home and not be strapped by the monthly mortgage payment.
Credit scores are now a big part of mortgage lending, and as you go through the pre-approval process, we will pull your credit report and review it with you. For most loan programs you need a credit score of 640 or higher. With Conventional financing if you have a credit score of 740 or higher, it allows you the best interest rates. As we review your credit report, we can look at ways to possibly help improve your credit scores or help you establish credit.
As homes are moving quickly on the market right now, we can also explain how Bridge Loans work if you want to purchase the new home before selling your current home. We also provide financing for investment properties and second homes.
When you are fully pre-approved, we provide you with a pre-approval letter that you can take to present with your Offer to Purchase to give you the advantage over other possible Offers. It also gives you peace of mind that this home is the right financial decision for you.”
Travis Gunderson, a Mortgage Loan Officer at Midwest Bank, also explains, “Midwest Bank can assist buyers in the home buying process in multiple ways. We will always be a phone call, email or text away from getting the buyer the answer they need. With our experience in the construction and buying stage of a home, we’ll be able to assist the buyers with any questions they may have. At Midwest Bank we are also bankers first, so we’ll advise buyers if we believe the house they want to buy is out of their price range and would make them ‘house poor’ after the purchase. Midwest Bank is here to make the home buying process as simple as possible for the buyers since we know how stressful buying a home can be.
The best advice I can offer individuals is that owning a house is always much more expensive than just your monthly house payment. When trying to figure out how much you can afford for a house payment, don’t stretch your budget as far as it can go because there are always unforeseen costs that go into owning a home. It’s important for the buyer to be pre-approved as well. The buyer will have a better understanding of how much of a house they can afford and it also shows the seller the ability for the buyer to purchase the home.”
Cover Your Bases Before You Commit
When buying a home, you should always utilize a reputable home inspection company to conduct a thorough inspection of the property before you finalize the purchase. King’s Home Inspections is a great local company who has an extensive amount of experience with all aspects of home inspections. Randy King of King’s Home Inspections says, “It’s always a good idea to get a Home Inspection prior to purchase. Besides identifying problems with the house, a Home Inspector can also give you guidelines for typical life expectancies of various components, such as the water heater, furnace, and air conditioner. Assessing where your home’s systems are at in their life cycle can help you understand what you will face in say, the first five years you own your home. This includes what you should expect to replace so you can budget accordingly. When buying an older home, the Home Inspector can advise you on the need for upgrading obsolete components of your home. Galvanized iron pipe in the plumbing system is often found in older homes and hasn’t been installed new for nearly 50 years. It rusts and corrodes from the inside out, often resulting in leaks and reduced water pressure and volume. Furnaces and air conditioners older than 25 years should be looked at with replacement in mind. They may still function adequately, but parts are becoming obsolete and they are not nearly as efficient as a modern furnace. Shingles are unpredictable, and vary tremendously in quality and longevity. Wood siding is great, but will need painted and maintained. Some types of wood siding (i.e. sheet presswood, siding typical on houses built in the 80’s) are not products designed for longevity, and even if kept painted, usually lasts no more than 25 years. A Home Inspection can help you formulate a game plan on what to replace and things to upgrade in your new home, which will increase your enjoyment of it and help you maintain property value for when it is time to sell.”
King adds, “Radon testing has also become much more prevalent. Radon is common in Lincoln and surrounding areas, as about 80% of houses I test come out above the EPA threshold of 4.0 pCi/l of Radon, and mitigation is recommended. Radon gas causes lung cancer, and those who smoke or have COPD may have an elevated risk. Re-testing should be done every two years–as the ground under your home may change, pathways for Radon to enter your home may appear. With last summer’s drought, houses that never had Radon before suddenly had Radon. Cracks and fissures opened up so deep in the ground, it changed the paths in which the soil gasses travel. Radon in your home is based on the structure of the soil under and adjacent to your house. There is no ‘newer neighborhood’ or ‘older neighborhood’, or any specific location that ‘has high Radon in that area’. Those are fallacies. The fact is, one house can test low and the one next door can be very high. The only way to know is to test. Even new construction can have Radon. Any structure built on a grade, crawlspaces, full basements, and walk-outs can all have Radon. It is not predictable in neighborhoods or construction types. If you are considering new construction, discuss Radon Resistant New Construction (RRNC) with your builder. Installing a pre-emptive Radon mitigation system during the construction process is easy and very inexpensive, and in most cases, your new home will test low. In the event it is still elevated, the addition of a simple fan turns the system from a passive to an active system and eliminates the problem.”
King also advises that a Home Inspection is not a Home Warranty. “Most Inspectors’ observations are good for the day of the Inspection only – they have no control over what happens to a house after they leave. A water heater can start to leak at any time, a dishwasher decides to stop working, or a piece of sheet rock under tension cracks and your Home Inspector has no control over those things. Therefore, a Home Warranty is a good investment on older homes. Depending on the type of warranty you purchase, they can cover all the way from the basics to most everything in a house. Most builders offer at least a one year warranty on new construction, which may or may not include your appliances but often those are covered by their manufacturer’s warranties. It is beneficial to check with your builder to see what the limitations are and how your warranty is implemented.”
“There are so many things to consider when investing in a new home. It’s important to take your time and get exactly what you want,” states Lindsey Reinke of John Henry’s Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning. “Safety and construction quality are so important, so in addition to the standard home inspection, I recommend that home buyers consider utilizing trade professionals to check out certain aspects of the home prior to purchasing it. It’s also a good idea to have the main sewer inspected with a sewer camera. The cost to do that is around $150. Even newer sewers can have installation issues that cause future blockages. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Location is also very important, as well as buying a home that will fit you for the amount of time you plan to be in it. For example, our home is located near the schools that will allow our children to go from kindergarten through high school. After they leave our home someday, we can concentrate on purchasing something that fits us better. Our home should sell easily because the neighborhood is desirable.
Other than home inspections of plumbing and HVAC, we offer only quality products. Trane and Lennox equipment is all we sell today for HVAC equipment. We have great results with Moen faucets, Kohler and American Standard plumbing fixtures, Insinkerator disposers, and other name brand equipment. You get what you pay for.
If you are building or purchasing a new home, always check references to get experiences others have with various builders. Each builder does things a different way. Just like in school, half of the class is at the top and half is at the bottom. You will have much better results doing business with quality trade professionals.”
Safety is a major concern that should be considered when evaluating potential homes. Fire protection and security systems are valuable assets in existing homes, as they will not only ensure your safety, protect your investment and belongings, and provide you with peace of mind but can also save you money in the future. In fact, most insurance companies offer a discount for having a home security system; often up to 20% off your policy. General Fire & Safety and AlarmLink USA will send professionals out to the home to assess its current systems and/or to provide an estimate for the cost of installing them so that you know what to expect should you decide to purchase the home. AlarmLink USA also utilizes Total Connect by Honeywell as a master control for their security systems, which offers homeowners the ability to control other systems in your home such as lighting, HVAC and more remotely through their smart phone, tablet and PC. Additionally, AlarmLink offers great system options such as a panic button in the master bedroom for quick access to 911, remote wireless access to surveillance so you can see your home or even turn on lights while you are away, and secured gates and doors with access codes for entry just to name a few. This also offers a great deal of flexibility, energy savings, and peace of mind. You can even access security footage from your cell phone, PC, laptop or tablet. They can tailor a system to your specific needs and requests if one is not already in place, and as a locally owned and operated company they are available to address any concerns or provide assistance at any time, day or night. R.J. Lipert, owner of General Fire & Safety and AlarmLink USA, emphasizes, “Because the lives and assets of our clients are at stake, we are committed to the flawless execution of Intrusion Systems, Camera Surveillance, Door Access Systems and Fire Alarms. Buying a new home is a major investment, and our job is to install systems that best fit homeowners’ needs in order to ensure that their new investment is protected from damage, theft, or other potentially hazardous occurrences.”
Walt Grantski, owner of Lifestyle Drapery and Mid-States Performance Films, Inc., explains, “Consider your home one of your largest investments. As such, you will want to protect its contents once you move in, including all of your furnishings and décor. This not only includes protecting your home from theft and keeping it secure, but also protecting these items from sun damage. The only way to do this is to install solar films on your windows, which offers 99% UV protection. If the home you are looking at already has window tint installed, that is a huge benefit to you as a homeowner. If not, I would suggest having the windows tinted as soon as possible, either prior to or after moving in. Lifestyle Drapery and Mid-States Films offer a complete window covering package, providing a wide variety of solar film products along with today’s most innovative window shade styles. Many home buyers are interested in the energy efficiency of a home as well, and the combination of window films and coverings can greatly enhance that aspect. As a new home owner, any investments that you make in improving your home will not only increase its value, but also conserve energy as well as protecting and enhancing your living environment.”
Moving and Storage While in Transition
When it comes to what most people dread about buying a new home, often it is the moving process that poses the most obstacles and hassle. Furthermore, when closing on a home, sometimes the timing will be off with respect to closing on the home you currently own or the date that your current lease is up. This creates an inconvenient situation where you must move out of your current residence but can’t move into your new home until a later date. During this type of transition, a storage facility is an excellent resource for storing your belongings safely in the meantime. Strong Box Storage can help alleviate potential problems by providing a wide array of resources for moving vehicles, supplies and storage if necessary.
Thomas Friedman of Strong Box Storage says, “We offer a variety of sizes of storage, from 5×5 to 10×40, and we always try to find the right size that fits the customer’s needs. Our office, which is open six days a week, offers a dozen different sizes of moving boxes, packing peanuts, wrapping paper, tape, and many other items that help our customers during their transportation of their belongings. Another one of our features that offers flexibility and is popular among our clients is 24/7 access. Our facility offers lighted and paved roadways to make it easy and safe to get around, and if there are any problems we have staff on site six days a week. You can access your unit at whatever time is most convenient for you with no hassle, and we also have U-Haul trucks for rent if you need to move items to and from our facility and you don’t have access to an appropriate vehicle. Our staff can access the U-Haul system on the Internet and make, change or finalize any truck or trailer rentals, in addition to having direct contact with U-Haul by phone. Customers always have the option of visiting the office, but if that is not feasible, Strong Box Storage can make reservations on behalf of our customers for wherever they are currently at to wherever their destination may be. For additional convenience, we accept a wide range of payment types including cash, check, credit and debit cards. We can also set up auto payments to avoid late fees, and we have discounts for active military or prepaid months. We always strive to offer a great deal of flexibility for our customers, and we welcome all customers no matter how short or long they need to utilize our storage facility.” Strong Box Storage is locally owned and a member of the Better Business Bureau Honor Roll and the Self Storage Association, which is a testament to what a great, trustworthy option they are for the storage of your most prized home furnishings and possessions.
Moving into a new home can be a hectic and messy endeavor, especially since it is the perfect time to downsize and get rid of everything that you no longer use or don’t need. While it is a good idea to donate as much as possible to Goodwill or elsewhere; many items will also make it into the trash pile. Roll off containers are a very efficient way to get this job done smoothly. Scott Niederhaus, owner of Niederhaus Refuse, says, “Providing waste removal services for folks who are moving is right up our alley—we can supply containers ranging from 2 yards up to 40 yard roll off containers, which are very practical for large items. If you have the space for a roll off and are in need of a solution for waste removal during or as a result of the moving process, be sure to keep us in mind. However, if your space is limited we can also provide you with something a little smaller. Our 2 or 3yd containers are very popular, and even better, some are on wheels so you can easily move them around.”
If you don’t have the time or manpower to move your belongings yourself, you can trust the moving professionals at Two Men and a Truck to get your household from one home to the next on schedule and with great care. In fact, using a full service professional moving company will usually cost you less than 1% of your homes’ value, while preserving the value of your belongings and providing you more time to focus on other aspects of your life during the moving process. In line with the advice from many other professionals, Jason Christensen of Two Men and a Truck suggests that when selecting a moving company you should always check out their rating with the Better Business Bureau to make sure they are reputable. He also suggests that moving is a great time to go through your possessions and donate any items will no longer use to a good cause. Two Men and a Truck provides full relocation services which includes moving locally, intra and interstate moves, packing, unpacking, and they also sell a complete line of boxes and packing supplies. They will work around your budget, including options from completing your full move with packing and unpacking or simply moving your larger items. Christensen advises, “When you are planning to move, especially during the summer, remember to schedule your move with plenty of notice. Keep in mind that weekends and the last week of the month tend to fill up especially fast. Also, when you are budgeting for the transition, remember to have your moving company come out and give you a complimentary estimate so you will know what to plan for!”
While there are many things to take into consideration when buying a home, it truly is one of the most rewarding investments that you can make. Being a homeowner may come with many new responsibilities, but it also comes with a sense of accomplishment and a space that you can call your own. Once you have successfully gone through the process of buying a house, you can then begin to make it your home!