Costs You Should Know About as a First-Time Homeowner

So you’re close to signing the dotted line on your very first house. Congratulations! Before you seal the deal, however, there are some costs you should be aware of so you aren’t blindsided as a brand new homeowner.

  1. Inspections. It’s of the utmost importance to have the home you’re purchasing fully inspected before you buy it. This will save you money on repairs and possibly even prevent putting you and/or your loved ones at risk, should something dangerous that you’re unaware of is occurring within the walls of the home. Many are worried when it comes to home inspections, but these professionals are here to look out for your best interests and to keep you safe. They will check everything from the electrical work to plumbing to the home’s structure. Prices depend upon the size of the home and how thorough the inspection is. Don’t be afraid to ask a potential home inspector how much they will charge to look at your home.
  2. Taxes. More specifically, the property tax. While the amount you pay depends on where you’re living, it’s important to find out what that payment will be per year before you buy the home. Of course, large cities and urban regions will have higher taxes than those living in rural areas.
  3. The cost of utilities. Look into what the estimate of your bills will be as far as electricity and the AC unit. Of course, this is ultimately determined by how often you leave your lights on as well as the size of your home (for heating and air). It’s common to pay around $300 a month for utilities, but it would be a good idea to ask the seller what they typically had to pay each month to get an idea.
  4. Various forms of insurance. If you live near water, it may be in your best interest to purchase flood insurance. If you live in areas where wildfires are common, then, of course, it’s best to purchase fire insurance. Disaster insurance is always a good investment if you live in areas known for flooding, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes or tornados, etc. Look into the different types you will need and the cost of each.
  5. Cleaning services. If you don’t have time to clean (or just simply don’t have the desire to), research local cleaning companies in your area and compare the costs. This will depend upon the size of your home and how often services will be needed.
  6. Repairs or improvements. If there are some repairs needed, these can add up quickly depending on the severity of each issue. Whether you need a new deck, need to build a ramp for a handicapped family member, add handrails to a staircase before the new baby arrives, etc., look into each repair/improvement and “shop” around when it comes to finding the best price for you.
  7. An escrow account. The Federal Housing Administration requires buyers to create escrow accounts, which is where all of the money needed for the transaction is held until the deal is made final between buyer and seller. As soon as the contract has been signed, the mortgage will need to be paid monthly to that escrow account; this lets the lender know you will make payments on time. Additional fees may be required, such as interest, taxes, and insurance.
  8. The Homeowners Association fee. If you’ve chosen to live in a subdivision, development, or suburb, you’re more than likely now a part of a homeowners association and will be required to pay fees annually or monthly. In addition, you’ll need to join as a member and follow their rules.
  9. A home warranty. This differs from home insurance in the sense that while home insurance offers protection from disasters and damages, a home warranty covers the costs of repairs and replacements. This is optional, but overall a good investment. For example, if a pipe bursts in your kitchen, home insurance will cover it. If the pipe bursting is due to a plumbing problem or the kitchen appliance breaks, a home warranty will cover this. This proves beneficial should an appliance break just a few weeks after moving into your new home.
  10. Maintenance work. Whether you will have a spacious backyard that will need landscaping or a large pool that will need cleaning, you can bet you’ll be spending money at some point on maintenance work.
  11. Closing fees. These are associated with the home purchase and are paid at the time of closing when the title of the property is transferred from seller to buyer. This includes application fees, attorney fees, appraisal, inspection, insurance, etc. You will see the total amount you’re paying during this time.

Five Tips for a Quick Home Sell

If you’re ready to sell your home much faster than you would with the usual process, here are some tips to help ensure a quick sell:
1.       Improve the outside. Perhaps there are some dead plants in the yard, debris scattered out back, or maybe the grass needs watering and the house could stand a good pressure wash. Whatever the issue, take a long hard look at the outside of your home. Don’t be afraid to ask the opinions of family members, friends, and even your realtor. You’ll want to make sure everything looks nice, as this will be the first impression your home gives to a potential buyer.
2.       Identify and utilize your home’s selling point. Your home’s selling point is what makes it stand out from other homes on the market. If you’re unsure as to what that is, consider what made you want to buy it. If you still aren’t sure, don’t be afraid to ask your realtor. Maybe it has a spacious backyard, is in close proximity to good schools for your children to attend, it’s near a thriving downtown area, it has a walk-in closet, etc. Find what will make a buyer sold on the thought of living in your home and let that be the main focus of selling.
3.       Remove all personal items. It may seem distracting, or even strange, for potential buyers to visit your home with your personal belongings still in it. Rid all rooms of any personal items, including photos. This will make it easier for the buyer to imagine what it would be like to live there. Be sure the home is free of clutter and junk also, as this can create a bad image as well as a safety hazard.
4.       Prevent foul smells. This can be done by cleaning your drains and wash bins, allowing the proper amount of air flow and ventilation, using scented room sprays in the kitchen to mask cooking smells, cleaning the carpet, and removing old furniture (especially if you smoke indoors and the furniture has fabric). You may also brew coffee, which is an enjoyable smell to many. Some may wish to light candles, but keep in mind what may smell pleasant to you may not always be the same for others.
5.       Keep your offer reasonable. Your realtor can help you come up with a price that buyers cannot resist. You’ll need to be careful in selecting the price; if it’s too high, it will sit on the market for a lot longer than desired. If your house sits on the market for too long, potential buyers may notice and assume something is wrong with the home since it has yet to be sold.

How to Select a Closing Attorney

It’s always an exciting adventure in purchasing your new home. While it can be a tedious and, at times, challenging process, buying a home can overall be a very rewarding experience. Before starting the process, however, it’s a good idea to look into hiring a real estate attorney, a licensed professional who will help cover all legal documents and make sure your rights are protected. Below are some tips to consider when searching for the right lawyer for you:
1.      The early you search, the better. While browsing homes, also be on the lookout for a good quality real estate lawyer. Make a list of your wants and needs in a lawyer and start the search in your area. The sooner you find one, the quicker you can get the homebuying process started.
2.      Ask around. If you know of anyone who recently purchased a home, see if they have any suggestions as to who would be a great fit. Your real estate agent should also be able to give you a list of candidates. Don’t be afraid to ask about each lawyer’s fees and the person’s experiences with them.
3.      Aim to hire those with experience. Go for the lawyer who specializes in this field rather than one who occasionally or “once in a blue moon” handles a real estate purchase. Your state bar association will have a list of candidates, along with their credentials, and will be more than happy to provide this list to you. There are also lawyer referral websites available for usage.
4.      Conduct online research. Browse different lawyers’ websites, where you can see their educational background and case experience. Don’t be afraid to look them up on sites such as Google, Yelp and Facebook, where people can leave ratings and comments on their experiences. You can also search for online articles written about them as well as look into their methods of advertising. Of course, you’ll want someone who is professional and top notch in their field.
5.      Schedule an interview. There is nothing quite like meeting a potential hire face-to-face, as you’ll be able to tell if this is a relationship that can work. Comprise a list of questions to ask each candidate and ask for client references to back up what they say. You can also ask about fees and how often you will be charged for their services, as well as how often they communicate during the week with clients. You’ll want to make sure there is no conflict of interest, either, meaning that the lawyer doesn’t work with the seller or anyone affiliated with the home you’re looking into purchasing.
6.      Obtain a written copy of your agreement. Once you’ve read the retainer in full and completely understand what services and fees are being offered, get a copy for your personal records.

Five Tips for Buying Your Next Home

                Welcome, first-time home buyers! This is an exciting chapter in your life, as you make the move towards finding the perfect home for you and your family. Before you sign on the dotted line, however, there are five things to check off your “to do” list that will prove to be beneficial in making this process as easy as possible for you.
1.       Have your credit reports ready for observation. Your interest rate, in regards to your mortgage, will be determined by your credit score. Professionals suggest having all credit reports gathered and organized a year before looking into buying a home. That way, there’s plenty of time to correct any mistakes that may enable you from getting the interest rate you need.
2.       Plan a budget. You certainly wouldn’t want to buy a house that costs more than you can afford.
3.       Select a mortgage you feel is best for you. Fixed rate loans have constant interest rates and payments, and last anywhere from 15-30 years. Adjustable rate loans have a fixed rate in the beginning, but later changes after a certain amount of time.
4.       Determine your down payment. Many banks ask for at least a 20% down payment; however, first-time buyers typically qualify for an FHA loan. In this case, you would only need to pay 3.5% down payment.
5.       Receive pre-approval from the bank. The bank will take a look at your income, assets, and credit. After some consideration, they will be able to inform you if you’re qualified to borrow.