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How to Choose a Home

Here are some tips to help determine which house is best for you.

Once you’ve settled on a couple of neighborhoods for your search, it’s time to pick out a few homes to view. Your wish list can remind you which features are absolute requirements and which amenities you’d like to have if possible. When narrowing down your home search, consider:

  • Types of homes
  • Home purchase considerations
  • Home comparison chart
  • What to do when you’ve found the right home for you

Types of homes

In addition to single family homes (one home per lot), there are other forms of home ownership:

Multifamily homes: Some buyers, particularly first-timers, start with multiple family dwellings, so they’ll have rental income to help with their costs. Many mortgage plans, including VA and FHA loans, can be used for buildings with up to four units, if the buyer intends to occupy one of them.

Condominiums: With a condo, you own “from the plaster in” just as you would a single house. You also own a certain percentage of the “common elements” — staircases, sidewalks, roofs and the like. Monthly charges pay your share of taxes and insurance on those elements, as well as repairs and maintenance. A homeowners association administers the development.

Co-ops: In a few cities, cooperative apartments are common. With those, you purchase shares in a corporation that owns the whole building, and you receive a lease to your own apartment. A board of directors supervises management. Monthly charges include your share of an overall mortgage on the building.

Narrow your home search by identifying neighborhoods that are right for you.

When evaluating a neighborhood you should investigate local conditions. Depending on your own particular needs and tastes, some of the following factors may be more important considerations than others:

  • quality of schools
  • property values
  • traffic
  • crime rate
  • future construction
  • proximity to schools, employment, hospitals, shops, public transportation, prisons, freeways, airports, beaches, parks, stadiums and cultural activities such as museums, concerts and theaters.

Neighborhood search strategies

If you’re a first time-buyer with limited financial resources, it’s wise to buy a home that meets your primary needs in the best neighborhood that fits within your price range. You can maximize your home purchase location by incorporating some of the following strategies into your neighborhood search:

  • Look for communities that are likely to become “hot neighborhoods” in the coming years. They can often be discovered on the periphery of the most continuously desirable areas. Look for a home in a good neighborhood that is a bit farther out of the city. If commuting is a concern, purchase a home that is close to public transportation.
  • Look at the neighborhood demand by asking your REALTOR® whether multiple offers are being made, whether the gap between the list price and sale price is decreasing, and whether there is active community involvement. You can also drive around neighborhoods and see how many “sale pending” and “sold” signs there are in a particular area.
  • Look into purchasing a condominium or co-op, rather than a house, in a desirable neighborhood. This way you still may be able to purchase in a prime area that you otherwise could not afford.

Home purchase considerations

Most buyers’ first consideration, after neighborhoods are chosen, is the number of bedrooms. As you begin to view homes, keep the following purchase and resale considerations in mind:

  • Weigh your needs, budget and personal tastes in deciding whether you want a home that’s a newly constructed home, an older home or a home that requires some work — a “fixer-upper.”
  • One-bedroom condos are more difficult to resell than two-bedroom ones.
  • Two-bedroom/one-bath single houses generally have less appeal than houses with three or more bedrooms, and therefore less appreciation potential.
  • Homes with “curb appeal” (a well-maintained, attractive, and charming view-from-the-street appearance) are the easiest to resell.
  • When resale is a possibility, don’t buy the most expensive house on the street, or anything that is unusual or unique. The best investment potential is traditionally found in a less expensive, more moderately sized home on the street

When you’ve found the right home

Before you begin the home buying process, resolve to act promptly when you find the right house. Every REALTOR® has stories to tell about a couple who looked far and wide for their dream home, finally found it, and then revealed that “we always promised my Dad we’d sleep on it, so we’ll make an offer tomorrow.” Many times the story has a sad ending — someone else came in that evening with an offer that was accepted.

Resolve at this point that you will act decisively when you find the house that’s clearly right for you. This is particularly important after a long search or if the house is newly listed and/or under-priced.

How to Get a Mortgage

Once a simple task that meant comparing fixed rates from among perhaps a dozen or fewer savings and loan companies, the mortgage hunt today is like finding your way through a maze.

There are dozens of loan types and hundreds of loan programs available through thousands of mortgage brokers, bankers, lenders, finance companies, credit unions, even stock brokerage firms.

Contrary to popular belief, finding a mortgage doesn’t begin with an application.

Education is a better first choice. Mortgage information sources are as vast as the number of mortgages available. Web sites, topical newspaper articles, mortgage books, consumer seminars and workshops, financial planners, real estate agents, mortgage brokers and lenders are all available to assist you along the way.

First and foremost, you must determine how your mortgage payment will fit your current budget and, to some extent, your future obligations 15 to 30 years down the road.

If you discover too late that you can’t afford your mortgage, you’ll not only face the possibility of losing the roof over your head, but you could also damage your ability to purchase a home later.

Examine your finances

If you can afford to buy a home, you must then determine how much mortgage you can afford. Lenders are apt to put your loan application in the best light and qualify you for as much as they are willing to lend, which can be more than you can afford.

It’s up to you to take stock of your income and expenses, both current and projected, to determine what you can comfortably manage each month. Along with your mortgage payment, don’t forget related insurance, taxes, homeowner association dues and any other costs rolled into the mortgage payment.

Shopping for a loan

When you are ready to shop for a loan you have two basic types of mortgage stores to shop — direct lenders and mortgage brokers.

Direct lenders have money to lend. They make the final decision on your application. Brokers are intermediaries who, like you, have many lenders from which to choose. Lenders have a limited number of in-house loans available. Brokers can shop many lenders for each lender’s store of loans. If you have special financing needs and can’t find a lender to suit them, an experienced broker may be able to ferret out the loan you need. Mortgage brokers, however, are paid with a slice of the amount you borrow, some more than others, some less. Internet brokers today perhaps receive the smallest cut, sometimes none at all, and can prove to be a real bargain.

Along with shopping the source, you’ll also have to shop loan costs, including the interest rate, broker fees, points (each point is one percent of the amount you borrow), prepayment penalties, the loan term, application fees, credit report fee, appraisal and a host of others.

Apply for a loan

The application process is the easy part — provided you’ve gathered documents necessary to prove claims you make on the application.

The application will ask for information about your job tenure, employment stability, income, your assets (property, cars, bank accounts and investments) and your liabilities (auto loans, installment loans, mortgages, credit-card debt, household expenses and others).

The lender will run a credit check on you to take a look at your credit status, but you’ll have to supply additional documentation including paycheck stubs, bank account statements, tax returns, investment earnings reports, rental agreements, divorce decrees, proof of insurance, and other documentation. If the lender deems you creditworthy, it will likely hire a professional appraisal to make sure the value of the home you are about to buy is truly worth your loan amount.

Relocating

For newcomers relocating to Boise there is some great information available from the Boise Chamber of Commerce on making the transition as easy as possible.