Real Estate Corner: Be deliberate, not desperate, when buying a house
With the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority (nhhfa.org) scheduled to host its 12th annual Home Buyer Fair on Saturday (9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Radisson Center of New Hampshire in Manchester), this seems as good a time as any to talk a little about home buyers and the home-buying process.
First, a few home buyer facts.
Did you know, for example, that the median age of home buyers in New Hampshire, at 38, is four years younger than the median age of all United States home buyers? Or that the median income of those home buyers, at $93,700, is $10,400 higher than that of home buyers nationally?
And whereas first-time home buyers make up 38 percent of all home buyers throughout the country, it’s considerably more, at 43 percent, in New Hampshire.
That national first-time home buyer number has been dropping consistently since 2009 (47 percent) and 2010 (50 percent), and in fact in January, only 26 percent of home purchases were by first-time buyers, the lowest single month since January 2008.
Why is the number of first-time buyers so low?
Several factors are making it difficult for them to purchase a home in today’s market — things like tight credit, limited inventory, higher home prices and higher mortgage interest rates.
First-time buyers are also citing student debt as an obstacle to owning a home. An NAR survey showed that, of the first-time buyers who said it was difficult to save for a down payment, 54 percent said student loans made it tough to save money.
Enough with the facts, though. Let’s talk home buying process.
If you’re one of those would-be home buyers, first-time or otherwise, who is considering attending the Home Buyer Fair this weekend, you might be in the position where you’re eager to make an offer and get negotiations started. If you’re buying in a tight market where sellers have the upper hand, you may even feel pressured to put in an offer the moment you see a house.
But before you write that check for your earnest money deposit, you should take a little time to investigate the house and the neighborhood so you have a better idea of what you’re buying.
Here are a few thoughts on the subject from Michele Lerner at realtor.com:
Your local Realtor can be a valuable resource in gathering information for you and getting the answers to your questions from the seller’s agent. In the meantime, you can be proactive and do some of your own research.
1. Search for neighborhood information online. If you already live in the community, you may be able to skip this step, but it’s always worthwhile to search local newspaper websites, local government sites, community sites and blogs to find out what’s happening in terms of upcoming development or other issues.
2. Check the crime report. Your local police station will have statistics on crime and you can also go to www.crimereports.com to find information according to a particular address or ZIP code.
3. Check on the schools. Even if you don’t have children, buying a home in a good school district is an important way to make sure your home maintains its value. You can find information on each school district website or go to www.GreatSchools.com for ratings.
4. Check for local amenities. You can go to Google Maps for a Street View of a community to see what’s nearby, or visit www.WalkScore.com to find out what is within walking distance of the home. If you have a particular activity that you enjoy, such as tennis or golf or swimming, find out how far you’ll have to go to get to a facility.
5. Check for neighborhood amenities. If you’re buying within a homeowners association, you can usually find information online about community activities, but even in areas without an association some neighborhoods have frequent community-wide gatherings or sports leagues.
6. Visit the home at different times of day. If you want to know what it will be like to live somewhere, visit on a weekday, a weeknight and a weekend to see how quiet or active the area will be.
7. Test your commute. If you only visit a home on a weekend you’ll have no idea what the traffic pattern is like during rush hour, which could have a big impact on your enjoyment of the property.
8. Schedule a home inspection. Your purchase offer should include a home inspection so you know what repairs must be made and about how they will cost.
You may be able to negotiate for the seller to pay for home improvements, but it’s always better to go into a house with full knowledge of its condition.
9. Talk to the sellers. If they are willing to share information with you, they’re the best resource of all to learn about the community and the house. You can ask the sellers about renovations they’ve done and even talk to them about whether your plans for the house are possible.
10. Ask about taxes, homeowner association dues, homeowners insurance and utility bills. Your monthly housing payment includes more than just the principal and interest on your loan. Make sure the taxes, insurance, homeowner association dues and utility bills will fit into your budget.
As much as anything, going through these steps will force you into careful consideration of the considerable purchase you may be about to make. The greatest enemy of any buyer — whether it’s one shopping for a gas grill, a new car or a home — is desperation.
Know your options, take your time, and make a great choice.
Dave Cummings is the director of communications for the New Hampshire Association of Realtors. Material from the National Association of Realtors 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, and “10 Things to Consider Before Making an offer on a Home,” by Michele Lerner of realtor.com, was used for this report.