First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

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outlierZ
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Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2020 8:56 am

First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by outlierZ »

Hello - We are first time home buyers and looking for some advice from group members.

We have started to look at houses and we were wondering what all things should we keep in mind/check before we make an offer? We are in the process of getting an agent, however, we would like to know based on your experience - things we should personally check rather than completely relying on an agent.

We stay in New Jersey.

Thank you for your time!
mortfree
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by mortfree »

Keep your emotions in check.

Try not to fall in love with a house.

The realtors do not always have your interests in mind. They just want the transaction done and move on to the next one.

Edit. Jpelder reminded me.

Ask the realtors for home inspectors BUT do not use who they recommend.
Last edited by mortfree on Wed Jul 22, 2020 8:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
jebmke
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by jebmke »

mortfree wrote: Wed Jul 22, 2020 7:32 pm Keep your emotions in check.

Try not to fall in love with a house.

The realtors do not always have your interests in mind. They just want the transaction done and move on to the next one.
Agree with these. Houses are just shelter. Don't get carried away.

I moved a lot and bought and sold several times along the way. We always planned to spend 10-15% of the house value in the first couple of years on various one-time things -- re-decorating, landscaping, undiscovered issues to be repaired/replaced.... So when you plan how much you can spend on a house, add a contingency.

One last thing. Don't go into the deal assuming you are going to make money as an investment. Maybe you will, maybe you won't.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.
jarjarM
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by jarjarM »

Almost everything is negotiable.
jpelder
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by jpelder »

Know how to spot structure and foundation issues. Uneven floors are easier to spot, but noticing the stairstep cracks in walls above doorways is another.

If it has a crawlspace, look in there. If it's muddy, moldy, or has puddles, run away!

Look at the slope of the yard and imagine how water will flow. The yard should slope away from the house. If it slopes toward the house, you could have trouble.

Make sure that the rooms in their current arrangement will work for you. It's possible to move/remove walls, even weight-bearing ones, but it's expensive.

Get a good home inspector. I recommend going through ASHI, as they have high initial and ongoing educational standards. Your real estate agent may have some that they work with, but you're not obligated to use them. Read the inspection report! They will often include "FYI" items that aren't something wrong, just a thing to be aware of.
Mudpuppy
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by Mudpuppy »

While you are looking at listings or touring houses, have a very critical eye. Look at the neighborhood and its characteristics. Look at how the home is maintained, inside and out. Look at the appliances, HVAC, water heater, etc. and see how much usable life they'll have before they'll need to be replaced. Look at the purchase history of the home, if the local assessor makes that available online, particularly keeping an eye out for potential foreclosures or flips in its recent history. If there are any improvements or add-ons to the home, make sure that those were properly permitted (after a while, you start to know what to look for in a non-permitted improvement, but it takes time to develop that critical eye).

In the house purchasing process itself, inspections are important. Make your offer contingent upon inspections, at a minimum by a general home inspector, but also consider more types of inspections depending on the specific property. For example, you might want a roof inspection on an older home or you might want a certified arborist to evaluate the trees under some conditions. There are other types of inspections that might be warranted in specific situations.
mortfree wrote: Wed Jul 22, 2020 7:32 pm The realtors do not always have your interests in mind. They just want the transaction done and move on to the next one.
This is also important. If you have a contract with a buyer's agent, make sure it is a short contract (3 months is fairly typical) in case you find out the agent is not working out for you. I had to fire my first buyer's agent after she made several large blunders and a few smaller ones. The inspection contingency saved my proverbial bacon on the largest blunder, so I was able to back out of the contract on that money pit without losing my deposit. My second buyer's agent was more professional and thorough in filtering listings before we arranged a tour.
Lalamimi
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by Lalamimi »

Pick a good agent. They should have your back and offer sound advise. We did not this last time (caught off guard) and missed out on requesting carpet allowance and a few other things. We were selling and buying at same time, crazy. AND we were selling our primary home and got talked into a contract with a crazy person with no money. So upset with that Realtor by the time we finally sold, 10 months and thousands of dollars later.
PAY CLOSE ATTENTION to the sales contract. Ours with the crazy person allowed for them to have to sign to release Earnest Money if fail to close. We have never gotten the $$.
squirm
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by squirm »

I always asked the agent to have the owners present when I looked at the house a second time. I wanted to meet them in person, ask questions and see if I could get more info or read between the lines. Try it, you'll get much more accurate info on the neighborhood too. also, i don't necessary agree about no falling in love with it. you're buying a house, not a candy bar. my wife and i always sleep on it before making an offer. Also after we look at it, we always stop somewhere and talk it over, most of the time this wipes out 90% of them. Talking to the owners, like I said, is very rewarding, just don't be shy..last house we looked at, I talked to the guy while walking around the property and found out things I didn't like and my wife talked to his wife while talking about the inside. Flatter them so they open up a little more too.

For the agents, I've never meant one that was worth even half of what they get (and we've had lots of agents). My wife and I now just tell them to open the door, sit down and play on their phone. The last agent we had got mad at me and now doesn't return my calls, fine by me.

Good luck.
Last edited by squirm on Thu Jul 23, 2020 6:08 pm, edited 3 times in total.
megabad
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by megabad »

Work with a good buyers agent (buyers only) if this is your first house. There usually aren’t many for each area and you should be able to find someone who can refer you to the top agents. Don’t sign a long term contract though.

Work in terms of numbers, not feeling. The most common mistake I see is a buyer being turned off by paint color or dirty carpets. That’s why ugly paint color is the first thing I want when I buy. Easy, cheap fix. Also don’t just arbitrarily say a house is worth 10k less than market because it needs a new HVAC system, roof, etc. Assign depreciated values relative to other houses you are looking at and compare.

Allow plenty of time for closing. I routinely have to educate and remind experienced realtors, appraisers, inspectors, and lenders about the buying process. Most are not competent and it will take longer than you think if you are not an experienced buyer.

Along these lines, I might recommend using a local bank/CU for your first loan. They are just as bad on average but at least you would have someone to yell at if they mess something up. Obviously check available rates though and make sure they are competitive.

If you don’t know anything about homes, try to get a decent home inspector recommendation from friends. But personally I have never found many that are worth a darn. As such, I would recommend you do your own inspection in addition to his. If you don’t have crawlspace mud and attic insulation on you after you’re done, you didn’t do it right (same goes for your inspector). Have cash or check ready to pay this guy, most of mine want at least half before the report while they are onsite.

Do all of the major renovations/painting etc before you move even one thing into the house. You will thank me later after experiencing not moving furniture away from walls or getting paint/dust on everything.

Don’t buy a fixer upper for your first home unless you can honestly say you are “handy”.
thewizzer
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by thewizzer »

Location is key. Everything else can be changed, but if the back yard abuts a 6 lane highway, the paint scheme in the kitchen doesn’t really matter.

Look for what is important to you. Walkable neighborhood, proximity to schools or shopping or amenities, land resources, etc...whatever it is, focus on that.
Mr. Rumples
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by Mr. Rumples »

Looking back, it really is amazing how much homeowners learn over time. Its difficult to encapsulate. But starting with the agent, be sure they are full time. Not someone doing it as a side job. Get an inspection. And since you are in NJ, be aware of the trees. I am in my fourth home, but the first lot with a lot of trees; I have spent a lot of $ on them. If your county has it (in VA, the localities are required to) find out what type of soil your home is on. Shrink swell soil moves and it moves the house with it; a bit disconcerting if you are not aware of it. I am having my home repointed, not something I had planned on. There is a thread currently on here about drainage. Just another thing to be aware of.
Topic Author
outlierZ
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by outlierZ »

Thank you all so much for your valuable suggestion! We are certainly nervous about finding the right house and at the same time making sure we don't get into something which we will regret later. We have not found an agent yet. If you are in NJ or know anyone that you personally would retain as an agent, please send me a DM.

Again, I am very appreciative of everyone's time and suggestions!
brajalle
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by brajalle »

There are some great suggestions up above. I'd highlight and/or add these -
- Use the ASHI certified inspectors someone else mentioned at a bare minimum
- Make a list of things you want inspected closely, find an inspector who will agree to go above and beyond to do them & document it was done - offer to pay theme extra if it's not part of a usual inspection.
- On that list, I would be sure to include - detailed inspection of interior of HVAC coils/ductwork up above (look for mold in ductwork right above the unit), if there are any roof/exterior wall joints (ie a roof line meeting a wall) - get them on the roof to probe that instersection and also in the attic to inspect for water damage along the interior line. Pay particularly close attention to any potential water staining on ceiling (including in attic) nearby - look for repainted ceilings. Do the same thing in a basement - especially near downspouts - have them go along the entire basement perimeter up top by the main floor - including moving around insulation to inspect for leaks - inspect basement ceiling (including tops of drop ceiling panels), pipes, wiring, floor supports, ductwork, etc for signs of current or former water/mold. Do the same for anywhere plumbing comes through a floor (ie from the dishwasher or sink or toilet). Look for water carefully around exterior spigots in the basement - often they freeze and can then spray water in the basement if people go to use them. If there's a removable panel behind a tub - get inside and look for signs of water leaks - same for underneath of it and beside it. Look closely at caulking in showers and around sinks/drains - look for signs of both quick repairs over the top of a problem area, mold, etc. If there is a ventilation fan in a bathroom - get up there, pull off the cover, look in the ductwork for potential mold. Probe the ceiling in a bathroom for weakness from moisture - especially if it's recently painted. Check the bottoms of cabinets by sinks and dishwashers especially close for water issues. Heck, you may even be able to pull out the dishwasher to take a look. Look for freshly caulked places in basement walls (or with new paint) - potential mortar issues covered up. If carpet is loose in basement - flip up a bit of the edge around entire perimeter and look for water/mold issues underneath (on padding or underside of carpet or on floor).
- Consider a mold test if any potential concerns
- Consider a radon test if your area is known for radon issues
- Usually there are public databases of homes that have had meth lab cleanup...never hurts to check those.
- Pull any police reports associated with the address. May be handy to pull any associated with neighboring addresses. You can also contact your 911 and potentially request any calls/dispatches to those houses (may include things that don't end up with police reports)
- A flexible scope camera can help see some difficult to get to areas - inspector or you should consider having one available
- Test everything - every faucet, door, latch, outlet, light switch, fuse, EVERYTHING.
- Ask for the seller to buy a homeowners warranty. Pick one out first ideally. Do your research on the exclusions and make sure to insist on a plan that covers areas of potential concern. These things aren't great investments typically, and have serious loopholes (do some research), but they COULD help with some 1st year problems.
- Observe the home in a serious downpour. Check all the guttering and downspouts. Pay close attention to where the water goes around the house - from the guttering, downspouts, and in general through the yard/driveway/etc. You could avoid some serious problems. If your home isn't properly moving water from the roof and yard around it away from the foundation - you could have a big problem. Pay attention to any porches that are set on top of a basement - beware any leaks from up above the porch going into the basement.
- Any potential structural concerns or extensive brickwork cracks/etc? Get an evaluation from a structural engineer or mason.
- Lots of trees in yard or in an older area? Scratch this - do this no matter what. Call the water/sewer company and inquire if they are aware of any issues in the neighborhood with collapsing water lines or sewer lines. Or big issues with trees in these lines. If so, consider getting it scoped.
- Look for areas of yard that stay wet or soft that are out of place.
- Look at the sump pump closely. See if it has a valve to prevent water from falling back into the pit. Look for rust that is eating through metal (not merely surface rust - that's fairly common)on the pump and any piping and inquire about age of sump pump. Figure out how various things in basement (HVAC, water softener, water heater, etc) drain. Many drain into sump pump pit and get pumped out. Sump pump proactive replacement is probably a good thing btw - otherwise you may walk downstairs one day and find out that your AC unit which drains into the sump pump has left water across your basement floor when the sump pump failed. Note if this appears to be an upcoming expense.
- On the water heater - be sure to do this safely or use a professional - consider investigating if it's been drained (ie lots of sediment in bottom or not) and what state the anodes are in. May give you an idea of how soon you need to replace this unit.
- On the HVAC - ask if there was regular maintenance/inspections. Consider bringing in a HVAC tech (some inspectors can do the same) to test/evaluate the system. Yes, they do like to point out "pinprick leaks" in the AC coils to sell you an expensive part or full system, but they can also let you know if there's a problem. A good inspector should test the air temp of both furnace & AC for example at the least even if they don't check refrigerant pressure or diagnostics or such.
- Test all cable/phone/electrical outlets. You'd be amazed at what may not be working in places. If you still use phone lines - be sure to make sure both lines in the jack work (may be an issue with some DSL/home phones - can take 2 lines, won't be good if only 1 line works!).
- If you notice anything not super ordinary in the place - be suspicious and look for potential issues they were put in to address. Some may be harmless, but never hurts to hunt for a problem it solved. Dehumidifiers, air cleaners, air purifiers, etc.
- Shop title insurance. Our state has a list with pricing.
- If you have concerns about utility costs - you can call utility companies to check average costs at the house, but this doesn't always tell you a ton. The homeowner could provide the most recent bills...along with say, a 1yr old bill. Most bills show usage over the last year on a chart. Investigate how the HVAC or water or such was used potentially to understand those numbers if this is a huge concern to you.
- Investigate where all air vents in the house go (if anywhere), including bathroom fans, kitchen hoods, dryer vents, etc. Ask the inspector if they are sized appropriately and if there are any potential issues with being blocked/etc. You may find moisture is just vented into the attic and not outside...or that some fans may not even be vented anywhere.
- If there are any gas water heaters or furnaces, make sure to ask the inspector if the ventilation or the installation is up to code/problematic. Ask them to check things like the rise on the vent pipe - and make sure to check manuals of things (if available online for example - for HVAC, water softener, water heater for example) for proper installation in addition to asking. This may include spacing, drains, etc. To some extent it's probably not an issue - but you need to be aware of improper installation (note in the home warranty example I gave above this is a common exclusion (they have plans that cover this though for more $)).
- If you want wi-fi in the house...figure out how you're going to set it up. Find out where the connections are - sometimes the internet enters the house in a basement or on one end. Take a router over and check the signal in the house from there. If the house is older or has thick walls - you may have a signal problem. If it's really old, you may have a huge signal problem. Think about how you may work around the issue - if you are wanting to use MOCA or powerline stuff, then you should be prepared to test each jack/outlet you want to use.
- Pay close attention to the electrical wiring setup and the appliances the house uses (or will use). Some potential problem areas include a house that is all electric that has 100amp service. This may not be a problem, but you should be aware of some potential issues. Look at how the breaker box is labeled and the amps on each circuit. If you have 30amps on a circuit that covers several rooms - where things may be going that get close to this amount - you may be popping breakers. This could be even more of an issue if areas of the house (ie bedrooms) are colder than others - and in which you may be running some space heaters or such at night in the winter. The inspector (or if they have a concern, you could bring in an electrician) can probably keep an eye out for this and let you know of any observations if they know you'd like to know about it. Other potential problem areas include how detached garages/buildings are wired. Ie if you have a large detached garage or building, but it's wired for 15 or 30amps, you may have issues running a bunch of woodworking machinery and a window air conditioner or such. May also get the lay of the land for an electric car jack or such in the garage if it has one or you want to add one.
- Find out where the shut-offs are (ie water, gas, etc). Find out if the house has a backwater valve. If it doesn't, I'd probably budget installing one.
- Get water alert alarm devices for the house - under each sink, under the back of the dishwasher, sump pump, washer, water softener, water heater, etc are good locations. Get a leak pan for your washer for it to sit in. Very cheap protection for a potentially major issue.
- Worth mentioning again, but a good inspection of the roof and any issues around any penetrations or valleys/etc is always a good idea.
- Chimneys and fireplaces - Well, it's always good to be sure anything involving mortar/brick/etc is in good order (ie including exterior/above roof). Some potential issues here at times involving water, animals, decay or non-functioning. Same goes for anything integrated - gas systems, blowers, etc. I'd probably have a chimney sweep clean it out before any use if there's any question about if it's safe.
- If there is a potentially major issue, get quotes for repair. If the seller is amenable, you can use this to adjust sales price based on repair costs.
Get multiple quotes from reputable contractors. Realize there may be cost overruns or hidden issues that raise $$ when you do go to repair.
- When looking at property tax costs, be sure to investigate any potential exemptions, caps, circuit breakers, or deductions that may currently be on it and what you may have on it. You could have a nasty price shock depending on this or other state laws.
- Check flood plain maps. Investigate local flood history (the maps may not be up to date).
- Check for other environmental issues. City hall, state environmental management, eco watchdog groups, superfund site lists - could all be resources there. This would include the location of former landfills. Fracking in the area, etc.
- Figure out what is around you. If you've got industrial, agricultural, trains, ships, highways, etc - it's always helpful to know if there's loud noises at certain times of day or smells.
- Probably a good idea to test the water. Be sure you're not testing water that is filtered too. I'd normally say - don't bother testing City water, but then Flint happened.
- Young kids and the home was built before they stopped using lead paint? Definitely don't underestimate lead issues with young children. If in large city with lots of cars before leaded gas was no longer sold, may even want to consider a test of soil in yard for lead.
- If you're on a well, get a feel for what sort of water output the pump has. In some cases you may be surprised that you can't take two showers at once. You'll also want to find out if there are issues with water tables declining in the area. If it's rural - you may find farmers can be pumping a ton of water out and lowering the table leading to wells needing to be dug deeper. Get any info you can about the well, when the pump was put in, if the well has been cleaned out, etc. Obviously you want to know where the well is too.
- If it's got septic, find out when it was pumped out last. Find out where the tank is. If it's dry out you can often see the tank location & finger location in a yard based on dry/not-dry grass! I don't know to easily tell you to do this, especially if you can't pull the tank lid off, but it's not uncommon to find some very interesting (and definitely not up to code) septic system designs in rural areas - especially anything built before the 1970's or so.
- In rural areas, it may be helpful to ask if there are any old wells on the property. Be aware that in rural areas it was common to bury trash in old wells in the yard or such in the old days (by this I mean glass, metal, pottery, porcelain, etc). Also a potential safety issue if they're not filled in.
- If the fan is set on a set speed in the house - figure out why. It could be for comfort (ie 2nd floors are typically hotter), but it could also be to cover up a smell or some similar issue related to smell or air circulation (radon even maybe). Sewer line venting can be interesting in some places for example.

Despite this huge list full of potentially scary things...it's not really typically necessary to bring in a bunch of expensive supplemental professionals when buying a house. In addition, even with new construction, you're never going to buy a perfect house. There will typically always be imperfections, and this can extent to the various mechanical systems and deferred capital expenses. Most of the time - you are buying with this already in-mind when you make the offer. What you are looking for typically falls into three categories - 1) a major deal breaker or things that have significant impact on the ability to close a sale/inhabit the home (structural issues, major mold issues, etc), 2) things that are typically a bit outside of usual imperfect home stuff, but which may adversely impact the home's apparent market value due to it's discovery (ie lower sales price or negotiating item), or 3) things that are nice to know you may need to repair after purchase or potentially deal with in the next few years. To some extent, there's overlap in all of these categories - ie the home with $40k of structural repair needed may be $80k under priced because of those issues. Your main goal with a good inspection is to find those deal breakers and make sure you are as knowledgeable as possible about the condition of the home to evaluate it's suitability, price, and immediate/long-term needs after you purchase it.

As this is a boglehead forum, I'd also add the following -
- It's easy to buy larger - this typically has a cost in terms of not just more $$, but also in using your time - plus you tend to fill up a larger home with more stuff (which is also more expensive)
- It's easy to buy more expensive - this can cause financial strain or difficult decisions in the future (cutting back on retirement, etc)
- When pricing what you can afford, ask yourself what you could afford if XYZ happened (ie a job loss) - figure out a plan for rough times
- For a ratio, my own observations and what others have said suggest that you will feel much less constrained financially if you stick to a home that has a PITIA under 25% of your income annually - with sub 20% or 15% being even better. I've read many people emphasize how much more it felt like they had extra money if they stuck under 20-25%. That was my own experience as well.
- For home ownership expenses, be prepared to pencil in 1-2% of the homes purchase price for long-term maintenance costs.
- For energy efficiency purposes, your best investments are typically likely going to be these first (not in a particular order) 1) caulk & spray foam for the building envelope, 2) attic insulation & sealing, 3) water-saving/LED lights, and 4) various window/door weatherstripping/coverings. It gets a bit murky after those IMO in terms of wall insulation, replacement windows, HVAC systems, appliances, mechanical systems, solar, etc.
- It's amazing the difference between a wish list on customizing a home and what is truly impactful. I've found the most cost effective upgrades for a house are the same things that are most cost effective when you go to sell - paint & carpet. You don't need the most expensive stuff for it to look good. We picked low-mid level paint at a big box, refinished existing wood floors (with a darker stain to hide old pet stains that wouldn't be sanded off), and splurged a bit on luxury vinyl planks with a lifetime warranty (still far less expensive than many other options). If I had to pick another thing, I'd pick inexpensive kitchen counter-tops - you can get some great looking (formica-style) counter-tops for under $2k around here from a reputable guy working out of his garage for example. Window treatments - easy to go custom, you'll probably find that you are happy with cost effective big box or Ikea options once you live there. Once you live there awhile, re-evaluate if you really need all those things on your wish-list. Especially the expensive ones. You'll likely find the expensive version features of these things aren't that important in your actual daily living. If they are, you won't have invested too much in them when you go to replace them later.
Mudpuppy
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by Mudpuppy »

brajalle wrote: Fri Jul 24, 2020 12:50 am - Pull any police reports associated with the address. May be handy to pull any associated with neighboring addresses. You can also contact your 911 and potentially request any calls/dispatches to those houses (may include things that don't end up with police reports)
Make sure to call a NON-Emergency number, such as the desk sergeant, for such inquiries. Do not call 911 to ask about police reports. Many areas also have the anonymized reports available for free on their police department or municipality website, and those reports are aggregated into some real estate websites.
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stickman731
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by stickman731 »

For my first, saved 25% used 20% on down payment and remaining cash to fix up and furnishings.

Develop criteria of the home you want and the price you can afford comfortably - do not be house rich!

!!! Write it down so realtors do not steer you to a more expensive home.

For me the criteria were as follows:

1. No major fix up as I am handy but not skilled enough to do major jobs myself
2. Good school district - easier to sell as you will resell it
3. No double yellow-line - indicates high traffic area, tougher to resell
4. No corner property
5. No sump pump or drainage issue
6. No HOA

Features: 3 BR, 2 Bath minimum

Walk the neighborhood and talk to people before you purchase - ask them about the perspective home. If you commute for work, check out travel options and time.

Good luck and find a good buyer agent.
bluebolt
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by bluebolt »

stickman731 wrote: Fri Jul 24, 2020 6:14 am 4. No corner property
The other suggestions make sense to me, but why not a corner property?
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CardinalRule
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by CardinalRule »

And along these lines, the mortgage lender your realtor recommends might not be the best choice.
megabad wrote: Thu Jul 23, 2020 6:03 pm
Along these lines, I might recommend using a local bank/CU for your first loan. They are just as bad on average but at least you would have someone to yell at if they mess something up. Obviously check available rates though and make sure they are competitive.
fishnhunt
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by fishnhunt »

Be patient. It took us 1.5 years to find our home in a low inventory rural area. I think we looked at 20 houses in that time. After looking at a number of houses you will know when you find the house that is meant for you. Have extra money saved up for closing costs, new purchases that you may need (lawn mower, snow blower, appliances, furniture, etc) and your emergency fund.

Make sure you find a responsive realtor. In this market houses have been selling within hours.
jebmke
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by jebmke »

bluebolt wrote: Fri Jul 24, 2020 6:32 am
stickman731 wrote: Fri Jul 24, 2020 6:14 am 4. No corner property
The other suggestions make sense to me, but why not a corner property?
while I wouldn't rule out corner properties (I've owned two in my lifetime), here are a couple of drawbacks.

If it snows in your location, corner properties potentially have a lot of sidewalks to clear.

People (especially but not exclusively children) will cut across your yard as a short cut. Hedges and fences will stop this but not all properties work with hedges/fences.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.
barnaclebob
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by barnaclebob »

Many people will say to not get emotional about a house and that is something you definitely have to keep in mind. But if you do find yourself walking through a house that you really love, don't be afraid to make a strong offer or "overpay" by a reasonable amount because you wont regret it. This does not mean to pay more than you can afford.

There is also a lot of suggestions for tests/inspections on here that people will say you HAVE to do. Everyone knows someone who has had nightmares with houses but the reality is that most good looking non flip house wont have major surprises. Its pretty easy to tell when shoddy DIY stuff has been done.

Mold tests are useless IMO, every house has mold. Big trees on the property, yes get the sewer scoped or be ready to pay for it to be replaced if needed once you move in.
Last edited by barnaclebob on Fri Jul 24, 2020 1:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
TLC1957
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by TLC1957 »

Lived in NJ for 58 years owned 3 homes in NJ , in Warren, Hudson and Bergen Counties, selling our last home in 2015 retired and moved out of NJ a few things.

Where in NJ do you plan to live the housing market is very different in northern NJ vs South Jersey,ie you more for your $$ in South and West Jersey.

Where will you work? Jersey roads are nuts, miles via google maps and driving during rush hour are 2 completely different things. Now with the Covid roads are not as busy as they normally are, many corporate centers are empty with workers operating from home. Once this COVID thing is done consider getting a hotel near where you plan to live and see how the commute will be.

City water vs well water, city sewer vs septic tank, if well and septic make sure you get it inspected ie a new septic system is $30-50K.

Use this website https://www.trulia.com/NJ/Washington/ and at the “Crime” and “Schools” sectionS to get and idea of the area.

TAXES are a big deal in NJ $10-15K a year is very typical. When was the last town tax assessment review and when is the next planned, you could see a big tax bill.

Any renovations on the home, call the local building dept NJ to see if they pulled any building permits for the work. NJ fire prevention department inspection is required on the selling of the home to a new buyer, they can be a pain!

Check the school ratings most towns have their own school system beware of a town with low ratings you may have a hard time reselling in the future if you have no kids now.

Most towns do not share services ie police, fire, public works, schools that is why taxes are very high in NJ. Most towns have volunteer fire department nothing wrong with that I was a volunteer firefighter, just be aware they have longer response time during the day.

Have fun!
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stickman731
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by stickman731 »

bluebolt wrote: Fri Jul 24, 2020 6:32 am
stickman731 wrote: Fri Jul 24, 2020 6:14 am 4. No corner property
The other suggestions make sense to me, but why not a corner property?
Two exposed sides - just not preferred by many homeowners; thus you decrease the number of potential buyers on resale. Remember you will resell it at some point !

In my experience, double the size to protect via either fencing (particularly if you have young children) or landscaping ($$$), more lawn maintenance, more snow removal (if sidewalked), more potential road noise, less privacy with no fencing and last but not least - more taxes on the "land" !!!

I know realtors will try to tell you otherwise, that is why a good buyer agent is needed.
Last edited by stickman731 on Sat Jul 25, 2020 5:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
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stickman731
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by stickman731 »

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stickman731
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by stickman731 »

TLC1957 wrote: Fri Jul 24, 2020 1:08 pm Lived in NJ for 58 years owned 3 homes in NJ , in Warren, Hudson and Bergen Counties, selling our last home in 2015 retired and moved out of NJ a few things.

City water vs well water, city sewer vs septic tank, if well and septic make sure you get it inspected ie a new septic system is $30-50K.

TAXES are a big deal in NJ $10-15K a year is very typical. When was the last town tax assessment review and when is the next planned, you could see a big tax bill.

Any renovations on the home, call the local building dept NJ to see if they pulled any building permits for the work. NJ fire prevention department inspection is required on the selling of the home to a new buyer, they can be a pain!

Check the school ratings most towns have their own school system beware of a town with low ratings you may have a hard time reselling in the future if you have no kids now.


Have fun!
I too live in NJ and will die here as my family and friends are here. These are good points especially the sewer vs septic - make sure to check if they switched to public sewer from septic that the septic was removed or completely filled in - mine was but my neighbors was not and collapsed.

Check for oil tanks and if there was any - make sure they were removed properly - environmental clean-up can be a mess - my cousin in Hudson County has one major issue because their neighbors leaked and was not cleaned up properly - they have been fighting the insurance companies now for 3 years - they only found out about when they were going to sell it.

On taxes, check the Open Public Record System (https://oprs.co.monmouth.nj.us/oprs/Ext ... spx?iId=13) - you will need to change the dropdown menu to current owners and location to get a better feel of house vs land taxes. I would also google to see if they plan to do any re-assessment in the town. Additionally on taxes, 64% of my taxes go to the schools because we have good school system thus my property is more desirable - so do not knock taxes as long as the money is being used well. NJ have some of the best education systems especially for special needs children.
planetmike
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by planetmike »

The region we moved to had two cities and a county meeting at a point. I was self-employed, working from home, so I looked at the business licensing and taxes for each jurisdiction for home-based work. It was much less expensive to live in the county, so we told our realtor we wanted to live in the county. He showed us several properties in the city, one of which was within 100 feet of the county/city line. After we ruled it out immediately on discovering it was in the city, he stopped showing us properties not in the county.
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Iowa David
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by Iowa David »

A couple items:

1. While a generalization, how a house is maintained maintained externally, is usually a good indicator of how well it has been maintained internally. Also - well maintained yards and landscaping have a domino effect on your neighbors who will feel the indirect pressure of maintaining the standard.

2. A house with a South or West facing driveway will make a big difference in the winter for snow/ice melting.

3. If your side of the street has a side walk then you will have more dog poop in your yard.
"Just a 1 percent difference in expenses makes an 18 percent difference in returns when compounded over 20 years." The Boglehead's Guide to Investing
brajalle
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by brajalle »

bluebolt wrote: Fri Jul 24, 2020 6:32 am
stickman731 wrote: Fri Jul 24, 2020 6:14 am 4. No corner property
The other suggestions make sense to me, but why not a corner property?
To add to stickman and jebmke's responses - a corner yard will also likely face some extra burdens in terms of landscaping, fences, line-of-sight on the corner, additions, driveway extensions, and storage sheds/etc. The way various ordinances on these things interact with a corner lot could mean you have far less (or no) options when it comes to these things. Example - a co-worker had a corner lot and wanted to put a gravel driveway extension on the edge of the house for a camper - he could not do this because of how the street setback worked with streets on two sides and the size of the lot. If he had not had a corner lot, then the setbacks would have been less and he could have added it.

In addition, you're more likely to be impacted by various road improvements - wider roads, adding lanes, a turn lane, drainage improvements, bus stops, bike paths, larger sidewalks, etc in terms of losing parts of your yard/driveway. This also interacts with the above in terms of shrinking your options even more.
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stickman731
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by stickman731 »

brajalle wrote: Sun Jul 26, 2020 1:09 am
bluebolt wrote: Fri Jul 24, 2020 6:32 am
stickman731 wrote: Fri Jul 24, 2020 6:14 am 4. No corner property
The other suggestions make sense to me, but why not a corner property?


In addition, you're more likely to be impacted by various road improvements - wider roads, adding lanes, a turn lane, drainage improvements, bus stops, bike paths, larger sidewalks, etc in terms of losing parts of your yard/driveway. This also interacts with the above in terms of shrinking your options even more.
I totally forgot the lane widening aspect and I casually know someone where this happen. It was actually ceased by eminent domain but after fighting they actually got almost the value of their entire property.
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by atikovi »

outlierZ wrote: Wed Jul 22, 2020 7:29 pm We are in the process of getting an agent, however, we would like to know based on your experience -
If you know what you want, avoid getting an agent. A seller will negotiate down more, if they know they won't have to pay a buyers agent commission as well as their own agent.
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by BradJ »

Financially, follow at least 2 out of the 3 steps Dave Ramsey has on a home purchase. If you hate his advice, just be in a position to spend an extra $100 a month on your home because yes, there is always “something.”

When buying tap into your five senses:
See: look at the ceiling for stains, yard for bad slope (go by when it rains), etc.
Smell: does it smell damp or funky, if so get out.
Touch: when you walk in the house, does it feel “off”? Are doors and windows closing as they should?
Taste: eh, pass on this one
Feel: the most important. Does it feel right? Does the neighborhood feel like it’s stable (tons of parked cars in the street/yards is a bad sign).

My last piece of advice is to “know thyself.” If you aren’t handy, don’t buy a fixer upper. If you hate driving, don’t buy one far away from work. Homes have a great power to deceive and make us believe “we can make it work.”
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by investingdad »

Know the location of the sun relative to the back yard.

In climates where it's cold in winter, you'll want the backyard facing mostly south or southeast.

In the winter, low sunshine warms the back interior of the house where the main living areas are usually located.

In the summer, the hot afternoon sun will leave the back deck or patio in shade by late afternoon and early evening.

Avoid roads and road noise.

Avoid a setup where any passing cars shine headlights into the house at night.
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Re: First time homebuyer - things to keep in mind

Post by Mudpuppy »

BradJ wrote: Sun Jul 26, 2020 7:34 am Feel: the most important. Does it feel right? Does the neighborhood feel like it’s stable (tons of parked cars in the street/yards is a bad sign).
Cars on the street don't mean much. In this town, most people use their garage for hobbies (woodworking, metal working, etc.) or storage. Very few people actually park in their garage. Most people park in the driveway (if they have a usable one) or on the street. I can only think of two on my block who park some of their cars in the garage, and even they have other cars in the driveway or on the street.

Edit: Of course, this is California where outdoor parking doesn't really damage the car, so people reclaim the garage for other purposes.
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