If you’re looking for a new home in the new year, Forbes predicts some good news for buyers: more houses to choose from than last year, and less competition from other buyers due to higher rates. It’s a good time to start looking, and here are some tips:
1- Make use of online tools to research neighborhoods
Lots of great resources exist for checking out neighborhoods you are considering. No computer-generated data will compare to talking with a resident, but they can help you develop a feel for areas of interest and narrow down your search.
- Area Vibes will do lots of crunching and give you a “livability score” – with letter grades for each component from crime to amenities to cost of living.
- You can find detailed statistics on locations you’re considering at Moving.com. Chose the “Compare Cities” tab to compare two cities against each other.
- Research nearby crime reports at mylocalcrime.com and view a sex offender map at FamilyWatchdog.us.
- Read school reviews at GreatSchools.org.
- If you don’t plan to rely on a car, check out how easy it is to get around by walking or biking and by public transportation at WalkScore.com.
If you’re nearby, though, nothing beats driving through different neighborhoods to gain a feel for the vibe. Look for the schools, grocery stores, health care centers. You might want to drive through at rush hour to see the traffic situation, or even park your car and take a walk. If you’re close to a purchase and you see a neighbor outside caring for their lawn, don’t be afraid to greet them. If you feel comfortable striking up a conversation, that could be your chance to ask specific questions you have after your research, such as, “What’s your favorite thing about this neighborhood,” or, “Will my child find other kids to play with here?”
2- Decide on needs and wants
Some points to consider:
- How much space do you need?
- How far are you willing to drive to work?
- How important is a great school district?
- Are walkability and public transportation important for your family?
- How important is proximity to a hospital?
- Are you looking for child-friendly considerations? (Ie., Many children in the neighborhood, sidewalks for riding bikes, fenced yard?)
- Do you have strong feelings about having a homeowner’s association? (No HOA means lower costs and more freedom; on the other hand, an HOA may mean amenities like a pool and private snow removal services, plus your neighbors can’t keep three broken-down cars on their lawn.)
- Are you comfortable looking at fixer-uppers that will mean more work but potentially more savings, or do you want a home that is move-in ready?
Have everyone in the family make a list of qualities that are important to them. Then go over the lists together and vote on your top non-negotiables – the needs. Put the other items on a separate list of wants.
3- Look into financing options
Since you’re reading this blog, Islamic financing is something you are interested in. Here’s an overview of Guidance Residential’s trusted Declining Balance Co-Ownership Program and how it compares to conventional mortgages. If you’re the type who likes all the details, read more about all of the options.
4- Get Pre-Approved
You can start looking at homes once you’re Pre-Qualified, which only takes 10 minutes. But if you take the next step – Pre-Approval – you will have a solid picture of the range you’ll be looking within, which allows you to target your search more efficiently. Better yet, it means you’re ready to move quickly when you find the right home.
5- Find the right partner
Your real-estate agent will be your eyes and ears, so he or she needs to understand you and your goals. Finding the right fit makes a big difference in your home-buying experience. You can meet with a few agents before choosing one to work with. Guidance Home Services can match you with a proven agent in your area.