Published Date"It's elementary, my dear buyer!"
To be fair, those word were never really uttered by our bowler hat wearing, calabash pipe smoking friend. That said, there is truly some elementary steps you can take to finding that "perfect" home.
While the economy keeps chugging along (some may say gasping for breath), the real estate industry seems to be the only bright spot on the horizon. Home sales are projected to be 9 percent above year-ago levels, and home prices, much to the dismay of buyers, are expected to continue on their upward trend. Investors are starting to play a role in the recovery, and the slowly shrinking inventory of for-sale homes is also helping things along. Consumer spending was down 1 percent in the second quarter and it is no secret the employment market is still on wobbly legs. That said, July provided us with a small increase in retail sales and the strongest gain in the jobs report since February.
New homes are actually becoming a bit of a hot commodity. As the inventory of existing homes slowly shrinks, buyers are left with fewer options and are starting to explore the avenue of designing and building their own homes. New-home sales were up almost 4 percent in July and, in the Northeast, are up 76.5 percent over last year! The biggest challenge might be getting the builders to build. Many builders and contractors are feeling the pinch of the economy and the tightened credit conditions.
So what's a boy to do? You want a home. You have the finances in order. What are the next steps. How hard can it be? For anyone that has gone through this process before, you are well aware of the answer. It can be down-right exhausting. Especially if you don't know where to even begin. I can tell you from experience, the first step is to make a list of what you want. Get specific with this project and make sure your wish-list includes neighborhood, budget, kitchen layout, yard, garage, etc. Don't leave anything out. Even if you don't find the house that fills every line on your list (I can tell you now, it doesn't exist!), at least you'll have an idea about what is important to you and you can begin to prioritize.
As you are building your list, your real estate agent can be a valuable resource. It goes without saying, especially when moving to a new area, a real estate professional can provide a world of knowledge about the area, neighborhoods, activities and even traffic patterns (I'm looking at you, Route 16). I also recommend spending a day or more just driving around the area you are considering moving. This should be done with someone from the area or at least someone who has lived in the region for a few years. This local knowledge is priceless and can protect you from undesirable neighborhoods or even noise and odors that you would not normally experience with a quick drive-by. It is important to get a feel for the area during the week as well as weekends.
While the drive around is invaluable and cannot be equaled as far as first-hand experience, I can't go any further without sending you to the local MLS (multiple listings service). If you are not familiar with this, it is the listing of every property (house/condo/land/etc.) for sale in the area. While there is not (yet) a nationwide MLS, any real estate agency worth a phone call, has the MLS on its website complete with detailed descriptions and pictures. This gives you the ability to shop, view and even e-mail questions to the listing agent without having to leave the comfort of your home or office. (Not that any of you would consider looking for real estate while on the clock!)
Real estate professionals have been dealing with the MLS for many years now and it is finally making its way into the public's hands. When asking for information on a property, refer to the MLS number, your agent will appreciate it and know exactly which property you are talking about. Once you have settled on budget, neighborhood and features or amenities, your agent can also set you up on an automated email alert system. Anytime a property, that meets your criteria, comes on the market, you get an email. There's no better way to keep on top of the latest listings to hit the market.
Finally, it is important to stay optimistic and keep an open mind. Quite often that house that looks fantastic on paper or online just may not measure up when you visit. On the flip-side, that shabby looking listing online could be simply perfect once you experience it in person. The neighborhood could be great, the structure is strong and it just needs some cosmetic love to become your dream home. Having patience and persistence (to keep getting in the car and visiting these properties) will eventually pay off.
Stick to your guns, stick to your lists and stick to your budget. If you are confident in what you want and what you are willing to pay for it, the right house will come along. Make no mistake about it, I did not say the "perfect" house will come along. But the home that is right for you and your family is out there. Get busy and start sleuthing.