8 Tips For Finding Your First Home

8 Tips For Finding Your First Home

The following post comes from Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty, Inc. agent, Kim Knapp. Kim is an experienced agent in Northern Florida and has a great team who has worked with countless first-time home buyers.

Here are her 8 tips to help make finding that first home go as smoothly as possible:

1. Research before you look.

Decide what features you most want to have in a home, what neighborhoods you prefer, and how much you’d be willing to spend each month for housing.

2. Be realistic.

It’s OK to be picky, but don’t be unrealistic with your expectations. There’s no such thing as a perfect home. Use your list of priorities as a guide to evaluate each property.

3. Get your finances in order.

Review your credit report and be sure you have enough money to cover your down payment and closing costs. Then, talk to a lender and get prequalified for a mortgage. This will save you the heartache later of falling in love with a house you can’t afford.

4. Don’t ask too many people for opinions.

It will drive you crazy. Select one or two people to turn to if you feel you need a second opinion, but be ready to make the final decision on your own. You will be the one that will be ultimately living in the home and paying the mortgage payment.

5. Decide your moving timeline.

When is your lease up? Are you allowed to sublet? How tight is the rental market in your area? All of these factors will help you determine when you should move.

6. Think long term.

Are you looking for a starter house with plans to move up in a few years, or do you hope to stay in this home for a longer period? This decision may dictate what type of home you’ll buy as well as the type of mortgage terms that will best suit you.

7. Insist on a home inspection.

If possible, get a warranty from the seller to cover defects for one year.

8. Get help from a REALTOR®.

Hire a real estate professional who specializes in buyer representation. Unlike a listing agent, whose first duty is to the seller, a buyer’s representative is working only for you. Buyer’s reps are usually paid out of the seller’s commission payment.

Please call if you are looking for a home in Stamford or Fairfield county. My cell is 914-215-2025.

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Are you interested in renting your home in Stamford?

So You’ve Decided to Rent out Your Home? Some Tips

Cynthia Kent and her husband, John, didn’t set out to be landlords, but career choices made it necessary.

“We have rented out our home in Florida for nine years because we move all over with the military,” says Kent, who recently relocated her family from Nevada to Alabama for yet another posting.

Some people become accidental landlords because of a job change or difficulty selling a house. Others find they need to rent out the home of an elderly parent who has moved into a care facility. More than 3 million owner-occupied homes were converted to rental properties between 2007 and 2011, according to a 2013 report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

Some advice for those taking on this challenging new role:

FINDING THE RIGHT TENANT

A credit check and legal background check can help you find reliable, honest tenants, says real-estate agent Gail Carpenter of Northwood Realty in Pittsburgh.

“Sometimes a credit check alone” will rule out an applicant, she says.

Personal references can be useful if the applicant is local and you have mutual acquaintances. Otherwise, be wary.

“Do not take ‘personal’ references too seriously,” says New York City condo owner Sharon Lynch, who rented her home to tenants while spending a year in California. “Anyone can get a friend to write something nice about them.”

Lynch suggests using an online directory to search for an applicant’s current address and get contact information for their neighbors. “Not only can these people tell you if your applicants are good neighbors, but they can also supply you with the landlord’s contact information,” she says, “just in case your potential tenant is faking you out, pretending a friend was his or her landlord.”

Meet applicants in person and really talk with them, Carpenter says.

And request a rent that doesn’t price good applicants out of the market. You might earn more over time with a slightly lower rent, she says, because “that can help you keep your property occupied, versus asking for the moon and then it sits there vacant.”

PREP THE HOUSE

Once you’ve found your tenant, clean your home thoroughly and “make the property as safe as it can be,” Carpenter says.

You may also want to tackle any looming home improvement jobs now, rather than leave your tenant to handle (or ignore) them when they become larger problems.

If you plan to return to the home eventually, it can be practical to drop the rent slightly and fill one room with belongings you’re leaving behind, rather than paying for a storage space. Put a new lock on that door and take the key with you.

DOCUMENT AND DISCUSS

“It helps to take pictures of the house inside and out,” Kent says, to document its condition and cleanliness.

Don’t skip anything, and don’t assume one panoramic shot of each room will do. If you’re leaving furniture, also photograph the condition and cleanliness of each piece.

When Lynch returned to find her tenant had damaged the kitchen countertop, such “before” photos were key in being able to use the tenant’s security deposit to help pay for repairs.

When your tenant arrives to inspect the home before moving in, Kent says, “have tenants sign a document of the pictures, showing the condition at move-in.”

That walk-through inspection is vital for both parties. “Always be present for the move-in and move-out inspections,” says Babette Maxwell, who has rented her home to tenants several times during her husband’s Navy career and founded “Military Spouse” magazine to advise other military families about challenges like this one.

Also, Maxwell suggests, “Provide your renter with a baggie of ‘approved’ nails, screws, picture hangers.” And if you “have specific products you want used on your counters, cabinets, floors, yard,” she says, “list them in the lease.”

TEND THE OUTDOORS

As you negotiate the lease, don’t forget to have a detailed discussion about outdoor space, too. Will you or the tenant pay for lawn cutting? Who will keep up with pulling weeds and trimming bushes? Is the tenant permitted to plant flowers and do other gardening?

You may want to do an outdoor cleanup before you leave and then have the tenant agree to maintain that level of neatness.

Scan the property for any trees that could fall on the house and assess their health. Better to pay now to have a sick tree removed than worry about the outcome of a storm.

PLAN AHEAD

If there are repairs or upgrades that you promise your tenant, set a schedule in your personal calendar for completing them in the weeks after they move in.

Kent also recommends leaving a “welcome binder that stays with the house with local information, cleaning requirements and other details.”

Make sure your tenant knows how to contact you and how to handle problems that might arise. Have a reputable contractor or other professional on-call in case something needs to be repaired, says Carpenter.

“A lot of landlords grumble about getting a call in the middle of the night,” she says, but things will inevitably happen.

Then, stay in touch. If you won’t be living close enough to check on the property yourself, arrange for a friend or hire a property manager to do so.

Being a landlord “isn’t just signing the lease and disappearing,” Carpenter says. A tenant will respect you and your property more if you remain involved.

If you are interested in renting your home, please call Chris Maroc, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage at 914-215-2025.