Shopping for a new place to hang your hat can be a stressful endeavor, especially when you’re a first-time homebuyer. You want a house that fits your lifestyle, your personal tastes and your budget.
It’s a tall order, but you can find the perfect property if you’re willing to take your time and conduct a thorough search.
Here are four tips to keep in mind when buying your first home.
Shop When the Time Is Right for You
Summer is traditionally the most popular time to house hunt. Most properties look more appealing when the weather is warm and the flowers are in bloom. If you live in an area of the country that experiences harsh winters, you know that even the most well-kept home can look bedraggled when it’s surrounded by snow. People with children also try to plan their house hunting around the school calendar.
However, just because other people tend to shop for homes in the summer doesn’t mean you have to. In fact, shopping during the “off season” could score you a better deal.
According to NerdWallet, house prices peak in the summer and bottom out in the winter. If you can delay your search until the cold weather months, you could save thousands on a new property.
Another benefit of postponing your search until winter is getting an opportunity to see how the house handles extreme weather conditions. Winter can wreak havoc on a home’s roof, windows and gutters. As you tour properties, pay attention to the roof, windows and ceilings. Do the windows have condensation on the glass? Are they frosted? This can be a sign of inefficient windows or windows that don’t have a good seal.
And when you tour the home’s interior, don’t forget to look up. Are there any water spots on the ceilings? Do the ceilings look like they’ve been freshly painted? This might simply be a sign that the seller wants to make a good impression. However, it can also be an attempt to cover evidence of a leaky roof.
Don’t Skip the Home Inspection
In many cases, mortgage lenders require a home inspection as a condition for approving the mortgage. Even if your lender makes the home inspection optional, you shouldn’t skip it.
The home inspection is a critical step in the home buying process. A qualified, experienced home inspector will evaluate all of the home’s major elements, including the structure, the foundation, the HVAC system, plumbing and the roof.
The average cost of a home inspection varies between $200 and $475. This is a steal when you consider that a home inspector can catch problems that could end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars down the road. For example, replacing the home’s HVAC system could run anywhere between $3,500 to $12,000. And repairing a damaged foundation can set you back as much as $11,000.
If the home inspector identifies a major problem area, buyers usually have two options: pass on the house or ask the seller to fix it. If the buyer chooses to proceed with repairs, the seller foots the bill.
Get a Roofing Inspection
A home inspection is a good place to start — and a home inspector will look over the roof as part of the overall inspection — but the majority of home inspectors are not roofing experts.
Whether the home has an asphalt shingle roof, clay tiles or wooden shakes, an experienced roofing expert will conduct a comprehensive inspection of the shingles, the underlayment and the home’s interior. A roofing professional will also look for telltale signs of an unsafe roof, such as sagging areas, leaks, buckled ceilings and cracks in masonry.
Just because the roofing expert says the roof needs to be replaced doesn’t mean you should walk away from the home. On the contrary, you can often use the roofing professional’s analysis to negotiate a much lower price on the home. Before you decide to pursue this option, however, be sure to ask your roofing contractor a few basic questions:
- How much does a new roof cost in this area? For this type of home?
- Does the home have any structural problems caused by the failing roof?
- Should I repair or replace the roof?
- If the roof has a few years left in its lifespan, ask when you should be prepared to replace it.
Replacing a roof is a major home improvement. The last thing you want to worry about when you’re signing the closing papers on your new home is whether the roof is going to last. By working with a general home inspector, as well as a roofing expert, you can rest easy knowing you won’t face any unpleasant surprises down the road.
Know How Much You Can Afford
Before you attend an open house or peek at the latest listings, take a close look at your finances. Add up all of your expenses and compare them to your monthly income. There are plenty of online calculators you can use to determine a realistic budget for your first home.
It’s also a good idea to talk to mortgage lenders and obtain a pre-approval for a mortgage loan. Pre-approval is different than a pre-qualification.
A pre-qualification is fairly easy to get and is based on information you supply to potential lenders. Typically, it doesn’t include an analysis of your credit report. Thus, it’s not a guarantee that a lender will ultimately approve you for a loan.
By contrast, a pre-qualification is a closer, more in-depth look at your financial situation, including your credit report. Many lenders will issue a letter stating that you are conditionally approved for a mortgage up to a certain amount. This can give you an edge in a competitive seller’s’ market, as homeowners usually prefer to work with buyers who have already secured financing.
Does Your Home Need a New Roof?
Are you a first-time home buyer in need of a new roof? Contact Nu Look Home Design today to schedule a free in-home roofing evaluation.