The following is NOT a substitute for a using a licensed real estate agent or broker.
A) Finding homes for sale
The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is the most up to date data source when looking for available homes for sale. You can access this through my website. Other websites on the internet such as Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and others provide similar information but often the information is a few days old. Trulia offers something called a crime map if you type in an address. I like and use this feature.
B) Picking a location
First find where you want to live. Consider crime statistics in the area, commute times, public transportation, local amenities such as shopping, schools (if you will have children attending) and walk score. Walk score is a rating of a home’s close proximity to shopping, restaurants and entertainment.
C) Identify things you cannot change like the neighbors, street traffic, local noise, lot size, shape or slope of the lot, views or lack of, local wind and air quality. These items like location are nor changeable, so you should pick what you like and want from the beginning.
D) Things in a home you may be able to change. Privacy or lack of privacy through uncovered windows and privacy when in the back yard. If you like mature landscaping buy a home that already has it because shrubs can take 5+ years from planting to mature and trees can take 15 to over 50 years to mature.
E) Things you can change with sufficient effort and money. The size, design and condition of the home are all changeable. Expanding a home costs hundreds of dollars per square foot of addition. I was recently told it costs between $200 and $500 per square foot of addition depending on the complexity and the quality level of finish. Renovating kitchens typically cost from 5% to 10% of the cost of the home (+/-) depending on how elaborate. Bathrooms often cost $5,000 and up for a complete remodel and $10,000 and up to add one. A new roof can cost from $10,000 to over $20,000 (+/-) depending on size, pitch and quality. The prices I suggested are generalizations. I strongly recommend getting actual bids from reputable licensed contractors if the interest arises.
Lastly consider things easily changed such as carpet and paint, quick growing landscaping, or non growing like bark and pavers. These are the cheapest and easiest renovations to have done. Although most renovations typically add value to a home a $1.00 put in does not always = $1.00 out upon sale. You usually can get a bid on most work prior to purchasing a home or at least prior to removing contingencies.
F) How much to pay for the home
This is mostly governed by market conditions, competition from other buyers and how much you qualify to buy. Always look at numerous other homes in the same neighborhood and in the same price range for fair comparisons. How much the home sells for is not based on the asking price, but how much similar homes in the same neighborhood recently sold for. Remember, in 10 years there will be many reasons the home you purchased and lived in will have been good or bad for you but seldom will the last $5,000 or $10,000 you paid or saved be one of those reasons.
G) Inspecting the home
Typical California home purchasing contracts will have grace periods to inspect the home and arrange financing prior to full commitment to purchasing the home. Consult your real estate agent for full details. I recommend the following 3 inspections at a minimum.
General home inspection: Overly looks at plumbing, electrical, HVAC, noticeably worn, broken or improper items needing repair or replacement. Cost of repairs are not given, and must be obtained from independent bids. Although these inspections don’t guaranty every inch of the home to be inspected, they do provide an excellent overall professional view and opinion of the general condition of the home. Pest inspection: Identifies damage caused by water or moisture and infestation of plants such as mold, mildew, moss, fungus and so on, and critters such as termites, boring beetles, bees, mice, rats, bats and so on. Cost of repairs and/or extermination are given. Roof inspection: Identifies needed roof repairs and estimates, also estimates the remaining usable life of the roof. Cost of any needed repairs are given.
Numerous other target specific inspections are available such as testing for lead paint, asbestos, specific types of mold, radon gas, soil movement or soundness, foundation soundness, chimney soundness and numerous other inspections you may choose to have done. Buyers sometimes order one or more of these other inspections from a recommendation to do so from one of the above three primary inspections.
What to expect: Inspectors typically find various things needing repair in a home. It’s their job. It is your opinion and decision if the needed repairs are too scary or costly to proceed with the purchase. If needed repairs are too extensive and obvious, most banks won’t loan on the property.
Remember, the more homes you look at the more knowledgeable you will be with regards to price, value, style and condition of available homes in your price range. I advise you visit no less than ten homes and more than one neighborhood prior to making a decision.
Questions? Call me 707 332-8301
A Few Last Thoughts:
1 .If you plan on commuting, check out your commute time. Test the drive during your normal commute hours.
2. Knock on your potential new neighbors door and introducing yourself. Ask questions of the home and neighborhood. You’d be surprised what neighbors know about the neighborhood that agents don’t.
3. If you will have children attending the local schools go by them when school lets out. Talk to some teachers or staff, and look up the school by clicking here or in the demographic section of this website.
4. If you are younger, consider buying a home you will grow in to, not one you will grow out of soon.
5. I you are older, buy a home your knees, balance and mobility will like in years to come.
6. Visit the neighborhood on Friday and Saturday night. Ghosts (and riffraff) come out at night.
7. Have professional inspectors inspect the home.
8. If you are blessed with the luxury, let your loved ones voice an opinion.
9. Check to see the home matches the tax records for size and # of bedrooms and bathrooms. A discrepancy could mean unpermitted room additions.
Questions? Call me 707 332-8301