Once you've settled on a couple of neighborhoods for your search, it's time to pick out a few homes to view. Refer back to your List and see which features are absolute requirements and those amenities you'd like to have if possible.
In addition to single family homes (one home per lot), there are other forms of homeownership:
Multi-Family Homes: Some buyers, particularly first-timers, start with multiple family dwellings, so they'll have rental income to help with their costs. Many mortgage plans, including VA and FHA loans, can be used for buildings with up to four units, if the buyer intends to occupy one of them.
Condominiums: With a condo, you own "from the plaster in" just as you would a single house. You also own a certain percentage of the "common elements"--staircases, sidewalks, roofs and the like. Monthly charges pay your share of taxes and insurance on those elements, as well as repairs and maintenance. A homeowners association administers the development.
Co-ops: In a few cities, cooperative apartments are common. With those, you purchase shares in a corporation that owns the whole building, and you receive a lease to your own apartment. A board of directors supervises management. Monthly charges include your share of an overall mortgage on the building.
Most buyers' first consideration, after neighborhoods are chosen, is the number of bedrooms. As you begin to view homes, keep the following purchase and resale considerations in mind: Weigh your needs, purchase and maintenance budgets, and personal tastes in deciding whether you want a home that's a newly constructed home, an older home or a home that requires some work, or a "fixer-upper." One-bedroom condos are more difficult to resell than two-bedroom ones; Two-bedroom/one-bath single houses generally have less appeal than three or more bedroom houses to many buyers, and therefore less appreciation potential; Homes with "curb appeal" (a well-maintained, attractive, and charming view-from the street appearance) are the easiest to resell; When re-sale is a possibility, don't buy the most expensive house on the street, or anything that is unusual or unique; and The biggest, most expensive house on the block is not usually considered to be the best investment. The best investment potential is traditionally found in a lesser expensive, more moderately sized home on the street.
While house-hunting, it's a good idea to make notes about what you see because viewing several houses at a time can be confusing. Make a Home Comparison Chart to help you keep track of your search, organize your thoughts and record your impressions.
Before you begin the home buying process, resolve to act promptly when you find the right house. Every REALTORŪ has stories to tell about a couple who looked far and wide for their dream home, finally found it, and then revealed that "we always promised my Dad we'd sleep on it, so we'll make an offer tomorrow." Many times the story has a sad ending--someone else came in that evening with an offer that was accepted.
TIP: Resolve at this point that you will act decisively when you find the house that's clearly right for you. This is particularly important, after a long search or if the house is newly listed and/or under-priced.
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