How to choose your next home
Adventures in Househunting
Broker-Owner of Wire Fence Properiies Real Estate
Let’s go into a bit more detail this week on how to choose a home. This will be good information for all future homebuyers, not just first-timers.
Now that you’ve found a few neighborhoods you’d like to live in, it’s time to pick out some homes you’d like to view. You’ve got your “wants/needs” list in hand, so let’s talk about types of homes.
Types of homes
Single family – one home per lot. Styles include ranch (one floor), two story and multi-level.
Ranch-style homes have become more popular in recent years. Whether builders are trying to keep us aging Boomers happy or there’s another reason, I’m not sure. Keep in mind, however, that ranches typically cost more per square foot than other styles. The larger the “footprint” (the outline of the foundation of the house), the higher the construction costs. So, a two-story home with comparable square footage will cost less per square foot than a ranch – the footprint of the twoLINDA – Sharon sez: Would you please change my email address in the Real Estate Agency directory of Home Focus to: mailto:Sharon@SharonRBeattie.com.
Choosing a realtor is one of the most important decisions a seller can make. It’s equivalent to hiring a competent general contractor to build your dream home. Both realtors and contractors are responsible for coordinating a lot of different “subs” to get the job done. Instead of working with excavators, carpenters and electricians, your realtor will be involved with advertising reps, realtors, buyers, title companies and lenders. If you’ve chosen well, the next months will go smoothly, and your next decision will be which company to hire for your move.
How do you find good prospects?
The first step is to narrow the field to two or three realtors and interview them so you have a basis of comparison. How do you find good prospects to interview? You locate realtors with a track record you can verify. There are several ways to accomplish this.
Ask your friends for recommendations. Another source is to remember realtors you’ve worked with on other projects who have impressed you. Finally, look for real estate ads that stand out and contact the author of your favorites.
Think about what you want to learn
Before you sit down with your top realtor picks, think about what you want to learn from interviewing them. Here are some sample questions:
1. How long have you been in real estate or a related business?
2. How long have you practiced in the Roaring Fork Valley?
3. How many listings do you normally represent?
4. Will you represent me as a seller or transaction agent? (I’ll explain the difference in a future article.)
5. Do you have any areas of specialization? (These can be particular types of real estate, neighborhoods or representing either buyers or sellers.)
6. Have you furthered your real estate education since you became licensed?
7. What is your marketing plan for my home?
8. How often can I expect to hear from you? Do you return calls promptly? (Quick follow-up is essential.)
9. What price would you recommend for my property? What is the factual basis for your recommendation?
10. What makes you stand out as a realtor?
11. Do you have references from customers?
Does the agent inspire confidence and trust?
By the time you’ve concluded your conversation you’ll have enough information to make an informed decision. Of course there’s more to choosing a realtor than collecting background information. Your decision will also be based on your overall impression of the agent. Ask yourself the following questions: Was the agent able to communicate clearly with me regarding my concerns? Will the agent be able to negotiate effectively on my behalf? Does the agent inspire confidence and trust? Does the marketing plan sound comprehensive enough to effect a sale? Was there adequate information to support the agent’s conclusions about pricing my home?
A word of warning: Don’t decide to list based on who comes up with the highest asking price. You are better off pricing your home realistically, based on comparable sales in your neighborhood. Correctly priced homes motivate buyers to compete for them, which often translates to higher prices. Most important, can I imagine working comfortably with this person for the next six months?
Do your homework
You may be thinking to yourself, “This sounds like a lot of work; I thought hiring a realtor was supposed to make selling my house a breeze.” Well, I don’t know that selling a house will ever be a breeze. Experts put it at the top of the Richter scale for inducing stress.
But taking the time to do your homework so you make a knowledgeable decision will go a long way toward simplifying the process. Pretty soon you’ll be checking the yellow pages for a good moving company.
Sharon R. Beattie Co.
932 Cooper Avenue
Glenwood Springs, CO
-story home is smaller, because the home goes up, not out. The upside to this is that you can get more house for the same amount of money.
What about multi-level homes? You can also get more home for your money, but there are other considerations to think about.
In my last column I told you about my first home, which was a bi-level. It was definitely a great home for the money, but since both floors were living space, it didn’t have a basement. This is a major consideration if you have a lot of “stuff” you need to store. If you get a home with a large garage or shed, it might not be that important to have a basement, but it’s something to think about.
I recently saw some new homes here in Rifle that are bi-levels with all the living space upstairs, and an unfinished space downstairs, so if you need storage space, this might be a good option for you.
Tri-levels and four-levels generally come with a partial basement that can be finished space or not. Again, this means that no matter where you want to go in the house, there are stairs to consider. Not full flights, but stairs nonetheless.
If you’ve never been in a tri- or four-level, go ahead and check some out. You won’t know if it’s a good “fit” unless you “try it on.” Every style has it admirers and detractors. You have to consider your wants and needs and possibly compromise if you want a certain neighborhood, square footage or price.
Multi-family. Some buyers may want to consider a multiple-dwelling unit, whether it’s a duplex or four-plex. If you occupy one of the units, you can have rental income from the other units to help with the mortgage. I always caution buyers on these types of properties: Make sure you’re comfortable with the idea of being a landlord. If your tenant’s furnace quits on a cold December evening, all your plans are on hold while you try to find a repairman and get it fixed.
Townhomes and condos. These types of homes are great for many reasons. If you’re single, or a couple with a small family, or thinking of retiring, this just might fit the bill. With these types of homes, you own “from the plaster in,” just as you would a free-standing home. But you also share “common areas” such as stairways, sidewalks, roofs and the like, for which you have an additional payment to the homeowners association for repairs and maintenance.
In many cases, a townhome can also have a basement, and some developments come with a single- or two-car garage. They usually are more affordable than single-family homes, so if you are a first-time home buyer, this may be a great starting point for you.
I’m working with a client right now who has been in her two-bedroom, one-bath condo for a few years, and is moving up to a new home with three bedrooms, two baths and a yard. Her two daughters are thrilled that they will each have their own bedroom, walk-in closet and shared bath. Starting out with a condo was a little cramped, but it will enable her to make a $20,000 profit on the sale that she can put toward the new house she’s been dreaming of.
This illustration brings us to another consideration when you’re deciding what to buy:
A one-bedroom condo or townhome is more difficult to sell than one with two-bedrooms.
Two-bedroom, one-bath houses appreciate less and are also less appealing to buyers. If you’re going to buy a house, make it at least a three-bedroom, two-bath, or buy one that has the potential for adding more bedrooms or baths.
If resale is a definite goal, don’t buy the most expensive house in the neighborhood, or anything that’s unusual or unique. The best investment potential is traditionally found in a less-expensive, more moderately sized home. Another important rule-of-thumb is that if you do buy a fixer-upper or want to remodel your home, don’t over-improve it. If you put too much money into remodeling, it can put your home in the “most-expensive” category and you might even have trouble getting it to appraise at top value.
As always, if you have questions about what is right for you, contact your Realtor. We have the experience and knowledge to get you going in the right direction!
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