How to Choose a Home

Here are some tips to help determine which house is best for you.
Once you have settled on a couple of preferred neighborhoods for your home search, it is time to pick out a few homes to view.
Consider the following when narrowing down your home search:

  • Determine what type of home you want to buy
  • Decide what age and condition of the home you want to buy
  • Consider resale potential
  • Use a needs and wants list
  • Use a home search comparison chart to keep your observations organized
  • Act decisively when you find the right home

Determine what type of home you want to buy

There are several forms of home ownership: single-family homes, multiple-family homes, and condominiums.

  • Single-family homes: One home per lot.
  • Multiple-family homes: 2-4 units on one lot. Example: House situated on the front portion of the lot with a rental unit in the back.
  • Condominiums: With a condo, you own "from the plaster in." You also own a certain percentage of the "common interest elements" - staircases, sidewalks, roofs, etc. Monthly charges pay your share of taxes and insurance on those elements, as well as repairs and maintenance. A homeowner’s association administers the development.
  • Decide What Age and Condition of Home You Want to Buy
  • Weigh your needs, budget, and personal tastes in deciding whether you want to buy a newly constructed home, an older home, or a "fixer-upper" that requires some work.

Consider Resale Potential

As you look at homes, you may want to keep in mind these resale considerations:

  • One bedroom condos are more difficult to resell than two-bedroom condos.
  • Two bedrooms/one-bath single family houses generally have less appeal than houses with three bedrooms/two bathrooms, and therefore have less appreciation potential.
  • Houses with "curb appeal," i.e., well-maintained, attractive and with a charming appearance from the street, are the easiest to resell.
  • Corner lot locations can be valuable as long as the house is situated on the lot properly.
  • Good flowing floor plans are desirable.
  • View or view potential is always good for resale.
  • 2 car garage has more resale potential than a 1 car garage
  • Always remember the #1 rule in real estate: Location, Location, Location!!!

Use a Needs and Wants List

Make a needs and wants list to clarify which features are most and least important to you when looking for a home. Using this list will keep your house hunt focused and effective.

Use a Home Search Comparison Chart to Keep Your Observations Organized

While house hunting, it is a good idea to make notes about what you see because viewing several houses at a time can be confusing. Use a home comparison chart to help keep track of your search, organize your thoughts, and record your impressions.

Act Decisively When You Find the Right Home

Before you begin the home buying process, resolve to act promptly when you do find the right house. This is particularly important after a long search or if the house is newly listed and/or underpriced.

How to Choose a Neighborhood for Your Home Search

Narrow your home search by identifying neighborhoods that are right for you. This helps keep your search focused and efficient. We can offer neighborhood information to guide you in your search.
When evaluating a neighborhood you should investigate local conditions. Depending on your own particular needs and tastes, some of the following factors may be more important considerations than others:

  • Quality of schools
  • Property values
  • Traffic
  • Crime rate
  • Future construction
  • Proximity to schools, employment, hospitals, shops, public transportation, prisons, freeways, airports, beaches, parks, stadiums and cultural centers such as museums and theaters.

The Basics of Making an Offer

A written offer is the foundation of a real estate transaction. Oral promises are not legally enforceable when it comes to the sale of real estate. Therefore, you need to enter into a written contract, which starts with your written offer. This offer not only specifies a price, but also all of the terms and conditions of the purchase. For example, if the seller offered to help with $2,000 toward your closing costs, make sure that it is included in your written offer and in the final completed contract, or you will not have grounds for collecting it later.

We will help you put together a written, legally binding offer, that reflects the price as well as terms and conditions that are right for you. We will guide you through the offer, counteroffer, negotiations, and the closing process. In many states, certain disclosure laws must be complied by the seller, and we will ensure that this takes place.
After the offer is drawn up and signed, it is usually presented to the seller by your real estate agent, by the seller's real estate agent, if that's a different agent, or often by the two together.

What is in an Offer?

The purchase offer you submit, if accepted as it stands, will become a binding sales contract (known in some areas as a purchase agreement, earnest money agreement or deposit receipt). It is important that the purchase offer contains all the items that will serve as a "blueprint for the final sale." The purchase offer includes items such as:

  • Address and the legal description of the property
  • Sales price
  • Terms: for example, all cash or subject to you obtaining a mortgage for a given amount
  • Seller's promise to provide clear title (ownership)
  • Target date for closing (the actual sale)
  • Amount of earnest money deposit accompanying the offer, whether it's a check, cash, or promissory note, and how it's to be returned to you if the offer is rejected - or kept as damages if you later back out for no good reason
  • Method by which real estate taxes, rents, fuel, water bills and utility payments are to be adjusted (prorated) between buyer and seller
  • Provisions about who will pay for title insurance, survey, termite inspections, etc.
  • Type of deed to be given
  • Other requirements which might include disclosure of specific environmental hazards or other state-specific clauses
  • A provision that the buyer may make a last-minute walk-through inspection of the property just before the closing
  • Time limits for inspections
  • Contingencies: an extremely important matter that is discussed in detail below

Contingencies - “Subject to” Clauses

If your offer says "this offer is contingent upon (or subject to) a certain event," you are saying that you will only go through with the purchase if that event occurs. Here are two common contingencies contained in a purchase offer:

  • The buyer obtaining specific financing from a lending institution: If the loan cannot be found, the buyer will not be bound by the contract.
  • A satisfactory report by a home inspector: for example, "within 10 days after acceptance of the offer." The seller must wait 10 days to see if the inspector submits a report that satisfies the buyer. If not, the contract would become void. Again, make sure that all the details are explicitly stated in the written contract.

Negotiating Tips

You are in a strong bargaining position, (you look particularly attractive to a seller), if:

  • You are an all-cash buyer
  • You already have a pre-approved mortgage and you do not have a present house that has to be sold before you can afford to buy
  • You are able to close and take possession at a time that is convenient for the seller

In these circumstances, you may be able to negotiate a discount from the listed price.
On the other hand, in a "hot" seller's market, if the perfect house comes on the market, you may want to offer the list price or more, to beat out other early offers.
It is very helpful to find out why the house is being sold and whether the seller is under pressure. Keep the following considerations in mind:

  • Every month a vacant house remains unsold represents considerable extra expense for the seller
  • If the sellers are divorcing, they may want to sell quickly
  • Estate sales often yield a bargain in return for a prompt deal

Earnest Money

This is a deposit that you give when making an offer on a house. A seller is understandably suspicious of a written offer that is not accompanied by a cash deposit to show "good faith." This deposit is usually in the form of a personal check or a cashier's check. This deposit will be deposited into an escrow account only upon a fully executed contract ( buyer and seller mutually agree to all the terms of the purchase offer, the purchase offer is signed by buyer and seller). This will become part of your down payment.​​​​​​​

The Seller's Response to Your Offer

You will have a binding contract if the seller, upon receiving your written offer, signs an acceptance just as it stands, unconditionally. The offer becomes an executed contract as soon as you are notified of acceptance. If the offer is rejected, then the seller can not later change their minds and hold you to it.
If the seller likes everything except the sales price, or the proposed closing date, or the basement pool table you want to be left with the property, you may receive a written counteroffer including the changes the seller prefers. You are then free to accept it, reject it, or even make your own counteroffer. For example, "We accept the counteroffer with the higher price, except that we still insist on having the pool table."
Each time either party makes any change in the terms, the other side is free to accept, reject or counter again. The document becomes a binding contract only when one party finally signs an unconditional acceptance of the other side's proposal.