Lifestyle blog for financial freedom and financial independence

Are you thinking of buying a home?  Do you know what things you should look for when buying a new house?  I’ve bought two houses in the last 10 years, so although I’m not an expert, I have learned a few things about what to look for when making a decision. Check out these tips for home buyers so you can make the perfect decision for you and your family!

Tips for Home Buyers

Find the Right Realtor

Trust

The first thing to look for when buying a new home is a realtor that you trust. You absolutely do not have to buy a home from the first realtor you tour houses with. If they make you uncomfortable in any way, drop them and find someone new. I had to do this when I bought my first home. I went house hunting with a highly rated realtor team, but they seemed very pushy. Every home was the most amazing home ever and any concern I had wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t buy from these people and I didn’t go out house hunting with them again. Trust your instincts. If you don’t feel comfortable with your realtor, find a new one (it won’t be hard, they are everywhere!).

Are you a realtor who wants to provide the best experience for your clients? Check out ClickyHomes!*

Respect

You also need to find a realtor who will listen to you and respect your needs. My second home buying experience was a lot harder than my first, because I was doing it from 2000 miles away. (Check out the one thing I wish my realtor had when I was house shopping!). I contacted a realtor with awesome reviews, and the fist thing I did was discuss my budget. I was savvy at this point, and obsessed with the idea of financial freedom, so I knew I didn’t want to spend more than 200K.

 What did this realtor do?  She sent me a bunch of listings for homes priced between 220-240. She sent me 0 listings under 200k. The other realtor I contacted sent me tons of listings between 150 and 200. He sent me a few listings over 200K, and explained that he could probably get them down to 200 if I really loved those. Guess who I went with?  Definitely realtor number 2! He obviously respected my wishes way more than the first one!

Find the right neighborhood

Choosing the right neighborhood is almost as important as choosing the right house. There are so many considerations in choosing a neighborhood that this probably could have been its own blog post. However, these are all super important things to look for, so I didn’t want to leave any of them out. A whole lot goes into scouting out the neighborhood! First and foremost, you should actually like the neighborhood. But you should also take a few more things into consideration.

Safety

 You can check the crime (and other demographic) data of any neighborhood that you are interested in at NeighborhoodScout.com. Sometimes there’s a reason why that house is so cheap! In Savannah, there are some beautiful reasonably priced homes in some super sketchy neighborhoods. I’m not going to sacrifice my safety and piece of mind for a bigger home. I’d much rather live in a smaller, more expensive home in a neighborhood that is relatively safe.

WALK-ABILITY and Transportation

I really really wanted to buy a home in a walkable neighborhood. Unfortunately, most of the walkable neighborhoods in Savannah are either too close to a bad neighborhood for comfort or priced above 200K. But walkability may be a must have for you. If you want to be car free or bike to work, you need to buy a home in a neighborhood that allows you that option.

When we moved to Savannah, Jonathan didn’t have a job or a car. Unfortunately (for him) the home I chose was in the way back of the neighborhood. That meant he had to walk almost a mile just to get to the bus stop!  Even worse, the bus routes through our neighbor were very sparse, so he’d spend hours riding the bus just to go a few miles!  Talk about a waste of time! Luckily, he has a car now and doesn’t have to worry about these things, but if you don’t have a car you definitely want to make sure the neighborhood you chose has ample transportation.

tips for home buyers

Schools

Ok, I don’t have kids, so this isn’t super important to me. But most people do have kids, and if you do it’s important to check out the schools in any neighborhood that you are considering moving to.  You want the best for your children, so it may be better to buy a smaller, more expensive home in a neighborhood with good schools than a bigger, cheaper home in a neighborhood with poorly rated schools. This is an extremely personal decision, but its something to keep in mind. I went to mediocre public schools and I turned out just fine!

Amenities

Does your neighborhood have an HOA? If so, what types of amenities do they offer?  Which are important to you?  Some HOA’s offer clubhouses, pools, fitness centers, and parks. Some don’t offer anything. If any of these items are important to you, you can probably find an HOA that has them.

In my opinion, amenities also include local shopping. Is there a grocery store close to your potential new home?  How far are you willing to travel to pick up a gallon of milk?  Do carry-out restaurants deliver to your neighborhood?  These are things that may be important to you. It would suck to buy a house only to realize that your favorite pizza company refuses to deliver. Whether that’s a deal breaker or not is up to you, but you should know before you buy.

Related: Getting Lucky with Real Estate

Know the HOA rules

I mentioned HOAs when I was talking about neighborhoods, but they do far more than just provide some cool things for the neighborhood. They can also provide some really ridiculous rules. Did you know that most HOAs in Savannah don’t allow you to have an RV in your driveway or on the street?  Seriously?  Some HOAs are really strict about stupid things, like the length of your grass or whether there is a spot on the side of your house. Others won’t let you make any improvements on your home without their approval.

There are some benefits to living in a community with an HOA though. An HOA generally helps keep the property values up. Most of the stupid rules are to the benefit of the community as a whole…the entire point is to ensure that values don’t drop. Read through the HOA manual of your new community before committing to a purchase. Make sure you can live with the rules.

Don’t skip (or skimp on!) the Inspection

The inspection process is where we failed epically in buying our second home. I like to say it wasn’t our fault though, its hard to find time to take a trip across the country for a home inspection when you are trying to sell a house and move. But it’s definitely not a step that I would ever skip again!

We didn’t technically skip the inspection. We just trusted a representative from our real estate company to be there and catch any problems. The issue with that is the realtor isn’t us. They don’t know what we’d call a problem. And they are probably more concerned with ensuring that the sale doesn’t fall through than they are with identifying major problems!

There were a few huge easy to identify issues with the house that were not caught during the inspection. The sprinkler system had a major leak. The garage door didn’t work. Water seeped into the garage whenever it rained (maybe not easily identifiable until it rains, but whatever). If we were present during the inspection, we would have easily caught the fact that the garage door didn’t work, and could have had the previous owners fix it before we moved in.

Both Go!

If you are in a committed relationship, and both of you are planning on living in the new home, you should both probably go house hunting. I know, this seems pretty standard. But if you are moving to another state, sometimes it’s hard for both of you to find the time to travel and see the new digs. Trust me, it’s important!  I went while Jonathan stayed home. He’s way better at repair work than I am, and he would have probably identified issues that I’m clueless on. He also is stuck with the neighborhood that I chose, which, as it turns out, isn’t very walkable.

Stick to your budget

If you remember any of my tips for home buyers, make it this one! One of the biggest mistakes that first time home buyers (and second time, and third time!) make is not sticking to their budget. Sometimes this is because they didn’t take the hidden costs of homebuying into consideration. Other times though, it’s because we let our realtor smooth talk us into looking at this fabulous house that’s just a little over budget. We fall in love with the house and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

 Don’t let your brain fool you!  You’d be just as happy living in the 190K house as you would be living in the 210K house, as long as both meet your basic requirements. You don’t need a luxury jet hot tub. It would be nice, yeah, but you could always install it in the cheaper house for less than 20K. Be realistic and don’t get swept up in the “I have to have it” mentality. That’s how they get you!

Know what you need

I had some absolute requirements for my new home. I’m sure you do to, and that’s ok! We are going to live in these things for hopefully a very long time, so we should get something that we are happy with. But they key is to know exactly what you want before you start house hunting. Know what you absolutely have to have, and know what your “nice to have’s” are.

My absolutes were two bathrooms, a yard, and a master bedroom big enough for a king bed (You’d be surprised at how many master bedrooms were the size of utility closets). My “nice to have’s” were an open kitchen, a 2-car garage, and covered patio. I ended up buying a home with a semi-open kitchen and no patio, but you had better believe it has two bathrooms! Knowing what you need verses what you want will help keep you out of the “I have to have this!” mentality that realtors hope to suck you into.  Make a list and stick to it.

Look for Easy Fixes

It’s amazing how many people will pass on a home because the paint is ugly or the carpet is dirty. These are relatively cheap and easy things to fix, so why are you passing on a great house because of it?

The house I bought in Savannah had the ugliest master bedroom you had ever seen in your life. The room was painted poop brown, and had a tan/brown mix half shag carpet. The lighting was so dim that you could barely see a thing! However, the size of the room was perfect, and the rest of house was pretty great too (except one random wall in the living room that was also poop brown for some reason). 

These were super simple fixes!  I paid about $800 total to create my perfect master bedroom, and I couldn’t be happier with the house. Don’t let minor, fixable, details deter you from buying your perfect home!  Know what you can DIY, and know what would be huge problems. And, you could even use the fact that you need to fix some things as a negotiating tool! 

Find The Home that Works Best For you

Buying a home is a super exciting and super stressful experience. There are tons of things to take into consideration during the homebuying process, and the most important things will be different for everyone. Make a list of must have verse nice to haves and stick with it. Set a realistic budget for the purchase price and any renovations. You may not find a perfect house, but it will be a perfect home for you.

Do you have any additional tips for home buyers?  Add them in the comments, we’d love to hear your opinions!

 

*Links with this next to it are affiliate links. That means I’ll receive a small commission if you decide to click on it and buy something. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything extra!

Love this post? Share it!

Hey folks! Transparency Disclosure- Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. That means I’ll receive a small commission if you decide to click on it and buy something. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything extra!

 

Ok, the disclaimer is a bit mis-leading in this one. This post is mostly one big affiliate advertisement for the one thing that I wish my realtor had when I was trying to buy a house: Clicky-Homes*.

Wait, stay with me! This isn’t an advertisement for most people. Only realtors can sign up for Clicky-Homes. For those of you who aren’t realtors, this is just a fun post about my experience trying to buy a home from 2000 miles away (and there may be a cat picture in it for you if you stick around!). Seriously, its not an easy thing to do! But maybe if you are ever in the market for a home, you will remember this post and look for a realtor who uses Clicky Homes.  It won’t cost you anything.

Why Buy?

Now, why do I wish my realtor had clicky homes?  If you read any of my previous posts or know anything about me at all, you’d know that I recently moved from Los Angeles to Savannah (and if you don’t, you can read my first blog post about Lucking Out in Real Estate here!). I had to house shop from 2000 miles away!!

A lot of people tell me that I didn’t have to buy a house. Well, they are wrong. You see, what I don’t always advertise here on the blog (or on social media) is that I’m a cray cat lady. I have four of the little demons plus two pretty good-sized dogs. I actually looked all over the place for a rental in Savannah. Apparently, nobody in Savannah wants to rent to a crazy cat lady. Well, nobody who advertises nationwide at any rate (I can’t for the life of me understand why, even as I stop one of them from scratching at the couch for the hundredth time today).  Anyway, I had to buy.

 

How do you buy a house from 2000 miles away?

Zillow was my best friend for many weeks while I was still living in LA. I was scouring listing after listing from the other side of the country!  I made spreadsheets of my favorites with little notes about the pros and cons of each, and talked with my realtor pretty much every day about new listings. Next, I booked myself a weekend trip to Savannah to see all these great places in person and make a final decision.

I’m sure most of you have looked at homes on Zillow and Realtor, am I right?  Aren’t they so perfect in the pictures?  Don’t all the homes just look absolutely amazing?  Well, the photos lie. At the very least, they are super misleading.  That beautiful 3-bed 2 bath ranch home actually has a master bedroom the size of a storage unit. One of those tiny ones! That “walk-in” closet is more like a shelf in real life. Pretty much every home that looked super amazing in the photos had serious design flaws that were left out.

Related: Are you into PF and real estate Blogging? Want to be an affiliate for Clicky-Homes? Check it out here! I don’t even think I get paid for referring you!

Why I wish my realtor had Clicky Homes

And this is exactly why I wish my realtor had Clicky Homes. Clicky Homes is the first and best visual media platform for real estate. They have live streaming events, virtual tours, and even use Youtube! It’s the best way to see a home without actually being there.

Obviously in person home shopping is the best idea, but we don’t always have that option. I’d rather have a realtor who could live stream a walk through to me than only have pictures. If my realtor had clicky homes, I would have been able to knock off 70% of my list of homes before ever stepping foot in Georgia. I wouldn’t have had to waste hour after hour looking at homes that pretended to meet my requirements but didn’t in real life. I could have focused more on the 30% of homes that really did meet my needs. Do you know how much easier my life would have been if I only needed to look at 10 homes instead of the 50 homes that I crammed into that one weekend?? Clicky Homes would have been a lifesaver!!

clicky homes

It might help you too

I’m sure I’m not the only person ever to need to buy a home from a distance. Having a realtor with access to Clicky Homes would be a huge boon to someone who is in that position. But I’m sure it would be super helpful to those buying a home in a city they live in as well. Touring homes is fun at first, but after the 15th or 20th one, it just gets exhausting. Having an easier way to narrow down the houses that aren’t a good fit right off the bat is an advantage to anyone.

So if you are buying a home, ask your realtor if they use clicky homes. It might save you a lot of stress.

And if you happen to be a realtor, look into Clicky Homes*. Help your clients have an easy, stress free home shopping experience.

 

*Links with this next to it are the affiliate links that we talked about above. We appreciate your readership!

Love this post? Share it!

Hey folks! Transparency Disclosure- Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. That means I’ll receive a small commission if you decide to click on it and buy something. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything! extra!

Was it Luck?

When I tell Jonathan we got lucky with real estate, he tells me it wasn’t about luck. I know, it wasn’t entirely luck, it was a lot of research, a lot of watching what the market was doing, and a lot of buying and selling at the right times. But did luck play a role?

I bought my condo in Los Angeles in 2011, when the housing market was still struggling and properties were relatively cheap (for Los Angeles, they were still crazy expensive!). I couldn’t afford a single-family home, even then the best single-family homes I could afford either needed a whole lot of work or were in the middle of extremely questionable neighborhoods. If I was going to buy, it would be either a condo or a town-home.

 

I decided to buy a nice two-bedroom town-home in a safe, gated community. The town-home was brand new when I bought it, which was a big plus! It also had solar panels, an electronic water heater, and a bunch of other energy efficient upgrades. It was in a nice community with a pool, a basketball court, and park. It was a great first home!

Related: Are you a Real Estate Agent trying to sell a home? Have you tried Clicky Homes*?

 

lucky with real estate

I loved my town-home, and I loved my life in Los Angeles. I had amazing friends, a great job, and a beautiful town-home. But sometime in 2016, I realized that I was working to basically pay for my house. The mortgage payment and HOA fees ate up more than half of my monthly income! I also realized that the housing market had made a pretty amazing recovery. The homes in my area were selling like hotcakes, at prices 40% higher than what I had paid. Jonathan and I talked, and we decided it was time to move.

 

Hard work can lead to getting lucky with real estate

Getting the house ready for sale was a huge project. Jonathan is amazing at things like this, he helped me so much! I don’t think I could’ve done it without him (Another reason why having in partner in fire is beneficial, wink wink). He said we’d sell the house faster if it was a blank slate, and he worked diligently for a month to get it ready for the market.

We got rid of all our extra stuff (yay for downsizing!), replaced the carpet, re-painted, and power cleaned everything! I paid for the carpeting and the painting, because we wanted the house to look absolutely amazing, and it did. The house was immaculate, it looked like a model home! Our real estate agent (REMCO) was super impressed with all of our work (I say our, but I use that term very loosely. This was mostly Jonathan!). We put the house on the market for 50% more than we paid for it, and within in 5 days had a full value offer. Score!

Hard work and Luck!

I do think luck played a part. It was very fortunate that I was able to buy a home when I did. I credit that “luck” to being a veteran in the Army. But Jonathan is right about that too.  It wasn’t lucky that I joined the Army and served for six years, it was hard work and dedication. But the Army did offer a VA loan, and without that, I would never have been able to afford a home in Southern California, even at the bottom of the market. Check out my post on Military Service and financial freedom to learn more about how the VA loan helped, and to discover whether joining the military can help you in your quest for financial freedom.

But it was lucky that I was in a position to be able to buy when the market was low.  It was also lucky that the market made a great recovery in my area. However,  Jonathan is right too, a lot of hard work went into this real estate success. Sometimes big wins take a lot of effort and a little bit of luck.

Why FIRE 101?

So why is this post in the FIRE 101 section instead of finance or lifestyle? Easy!  One of the best ways to achieve financial independence is to move from a high Cost of Living area to a Low Cost of Living are (HCOL —> LCOL). It was our first major step towards FIRE, and big sacrifice.  We did it though, and maybe you can too!

 

*Links with this next to it are the affiliate links that we talked about above. We appreciate your readership!




Love this post? Share it!