You’ve thought about it and prepared for it and finally made your decision: purchasing a new house is on the horizon for you and your family. But, is it the right move for you? Buying a house, after all, is a huge, long-term financial commitment. If you go into it armed with the right knowledge, though, you can be make a decision that will be beneficial to you and your family.
Here are 6 things every home buyer should know about purchasing a house in Long Island.
1. Purchasing a House? Distinguishing Between Wants and Needs
Before purchasing a house in Long Island, one of the first things you should do, according to financial experts, is to get clear on what you want and what you actually need. “Before you even think about hitting an open house, you need to know what you are looking for. Otherwise, you may find yourself falling in love with something impractical or, worse, placing an offer on a home that doesn’t fit your needs.”
A good way to proceed here is by making a double-columned list with your wants (the negotiables) one side and your needs (the non-negotiables) on the other. One column will contain all the things you have to have in a house, and the other column will list all those things that you can live without even though you may want them. For example, you probably do need three bedrooms, but do you really need a huge master suite?
Once you start looking, you will find that a “perfect” house is very hard to find. Your agent, though, can help you find the very best compromise between wants and needs. (To get help, just call (631) 357-4819.)
2. Getting the Process Right when Purchasing a House
Purchasing a house in Long Island can be made easier if it is approached in an organized, step-by-step manner. There is a tried and true process and following the established steps will make everything go a lot smoother.
- If you will not be purchasing the house for all cash, then your first step should be to shop for a lender and secure financing. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage loan is important here. It will show sellers that you are a serious buyer, a reputable bank has already vetted you and found that you are not just willing but you are also able to purchase their house. This will also serve to give you more negotiating leverage.
- Next, you should find and retain an experienced local real estate agent. A Certified Buyer Broker, is certified to work specifically with buyers. Their advanced certification allows them to offer buyer representation which is very important when you are making a purchase as big as buying a house. An experienced, certified, local real estate agent will be able to provide you with ongoing education of the process, bring knowledge of the market, knowledge of the different type of houses and how they factor into price, advanced negotiating skills, extensive local network, as well as expert guidance. As in any other business, an expert in the field will always be the most beneficial to you. The right real estate agent will use her expertise to ensure that you get the best deal when you purchase your house.
- Once you find the house you wish to purchase, the next step in the process involves making an offer. If you have hired a real estate agent to represent you, she will be able to use her experience to help you decide on an amount to offer on the house. Once an offer is submitted, the seller has 3 choices – Accept, Reject, or Counter. If your offer is accepted then you will move on to the next step. If the seller counters then you and your agent will decide how to approach the counter that will be beneficial to you. Your agent’s negotiating skills will come in very handy at this point.
- Typically, the next step after your offer is accepted is to schedule an inspection with a reputable engineer. Your agent should be able to link you with a qualified engineer. The purpose of the inspection is to check for the structural soundness/integrity of the house. The inspection is not intended to identify cosmetic issues. The house is usually being sold “as is” unless the inspection identifies something with the structure of the house that will affect the value of the house, then and only then can the inspection report be used as a means of negotiating.
- If the inspection reveals major issues, then you’re back to the offer/negotiating stage. And in this case, it’s wise to lean on your agent’s expertise.
- Once negotiating starts then there is no longer an accepted offer. Either the buyer or the seller can walk away from the deal at this point.
3. Understanding All the Costs when Purchasing a House
The cost of purchasing a house in Long Island goes well beyond the list price. It is very easy for inexperienced home buyers with no representation to get caught up in the excitement of buying their dream home and wind up with a home that costs more than they can actually afford.
When buying a house, the experts say home buyers should, “walk into ownership with eyes wide open. Buying a home is not just about the monthly mortgage payment. Home buyers should be prepared to factor in all the costs associated with home ownership.” Some of these costs are:
- Property taxes
- Homeowners insurance
- Private mortgage insurance (if down payment is less than 20% )
- Cost of maintenance/repairs
- Home Owners Association fees (if applicable)
- Closing costs
4. Buying What You Can Actually Afford
Similarly, affordability (which is slightly different from understanding all the costs) has to be factored into your purchasing decision. When purchasing a house in Long Island, you have to determine what you can really afford by looking at all the associated costs of home ownership.
This means, for example, taking a close and objective look at your job outlook. Is your job secure, or is there the possibility that you could become a victim of outsourcing or automation? If you were suddenly unemployed, could you keep making the mortgage payments for several months until you found another job? These are important factors in determining housing affordability.
Here’s a concrete example from a writer who’s been there. “When my husband and I bought our first house, we were approved for a mortgage of about three times more than we ultimately ended up spending. Fresh out of law school and working for established firms, our finances looked good on paper. But we dialed back our expectations because we weren’t convinced that our income and expenses would remain at those levels. We were right: two years later, we started our own business just as the economy turned south. The less expensive house meant that we could still make our payments even with less income in pocket.”
5. Buying for Your Future Life
Of crucial importance but often over looked by buyers purchasing a house in Long Island is their future housing needs. When purchasing a home you should consider how things could change and how it will affect your housing needs. You do not want to purchase a home that will not fit your needs if a change occurs in the foreseeable future that cannot be sustained by your purchase. It is prudent to examine possible life changes and how it may impact your lifestyle when making the decision to buy a house. For example, your family may be just the two of you right now, but will you have enough bedrooms when children come along? What if a parent, a child, a sibling, need to move in with you? Another consideration that should impact your decision is the number of years you intend to stay in the home before selling it. If you don’t plan to stay in the house for many years, will the price you paid for the house allow you to build some equity before you sell? Depending on the local market and the terms of your mortgage, it is possible that you will only start gaining equity in your house between five to seven years after you purchase your home. If you aren’t sure that your house will be the house for you in a few years, you may want to expand your search.
6. Hiring the Right Agent when Purchasing a House
Of all the things Long Island home buyers should know about purchasing a house, this one very well could be the most important – that is, that you should make sure you hire the right real estate agent. If you need legal advise, you want the right attorney. If you need to see a doctor, you will want the right doctor. If you need to put an extension on your house, you will need the right contractor. The same is true in purchasing a house. When buying a house, having the right real estate agent is crucial. You want an expert, one who is knowledgeable in the local area. You want to hire an agent who is certified and able to offer you, the buyer, much needed representation. Much too often buyers come to the table with no representation, no one who guided them through the home buying process and end up with a lot of headache after the purchase. Ultimately it is best to hire a good agent. It will help you to get a better price and successfully navigate the home buying process.