If you are thinking about buying a home, especially in the Washington D.C. area, it is good to go in with a plan. There are many charming homes and neighborhoods and it can be easy to be swayed by an attractive feature and end up going in a direction you didn’t intend. It is also a good idea to have a handle on financing as competition can be fierce in that area, so you will want to get look at good DC mortgages with excellent DC mortgage rates. Here are some tips when shopping for your D.C. area dream home.
Start With a Plan
It is likely that during your search you are going to see a lot of great things. It can be easy to be swayed by attractive features. But just because a house has some really cool stuff, does not mean that it is the best fit for you. Before you start the search sit down and think very seriously about how you go about your life. What would you like to see in your new house? Make a list. Rank items on the list in order of importance. The top three to five items on the list are your must-haves.
Consider Your Budget
Your budget is also something you need to think seriously about before you begin your search. Talk to a mortgage banker in DC or mortgage lender in your area to get an idea of what they are willing to loan you. Also, shop around for the best interest rates with Washington DC mortgage lenders. Most importantly, think about what you are willing to spend a month on a home payment. Be aware that what you pay for your home every month may be more than just the mortgage. If you live in an area with a homeowners’ association, you may also be on the hook every month for home owner’s association fees.
Keep Track of Comparisons
As you look at homes, it can be easy to forget which home had what feature. Keep a notebook with you or, better yet, make a chart. During or just after a home tour, take notes. You may want to keep track of things like repairs that would have to be made or renovations that you would like to do. What did you like or not like about the neighborhood? How big is the house and what is the price per square foot? Keep track of the features that stand out and those all-important must-haves.
Look Up and Down, In and Under
It is easy enough to see the things at eye level. But, make sure that you are looking at things that may not be in your immediate line of sight. Look under the counters and in the cupboards. Notice the ceilings. Are there water stains? Is there any evidence of moisture or mold? Take a look at the floors. Do not be afraid to look under furniture or rugs. Both are often used to hide blemishes and damage. Check out the closets and open doors. Also, Do this outside as well. What condition is the roof in? Look at storage sheds and garages. Check out the foundation.
You should definitely ask permission before taking any photographs. But if you are granted permission, go for it. Photos will help you remember things about the house you may have forgotten after you have seen a few. These photos will make a great addition to your comparison chart. Also, remember that when you are granted permission, the assumption is likely that these photos are for your own personal use. Do not share them on social media.
Take a Second Look
Once you have had a tour of a few houses, you may have built a short list of two or three contenders. Go back and have another look at these. Try going at a different time of day than you did before. It not only gives you a different perspective of the house but also of the neighborhood. If the kids were just getting out of school and adults were coming home from work, then you might have seen the neighborhood at a busier time. If it is a bit later in the evening when you go back, then you may get a different perspective. If there are people blasting their music or cars screaming down the road when things should be settling down, you may not want to live there.
Consider How You Might Use the Space
The current owners have their stuff in the house right now. That guest bedroom may be nice, but if you do not have a use for an extra guest bedroom, there is no reason it can’t be turned into an office. The basement may house the washer and dryer, but does that mean you can’t also keep your work out equipment there, too? You might decide to repaint or refurbish a space, also. If it is your house, will you be able to make it fit your life?
Is There a Home Owners’ Association?
A homeowners’ association can be a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, they are trying to preserve home values in the neighborhood. On the other hand, they can exert a certain amount of authority over what you do and do not do with your home. On top of that, HOAs typically have fees to cover the cost of running the association.
If It’s a New Construction, Look at the Contract
If you are thinking about buying a brand new construction in a new neighborhood, it would be a good idea to look at the terms and conditions of the house in question. It is an even better idea to have a real estate attorney look over that information, too. Often newer constructions have warranties. You will want to know how long the warranty on your house lasts before you purchase it. You will also want to know about things like arbitration. Some new housing developments outline in their contracts how disputes are to be settled. You should know what the policies are before signing on the dotted line.
When looking for a new home in the D.C. area– or anywhere– it is in your best interest to make a plan and do your homework. Know what is important to you and look over a house thoroughly before purchasing it. Get a clear picture of what your financing options are before you dive in so that you will know how much house you can afford. When you have done your due diligence, you will be a more confident buyer.