A guide to finding, purchasing a home

December 06, 1992|By James M. Woodard | James M. Woodard,Copley News Service

To find and purchase the best possible home in the shortest time, the following steps are suggested by real estate professionals:

* First, research the area where you will be living, if you're not already familiar with it. Locate the community facilities that affect your lifestyle and needs -- preferred schools, churches, shopping center, golf course, etc. And check public transportation lines that lead to your place of employment.

* Then, consult with the mortgage loan officer at one or several financial institutions, including the bank you have been using. Tell the loan officer you will be purchasing a home in the area and want to be prequalified. In other words, you want to know how much you are qualified to borrow for a new home.

With this knowledge, you will know precisely the price range you can realistically handle, and the amount of down payment that will be required. Normally, the mortgage loan is 80 percent of the price of the home, but it could be a higher loan-to-price ratio if you are willing to pay a surcharge for private mortgage insurance.

* Now you're ready to select a Realtor. Be sure the broker or sales representative is familiar with the local market and handling all phases of today's complex real estate transactions. Talk to several Realtors. Ask for resumes and a list of homes in the area they sold.

"One good way to find a capable Realtor is to stop in at a number of 'open houses' on a Sunday afternoon," suggested Susan Herrick, owner of a multioffice real estate brokerage firm.

"It will give the prospective buyer the opportunity to visit with the Realtor without making a commitment. If the Realtor shows he is knowledgeable and helpful, he can be asked to search for the best possible home and assist in its purchase."

Another way to line up a Realtor in a new community is to ask for a referral from the broker who sold the buyer's previous home, said Frank Taylor, a Realtor.

"The referred Realtor can do a lot of valuable preliminary work for the family before they make their first inspection trip," Mr. Taylor said. "He can send a pack of information about the community, along with a sampling list and description of available homes and their prices. This will expedite the process significantly."

* When the right home is found, the key question usually centers on the price that should be offered. The offered (and purchase) price is seldom the listed or asking price. On average, the sale price is about 94 percent of the asking price.

If you are unsure about a realistic price to offer for a home, the Realtor can quickly generate a computerized list of comparable homes in the area that have sold within the past six months or XTC so, along with their sales prices. This will make you more comfortable about your offered price, and it can be used (if needed) to persuade the seller the offered price is reasonable.

* Once the offer is accepted, the transaction breezes through a fast and smooth escrow, culminating with smiling faces around the closing table. At least, that's the way it should be.

Unfortunately, problems do crop up from time to time, even after the sale is closed. Several elements in the home may cease to operate properly a few weeks after the purchasing family moves in.

In most cases, it's the new owner's responsibility to pay for the repairing or replacement of the defective elements, unless the seller purchased a home warranty contract covering the home for a year after the sale.

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