Your credit – DON’T take any chances with your credit score when getting ready to purchase a home. It’s advised NOT to make any huge purchases three to six months before buying and closing on a new home. Lenders need proof you’re a viable candidate to obtain the best rate on a mortgage. If you open new credit cards, collect too much debt or buy a lot of big-ticket items, it may be difficult getting a loan.
Get Pre-Approved for Your Home Loan – ANY buyer can get pre-qualified. A buyer who gets a pre-approval mortgage commitment is a stronger buyer. Getting pre-approved means a lender has looked at all your financial information and has told you how much money they will lend you and how much house you can afford. Being pre-approved will allow you to look at houses in your budget and be proof to the sellers that you have the lenders pre-approval to back your offer. The only contingency you would then have on an accepted offer with the pre-approval in hand would be the home inspection, job verification, and appraisal.
Plan for all costs associated with buying – Most people focus on their mortgage payment, but they also need to be cognizant of other possible expenses i.e. utility costs, maintenance, repairs and potential property-tax increases. Make sure you allow a budget for these costs so you’ll be covered.
Look past the staging (or the mess) – Staged houses look better than houses that are still being occupied. When you are considering a house, mentally try to remove the staging or the pile of clothes in the corner. Pay more attention to the layout of the house and the structure itself. Are the rooms the right size? Ceiling height? Enough electrical outlets? Enough bathrooms? Garage? Ugly wallpaper and paint can be easily fixed later.
Get the home inspected – It’s important to have a home inspection. A certified home inspector should help you uncover any hidden or potential problems. Ask the Homeowners to disclose any issues and all information in a Sellers Disclosure that they have done since owning the home, and any issues that they are aware of. However, the seller might not be aware of some issues their home may have. An inspector should discover if there are any or potential immediate issues with roof, electrical, heating systems, pests, & rotting. If the systems are up to code and any potential hazards. Inspections also cover the attic, basement, crawl spaces, fireplace, decks, porches, appliances, plumbing and more. It is also an important step in educating the home buyer. It can save you the expense of finding out these issues after you own the home. The seller is usually willing to help with the expense of fixing major structural or safety issues prior to selling their home.
Storage – It’s what every buyer wants and is a sure winner. Take half the stuff out of your closets, pack these in boxes or suitcases and then neatly organize your closet. Make sure all your cabinets, drawers and closets are neat and clean. And don’t forget to make sure you lock up any valuables you may have.
Let there be light – Buyers want a well-lit home. Take down the drapes, clean the windows, change the lampshades, increase the wattage of your light bulbs and cut the bushes outside to let in sunshine. Add lights to side tables in the bedroom and open those shades. Let the light shine in your home.
Hide the animals – You might think that your adorable little dog would OOH and AAH potential buyers. However no one wants to walk in and trip over a bowl of food or smell the litter box. They don’t want to sit on your couch and get animal fur on their clothes (yes they do that). Vacuum your couch and keep your bathroom and kitchen clean.. When you are out of the house, keep your animal caged, if possible, or in only one room. And if you have an open house, take little Fluffy or Rover with you or ask your friendly neighbor if they could pet sit.
Declutter and spruce up your home – It’s okay to have some photos of the family and memorabilia on display, but not everywhere. Take down half the pictures you have and put them in storage. If needed get a fresh coat of paint on your walls. Make sure all your doors and windows are in good working order. Repair leaky faucets. Clean your blinds or curtains or buy some inexpensive replacements.
It’s all about the kitchen – Whenever you have visitors to a home where to do they tend to migrate to? The kitchen. A buyer will tend to knock off money on their bid if the kitchen appears outdated or ineffective. The most inexpensive kitchen updates include light fixtures, new paint and new cabinet hardware. Use a neutral color paint when making the change. Clean and polish your cabinets. Or if you have a little bit of money, paint them.
You only get one first impression – Curb appeal is the most important part of inviting a buyer to come into your home. The bushes should be trimmed and mulched and the lawn kept mowed. Fix any cracked walkways and steps, add some new inexpensive shrubs or flowers outside if necessary. Make sure the walkways are shoveled and sanded after a snowstorm (buyers will take off their shoes/boots). The inside entry way needs to be an appealing entrance. Get rid of the coat rack and put a table with fresh plant or flowers in its place. Make your first impression impressive.
How to pick a Contractor
Obtain referrals – You best source for recommendations is family members and friends. You can also tap into social networks like Facebook. Another source of would be other tradespeople you trust and use, like your plumber or electrician. Please make sure you also check the BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU
Interview your contractor – Make a list of questions to ask your potential candidates. You will want to include questions like:
- How long have you been in business?
- Do you carry insurance?
- How many jobs of this type have you done?
- Can I get a list of references?
Who gets eliminated – All contractors are not created equal. You will want to weed out any potential trouble before the job starts. Look for the following triggers:
- You must pay everything up front.
- You must pay in cash
- No insurance
- You are not given a written quote for the job
- There is no physical address for the contractor (business or home address)
Narrow the field – Get an agreement in writing. This should specify the work to be done, timeframe expected, how changes will be handled and the payment structure. Typically, payments are broken down in thirds or set milestones. Get a copy of the certificate of insurance before you sign the contract. Mass state law requires any contracting job over $1,000 must be in writing.
Finalize the deal -Now that you have your list, narrow it down to 2 or 3 and call their references. You will want to ask question regarding the quality of the work, pricing changes, communication, timeliness and cleanup. Remember, you do want a good price, but the lowest price may not always be the best quality.