Finding a home is an exciting and challenging process, whether you've bought one before or are looking for your first abode. You can go about finding a house several different ways, including doing all the searching and negotiating yourself or hiring a knowledgeable real estate agent who can do the legwork for you.
Using An Agent
Using a real estate agent to find a home can save you time and provide a good source of information about the local area and the housing market. The agent charges commission based on the sales price of the home –– about 6 percent –– so it's to her advantage to find a home you'll love. Ask your friends for the name of a productive agent who has experience and good connections with other agents, says CBS Money Watch. Before meeting with the agent, put together a list of the features you need in the home. Include your deal breakers. If you prefer to live in a specific neighborhood, let the agent know.
For Sale By Owner
If you want to save money paying broker fees or prefer to work with a homeowner directly, look for homes that are for sale by owner, or FSBO. Look for FSBO homes by searching by location, square footage, number of bedrooms and baths, price and lo size on websites such as Forsalebyowner.com or Zillow.com. You can also drive through neighborhoods that appeal to you to see if you can find any FSBO signs.
A real estate agent is not exempt from finding FSBO homes, but talk to your agent and make sure he's willing to do so, says Redfin, an online real estate resource. If the agent finds a FSBO that fits your requirements, he needs to talk to the homeowner first to find out if she's willing to pay the sales commission.
Looking for REO Properties
Another way to find a home involves bidding on properties owned by the bank, known as real estate owner properties, or REO. The bank repossesses these properties because of foreclosure and sells the homes "as is." You must carefully walk through the home to make sure repairs and updates are within your budget. Find REO homes by asking your agent to include them in her search, or you can check lender websites to see listings. You can also search for HUD and government-owned foreclosure properties at HomeSales.gov. Fannie Mae foreclosed properties are listed on HomePath.com.
If you see a REO home you want to buy, you must make a bid to buy the home. The value of the home is set according to local home market, so while you may get a deal, it's not always the case. To make a bid, you must submit a letter to the bank with your offer. Include a clause that lets you out of the deal if an appraiser finds extensive damage, suggests Realtor.com.
Get preapproved for your mortgage loan so you know your price range. CBS Money Watch recommends asking your agent to help you get into the national flood insurance program if you buy a home close to or on the water. Plan to buy homeowners insurance before you close on the property, suggests Zillow. Even if the bank doesn't require it–– and most do –– you need it to protect the home, the property and anyone who is injured while on the property.