You've been shopping Tuscaloosa homes for sale and likely found one or two exciting prospects. The temptation will be strong to slap your down payment on the table and sign on the dotted line, but we say: Not so fast! Of course, our real estate agents are in business to sell homes, but we want to be sure our clients find just the right home. There are some things you need to do before you make an offer.
Myriad factors are at play that can affect the negotiation outcome, so consider these tips before you offer to buy a home.
- Pre-owned homes have a history. Find out what it is.
Every home that's been lived in has a history, and before you buy, you need to track it down. Your real estate agent can help; agents know how to access records for information you need, such as the pricing history. Were reductions made? Was the property under contract and then came back on the market? Your real estate agent can contact the listing agent and perhaps find the reason for selling. Myriad reasons can prompt a sale, including job loss, down- or upsizing, elective move from the area, divorce, death, or family situation change.
- Go fishing for past ownership information.
Confirm who owns the property, also noting when was the last purchase, and if there's a mortgage or additional loans taken out on the property. This information is available from tax, property appraiser, and court records. How much the seller owes on the property can affect the flexibility of the seller.
- Check out past permits.
The idea is to see if claims made to bolster the selling price — new roof, major plumbing, or electrical upgrade — are backed up by a permit with the county or city. Be on the lookout for claims regarding a cooled/heated addition when there are no permits. Could be the seller is basing an asking price on square footage that would not be counted by an appraiser because there is no permit for the addition.
- Research additional factors regarding the house and neighborhood.
In addition to information about the home's history and how many days it's been on the market, you should check out these things: the home's neighborhood, schools, property taxes, an estimate of utilities, and comparable sales. It's also wise to take a walk through the neighborhood, talk to the people who live there, and ask how they like it. If you find someone who's forthcoming, ask for the positives and negatives. Also, ask if there are frequent power outages.
- Research the inventory of homes in the area.
Are there many homes for sale in the area? If so, it could be a buyer's market — that is, a place where the seller might be more willing to negotiate.
- Get your financials in order.
While you may not need to go as high as 20 percent for a down payment, you'll need a substantial sum to get your cash together, whether that involves consolidating savings from various accounts or selling investments. You will also need money for closing costs.
- Get pre-qualified for a mortgage.
Unless you have enough money to buy a home outright, you'll need a mortgage. Get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage. This will signal that you're making a legitimate offer.
- Research how much, beyond your mortgage, it will cost you to live in a house.
Find out approximately how much you will have to pay in taxes, home owner association fees, home insurance, and upkeep.
Do you have other questions about buying or selling a Tuscaloosa home? Contact us today.