Maybe you’re ready to finally move out of an apartment and into your first home. Finding the perfect house for you can be a great feeling. However, it can also be fraught with problems, especially for first-time buyers. Since most people tend to live in their first home for around 5-10 years, you need to consider the time commitment and money that comes with owning a home. That means it’s important for you to take your time before making a decision.
Know Your Budget
You can’t start shopping for homes until you know how much you can afford. When finding your maximum price range, determine the monthly payments you can reasonably afford on your mortgage. This number might be lower than you expect as there are a variety of bills you need to worry about when owning a home such as heating, water, homeowners insurance, taxes, HOA fees, and more.
Once you find your mortgage payment you can comfortably make on a monthly basis, work backwards from there to your purchase price. If you can’t put down the standard 20% for down payment, you can still purchase a house, you’ll just need to pay a private mortgage insurance (PMI) on top of your mortgage.
Once you’ve found your maximum purchase price, you’ll need to connect with a lender who will then tell you whether you will be approved at your price point. This process is known as pre-approval and can make it much easier to purchase a home once you’re ready.
After that, work with a real estate agent and let them know your hard upper limit. You might need to make some concessions in terms of location, rooms, etc. if you don’t have a large budget. Just make sure you know what you’re getting beforehand.
In addition to the price of your home, make sure to set aside money for moving expenses, closing costs, and renovations if necessary.
Choose a Location
Location is right up there with budget when it comes to finding a home that meets your needs. If you’re moving due to a new job, you might not have as much flexibility as those who are moving for a change of scenery. With that said, you’ll still want to be on the lookout for a good location.
What is a good location? It varies by person. For some it might be a place with a good school district, for others it might be a good commute to work, and others might be more interested in being close to a bustling downtown area with restaurants and shops. Figure out what is most important to you when moving. Luckily, New Jersey offers plenty of options whether you want to live in a city or small town.
Remember that there are pros and cons of each. If you want to live near a large city like NYC, then you’ll end up paying a lot more than if you lived in a small town. Conversely, living in the countryside means lots of space and nature, but it also means you won’t have a lot of variety when it comes to food, entertainment, and more. It’s up to you to decide what’s important.
Make a Checklist of Features You Need
Every potential home buyer has a list of things they want their dream house to have. Unfortunately, most people aren’t able to get their dream home the first time they buy a house. While having a walk-in closet, several bathrooms, and large eat-in kitchen might be nice, is it necessary? Before you go house hunting, write down a list of absolute necessities your home should have. Not everyone has the same requirements, but some things to consider include:
- Number of bedrooms and bathrooms – how many people are in the house currently? Are you expecting that number to increase within 5-10 years? Plan ahead!
- Size of kitchen and appliances – look for up-to-date appliances in the new home
- Separate dining room – while not necessary, if you entertain a lot, a separate dining room might be a good option
- Heating and cooling system – oil, wood, etc? Also, do you need central air?
- Water and sewage – are you okay with getting your water from a well and having your sewage go to a septic tank? Or do you prefer public water?
- Yardage – if you have kids and/or dogs you’ll want a place with plenty of outdoor space to run around.
- Parking – Do you need a garage? If so, how many cars will need to fit in there? If there aren’t any homes with a driveway or garage, is there street parking?
When creating your list, make sure to consider what you’ll need in the future. Even if you don’t drive now, you might want to get a car in the future. A well and septic tank might seem okay now, but if you lose power you won’t be able to get any water or flush the toilet so consider this especially if you plan on relocating to an area that gets hit by storms.
Once you’ve written up your list of must haves, create another list of nice-to-haves. When you’ve started your search, you can then focus on homes that have extra features on top of the essentials.
Decorating your home is very personal and you might not like what the previous homeowners had done. Think about what rooms you will use the most should you move in and what changes you would need to make. Focus on the walls and ceilings, windows, other accents like crown molding, floors, etc. and think how they fit in your aesthetic.
With all that said, don’t overestimate potential. It’s all too easy to fall in love with the idea of what a room could be, but unless you already know the ins and outs of home renovation, chances are you’ll have no idea how long or how much it will cost. Even seemingly small updates can end up ballooning in cost. And if you’re thinking of renovating the kitchen, forget it. Unless you plan on just replacing the cabinets or tabletops, a kitchen renovation means you won’t be able to cook meals for months.
Finally, check every room for things like electrical outlets, windows, locks, faucets, etc. Everything might look fine at first glance, but chances are you’ll need to do a bit of finagling to get things how you want. All of these little changes and purchases add up and can end up costing you a few thousand dollars!
Hire An Inspector
Yes, it might cost you more money, but a good inspector can uncover reasons why you shouldn’t buy the house. It’s all too easy to cover up issues with a new coat of paint, but experienced home inspectors will be able to spot major structural issues with the foundation, condition of the roof, insulation, etc. There’s nothing worse than moving into a place that requires a full gut renovation after already spending hundreds of thousands of dollars purchasing it.
Before you decide to sign the contract, let the seller and real estate know that your contract to buy the house is contingent upon a satisfactory home inspection. Once you receive the report, you can then decide whether to buy or not. If there are only small issues, you might still be able to renegotiate the price based on how much you think it would cost to repair these problems.
If you’re in a hot housing market, the sellers might not be interested in waiting for you to receive a home inspection report. While it’s still recommended to hire a home inspector, if you really love the house then it’s up to you to ask questions and look around. Check all the floors, walls, and ceilings for anything that might suggest problems such as water damage, termite damage, crumbling foundation, etc.
If you’ve never owned a home before, almost every home might seem amazing and many real estate agents might pressure you to buy as soon as possible. However, don’t feel pressured to buy something that doesn’t suit your needs. Don’t buy a condo because it’s cheaper than a home if you hate living with dozens of other people. Sure, you might need to make some compromises, but always keep your must-have list handy so you can refer to it while you’re shopping.
At the same time, be open to continuing your search until you find a house that matches your budget and needs. It might seem impossible, especially with how quickly houses are being snatched off the market, but you’ll be thankful you took the time to look for a place that is suitable for you. In order to find the perfect place, you’ll want to use an agent. Sure, it might be tempting to do it all yourself, but an agent knows much more about real estate than you and can negotiate on your behalf.
Find Your Perfect NJ Home
House hunting can be a grueling affair and it requires a lot of careful planning and consideration. At the same time, you don’t want to drag your feet too much as there might be someone else who will snatch up your house.
Fortunately, the tips below can help make the home-buying process a bit smoother. And once you’ve found your new home, make sure to call NJ movers to transport your belongings to your new place.
Is moving from NYC to NJ a local or long-distance move?
It depends on what movers you use. At Great Movers, we consider moves within the tri-state area local.
Where will the movers park at my new home?
If you have a driveway, the movers will park there. If you’re driving to your new home, make sure to arrive before the movers so you don’t block them from leaving.
Will I need to be at the destination when the movers arrive?
Either you or a designated person will need to be on-site when the movers arrive to confirm receipt of your belongings, sign off on the inventory and bill of lading, and pay the bill.