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Buyers: Getting Ready for Spring Home-Buying Season

Spring is almost here, and the 2020 market is expected to be a hot one! Last week I covered my favorite tips to get your home ready for sale affordably. This week I’m going to share some insights into buying a home and my top takeaways from going through the process myself. I preface these tips by saying I’m by no means a real estate professional, but I learned a lot from the process and heard similar experiences from our members.

Here's what to look for:

It amazes me that people sometimes react very strongly to easy fixes in homes, like paint color. See last week’s article on the importance of fresh paint when selling. I understand — an unattractive color scheme can cast a negative impression immediately. But it’s much more prudent to concern yourself with the updates that carry a big price tag. These include the HVAC system, roof, external paint, and if it’s an older home, windows. Be sure to ask when those were last updated and try not to over-focus on anything ornamental.

Additionally, be aware of the updates that hold the most value in a home and are therefore the most worthy of the investment. This is usually the kitchen and bathroom. A finished basement and garage are also worth more.

Consider all costs.

This is a trap people get into all the time. Once you’ve established your budget, be sure to consider the entire financial picture of a home you’d like to buy. Especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer or are upgrading. The price tag and subsequent mortgage payment are just the beginning. If you’re buying a larger space, anticipate your utilities to go up and the possibility of new or higher HOA costs. If you’re moving to a new city, your tax picture could look very different. Here’s a helpful checklist that provides more detail on true costs beyond the asking price.

Leverage appraisal and inspection results.

Of course, nobody wants to hear the house of their dreams came up with inspection concerns. However, this scenario can present opportunity for the buyer if the results are salvageable. For example, if carpeting is found to be unlivable, you can ask for a reduced price tag knowing you can replace it yourself very affordably. Especially if you have some money set aside for an update — way better than a higher mortgage payment long-term. This advantage only applies to any minor concerns. Major issues, like the foundation of a home, should be heavily avoided.

An appraisal that comes back lower than expected can also put the buyer in a good bargaining position. The buyer can ask for a reduced price aligned with the appraisal findings. Of course, the seller can decline the offer and relist the house, but once an appraisal is completed, the results are public record to agents. Therefore, the seller is unlikely to find another buyer willing to pay more than the house is valued at.

Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll ever make. With a solid budget in place, attention to these tips and the support of a professional real estate agent, you’ll find your dream home in no time! 


Kat’s Money Corner is posted in the Kansas City Star every week. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, follow us on Twitter @CommunityAmerCU.

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