You’ve been working with your Realtor for the past few weeks, getting pre-qualified for a mortgage loan and going on showings to see homes that are within your price range and meet your standards. Now that you’ve narrowed down your options to one home that you want to spend the next 10-30 years of your life in, you are growing eager to make an offer and get started with the negotiations.
But, you should hold off on writing that check for our earnest money deposit, but not for too long. Before you are 100% sure that this is the home you want to purchase, you should do a little investigation.
Your Realtor will be a valuable resource in gathering this information for you and getting the answers to your questions from the seller’s agent. But, in the meantime, you can be proactive and do some of your own research.
10 things to do before you make an offer
1. Search for neighborhood information online: If you already live in the community, you may be able to skip this step, but it’s always worthwhile to search local newspaper websites, local government sites, community sites and blogs to find out what’s happening in terms of upcoming development or other issues.
2. Check the crime report: The city’s local police station will have statistics on crime and you can also go to www.crimereports.com to find information according to a particular address or ZIP code.
3. Check on the schools: If you have children, you’ll not only want to search the best schools in the area but, you also need to know what your child’s home school will be in respect to your new homes address. If you don’t have children, buying a home in a good school district is an important way to make sure your home maintains its value.
You can find information on each school district, school ratings and your child’s home school at the following websites:
- Miami-Dade County: http://www.dadeschools.net/schools/schoolinformation/
- Find your Miami-Dade County home school: http://www.dadeschools.net/guidek-12/default.asp
- Broward County: http://www.browardschools.com/School-Info
- Find your Broward County home school: http://www.browardschools.com/School-Info/locator
- Palm Beach County: https://www.palmbeachschools.org
- Find your Palm Beach County home school: https://arcweb.palmbeach.k12.fl.us/addresslookup/
4. Check for local amenities: You can go to Google Maps for a Street View of a community to see what’s nearby, or visit www.WalkScore.com to find out what is within walking distance of the home, and the proximity to places you will need to go on a regular basis i.e: grocery stores, pharmacy’s, dining, clothing stores, home appliance stores, and etc. If you have a particular activity that you enjoy, such as tennis, golf or swimming, find out how far you’ll have to go to get to a facility.
5. Check for neighborhood amenities: If you’re buying within a homeowners association, you can usually find information online about community activities, but even in areas without an association some neighborhoods have frequent community-wide gatherings, parent clubs and sports leagues.
6. Visit the home at different times of day: If you want to know what it will be like to live somewhere, visit on a weekday, a weeknight and a weekend to see how quiet or active the area will be.
7. Test your commute: If you only visit a home on a weekend you’ll have no idea what the traffic pattern is like during rush hour, which could have a big impact on your enjoyment of the property.
8. Schedule a home inspection: Your purchase offer should include a home inspection so you know what repairs must be made and about how they will cost. You may or may not be able to negotiate for the seller to pay for home improvements, but it’s always better to go into a house with full knowledge of its condition.
9. Talk to the neighbors: If the neighbors are willing to share information with you (most likely they are) they’re the best resource of all to learn about the community/street. Neighbors have first hand information about everything that happens and has happened in the community/street for at least the past 5 years. The term “nosey neighbor” is not a bad thing to a home buyer relocating to a new neighborhood.
10. Ask about taxes, homeowner association dues, homeowners insurance and utility bills: Your monthly housing payment includes more than just the principal and interest on your loan. Make sure the taxes, insurance, homeowner association dues and utility bills will fit into your budget.