A home is a place of residence or refuge and comfort. It is usually a place where an individual or usually a family can rest and relax, communicate, share, feast and be able to collect and store their personal properties. Therefore it is important that when you consider a place to call your home, it must be a safe and pleasant place to be in.
Buying a house is more often than not, the single largest investment most people ever make; yet all too often it's a decision made in a rush without adequate thought and preparation. In this article, we will explore some of the house-buying mistakes to watch out for in your property hunt.
Love At First Sight
You may be in love with the house at first sight, but you have to ask yourself if the house fits your family’s needs and budget. You have to make sure that you make a list of your needs and wants and also check whether the house fits your requirements. Besides that, you should check out the neighbourhood and the communities before you buy by visiting at different times of the day and week. Even if you do not have kids, you should also check out the local schools to make sure your resale value will be good. Get past the love at first sight to consider what it'd really be like to live there.
Pre-qualified and Pre-approved Financing
Being pre-qualified gives you a general idea of how much you can afford to borrow. It is a good idea to get in touch with your banker or mortgage officer early in the buying process so that you are aware of the amount you can borrow as this will determine your budget for the home. The mortgage officers will also be in a position to advise you on aspects of financing i.e. the possibility of having joint borrowers to strengthen the application or to lengthen loan tenures should the need arises.
Being pre-approved means your banker has verified your information and credit rating and agreed to provide you with a specific amount of money. You are in a better position to go house hunting knowing exactly how much you can afford and that you have the financing ready.
You may qualify to borrow more, but you have to ask yourself again whether you can afford it or not. Borrowing more would mean higher monthly loan commitments for just the purchase of the house. You have not considered the cost of improvements on the house i.e. renovations and furnishings. What you need to do is analyze your monthly costs – food, transportation, entertainment, car loans and other commitments. Therefore you have to be sure to budget enough to cover closing costs (often two to five percent of the purchase price), plus moving and maintenance. Beyond mortgage payments, there'll be costs like insurance. You don't want your house to deprive you of your lifestyle.
Misplacing Your Trust
Remember that buying a house is a business transaction. Your decision is binding. You should do your own research and know your support team’s roles and responsibilities and not just depending on what one says 100%.
Buying a house is a complex transaction and should not be undertaken alone. You need to enlist the help of these individuals early in the buying process: Real Estate Agent, Banker, Lawyer and Property Inspector. It is also wise to get referrals and advice or tips from family and friends. When assembling your team, select rightly. Lack of experience in the person who’s supposed to be your guide can make your property hunt a frustrating experience.
Get it right and get it in writing. Written agreements almost always trump verbal ones when it comes to contracts. Don't set yourself up for surprises when you move into that new house and some of the items in it are now missing. There are many details that make up the purchase contract that governs the particulars of your house purchase. It is not unusual for an item to be missed; especially those requests made by you of the seller or seller’s agent. If you ask for a toilet to be repaired or a chipped tile to be repaired, don’t simply take someone’s word that the item will be repaired prior to transfer of the property. Make sure every item that you agree on is put in the purchase contract.
Verbal agreements are hard to prove and even harder to enforce. They can lead to an ugly “he said, she said” situation. Once the property transfers to your name; problems or issues that you thought were going to be repaired are now your responsibility. Don’t let miscommunication or failed promises ruin the purchase of your dream home. Get all commitments - no matter how small - in writing.
You need to understand what you’re signing. As soon as possible, review the documents you'll be signing. You must always ask for documents in advance, make time to read them and ask questions, where necessary. Don’t just skim through the purchase contract. Real estate contracts are long and dense, but you need to know what you're committing to. Wrong assumptions, poorly written or missing clauses, and not understanding how the clauses affect the purchase can lead to increased costs or a void contract.
Do not sign documents in a hurry. Do not rush the closing.
You should avoid buying a home that costs much more than neighbouring homes and think before buying the most expensive house in the area. Your neighbours’ lower house values will weaken yours. Remember, markets change. If you buy intending to flip your investment and the market falls and you have to sell, your selling price may not be enough to even cover your mortgage.
Many home-buyers forget that the market value of a house is affected a great deal by its neighbours. The best way to gauge a fair offer price is to get your real estate agent to pull prices that comparable homes nearby recently fetched. The listings will show not just the amounts but how long the house had been on the market and its condition and size. Note that the nearby houses will affect your house value. That means the most expensive house on the street may be pulled down in value by its cheaper neighbours, while a low-end one will benefit from posher surroundings.
It is good practice to have your offer to purchase the house conditional upon securing financing. The last thing you want happen to you is the forfeiture of your deposits for backing out on a purchase transaction because of it. One thing is being pre-approved, the other is the property itself. The banks will do a valuation on the property to confirm the market value and then to determine the margin of loan they are willing to offer you. There may be other conditions are well that you might want to add in at this point.
It is well worth your money engaging a House Inspector to check out the house before committing to the purchase. These Inspectors know what to look out for and can advise you accordingly on the state of the house, whether it is in need of repairs so that you are fully aware of the additional expenses needed. Don't take the word of the seller that certain repairs and maintenance has been made to the home. A formal inspection of wiring, plumbing, and general structure of the home is needed to avoid nasty surprises.
Inspection reports are great negotiating tools when it comes to asking the seller to make repairs. If a professional home inspector cites specific repairs in the inspection report the seller is more likely to agree to them than if you simply try to negotiate based on your observations. As we mentioned above, make sure that any last minute items that arise based on the inspection report or your own visual inspection during the walk through are addressed in writing and completed before you take ownership of the property. If the seller agrees to make repairs, have your inspector verify the work is completed properly. Do not assume that everything will be done as promised.
If you're buying a new house, off the plans from the developer, they will offer the Defect Liability Period upon Vacant Possession, where they will rectify problems, if any, with the house during Handover.
No place is perfect. There will always be surprises. Don’t let a few initial blips spoil the whole ride. And don’t miss a great house waiting for the perfect one! Failing to jump on an opportunity, I believe, is a mistake. Too much shopping around can backfire. When you have done your homework and when you see something that matches you, go for it.
Chan Ai Cheng General Manager, S. K. Brothers Realty (M) Sdn Bhd Registered Estate Agent with the Board of Valuers, Appraisers and Estate Agents Malaysia (LPPEH) Certified Residential Specialist, National Association of Realtors USA Member of the Institution of Surveyors Malaysia (ISM) and the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents (MIEA) Registered Financial Consultant with the International Association of Registered Financial Consultants (IARFC)