Ilyce Glink, a real estate and personal finance columnist, is the author of the nationally syndicated weekly column “Real Estate Matters” and has penned 11 books, including 100 Questions Every First-Time Homebuyer Should Ask. Ilyce’s has appeared in publications such as the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post. She also participates in regular segments on Chicago station WGN. She is the mastermind behind the online community Thinkglink.com, where several e-books will soon be available for purchase. Glink shares her tips for buying a home.
Many homebuyers fear they won’t find what they want at a price they can afford. They’re not sure how much they’re going to have to compromise. In addition, it feels like such a huge commitment, they think they have to know where they want to live for the rest of their lives. But really, a better approach is to think about the home they’re buying as being the right home for that specific period of time in their lives—say the next five to seven years. That takes some of the pressure off. In my books, I refer to a “cycle of life” that typically lasts from five to 10 years, depending on where you are in it. For first-time buyers, you’re either single and thinking about getting into a relationship or you’ve just married. To find the right home, you need to project where you’ll be over the next five to seven years. So if you’re single and hoping to be in a relationship, you’ll want to buy a place big enough to accommodate the both of you. If you’re married and hoping to have kids in five to seven years, make sure the place you buy will accommodate that change.
I break it down into three basic questions that all potential homebuyers need to ask themselves: “How much can I afford?;” “How long do I plan to stay in this home?;” and “Where do I want to live?”
You must get pre-qualified for a loan because you need to know precisely how much money the lender will commit to lending you. Start searching neighborhoods to see where you want to live. And each person buying the home should create two lists: One is a wish list that includes everything you want in a home, and the other is a reality checklist that includes what you absolutely can’t live without. Compare your lists and start to compromise on the most important items on each list. Then you’ll need to combine your lists into one master wish list and one master reality checklist to see where you are.
Each person has to commit—in writing—to what they want in a home. Both parties have to make their lists and then start prioritizing and adjusting the lists. Ideally, you and your significant other sit down together when you’re nice and relaxed and discuss what’s important to each of you. I’d be shocked if two people’s lists were ever the same! You just have to calmly find a way to get the few things you each really want and everything you both absolutely need.
Buying a home is a very emotionally charged process. It’s the biggest single purchase of your life, and it’s often not as rational a process as it could be. One important step is to make sure you’ve got the right partners—the right real estate agent and the right mortgage person. Then, it’s a matter of doing your homework: Read books, search neighborhoods and really learn about the process. There is no substitute for doing your homework when it comes to buying a home. But the more knowledge you have, the more you can remove the emotional component from the process. Knowledge really is power when it comes to real estate.
Take care of the contractual elements first: Make sure all the contingencies in your contract are met in a timely fashion and go back to your lender to finalize the financing. Then there are the logistics, like arranging for utilities in your name, forwarding mail, registering kids for new schools and getting a new phone number or transferring your old one. It’s all about being organized and staying on top of these details. I’ve always had luck using an Excel spreadsheet, and I think electronic calendars are great, too. But you can also use a notepad, as long as you keep referring to it and keep updating it. The days leading up to closing and moving can really fly by, so you have to stay organized.
After the move, the hard part is over. But there are new challenges. First, you have to give yourself time to get acclimated to your new space and stay on top of the details: Are you getting mail? Are the utilities in your name? Are you getting all of your bills and paying them? And I can’t stress this enough: Don’t forget to make your first mortgage payment! It seems obvious, but it’s important to establish a good routine right from the beginning. If you can have your mortgage automatically paid each month from your checking account, it’s one less bill you’ll have to worry about.
Change is difficult, but necessary. Nothing stays static. Life evolves. I keep believing that the next day will be a better and more interesting one than the day before.
…it challenges us to do more and do it differently.
Marrying my husband nearly 20 years ago and deciding that I would take a leap of faith and try to make it as a freelance writer.
For more information on Ilyce Glink, visit www.thinkglink.com.
Buying a home requires skill in a variety of areas. Books such as 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask help the novice gain a solid understanding of the basics involved in this often complex process. ...