Home Buying Guide
Columbia Bank is here to help
Buying a home is easily one of the most significant moments in life. Whether this is your first home, next home, or vacation home, the process of searching, choosing, and financing is exciting and important. It can also be stressful. Columbia Bank is here to help with a collection of tried-and-true home-buying advice.
Are you ready? Before you start getting into the nitty-gritty of the search for your dream home, make sure you are at a point in your life to make this choice. If you think you'll move again soon, or if other parts of your life are in a state of flux, it might be a good idea to wait a while. There is no shame in renting, and while you do it you can build up your credit. Consider the general housing climate, as well. What's the market doing right now? Is it stable? Inflated? A good time to buy? If you've considered these things and you decide the timing is right, dive in.
Start with an open mind. Where do you want to live? Think about different parts of the country. If there are regions you feel interested in, take a few trips. Narrow it down. If you're in love with your current city, take time to consider all the options. Explore neighborhoods you've never thought about. Walk and drive through different areas at different times of the day and week.
Location is key. Once you've zeroed in on your ideal neighborhood, whether it's in New Jersey, New York, or Pennsylvania, get in contact with people who live there. Talk to them about what they like and dislike about the area. Learn about the property value of other homes nearby and keep your eyes peeled for those in need of repair. Just one rundown house can bring down the value of an entire block. Research schools in the area. Even if you don't have kids now, you might someday. You also may end up wanting to move again. It's much easier to sell a house that's located in a desirable place.
Establish a realistic budget. Once you start looking at houses, it's easy to get swept away by what you think might be The One even if it's a little outside of your price range. So, before setting foot in your first open house, establish a budget that won't budge. One of the most important budgeting aspects of buying a house often gets overlooked: the mortgage payment. Often, first-time home buyers get caught up in the down payment. They save as much as they can then put every penny into the down payment. While this makes sense in theory, it's important that you're able to afford your mortgage payment each month. Plus, buying a home comes with all sorts of expenses you might have forgotten about. From repairs and homeowners insurance to utilities and the expenses of maintaining a yard for the first time, the cost of owning a home adds up quickly. Learn more about our mortgage options, or visit your local branch and a Columbia Bank representative can help you navigate the wilds of buying your first home.
Get approved before you go. When you feel comfortable with your budget, apply for a mortgage. Once you start visiting potential homes, things move fast. Good houses get taken off the market quickly. The difference between you and another potential buyer could easily come down to timing.
Hire a realtor. You know what you want, a realtor knows how to find it. It's as simple as that. Sure, you'll have to add this expense to your budget, but a good realtor understands the market, the area, and how to get you the house you want at a price that's reasonable. This will save you time and stress.
Know what you're looking for. Before you start going to open houses, get clear on the details. Think about the structural layout of your ideal home. Make a list of the things you must have in a home and take it with you as you look at houses. It's easy to add a coat of paint, it's much more difficult to add two more bedrooms. Train yourself to look beyond how homes are staged or set up by an agent. Imagine your own furniture inhabiting the house, and what do you need from each room.
Pay attention to contracts and rules. You found the one! Before you sign on the dotted line, read the whole contract - as well as any neighborhood rules. Your realtor should be willing to go through these things with you. If you're interested in buying a particular house, but you know you want to put a pool in at some point, make sure the community's homeowner association doesn't have any regulations against this. Finding the home for you is just about as exciting as it gets, but don't get too distracted. This might be the most important purchase you ever make - the details matter.