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Finding Your Ideal Home

Finding your ideal home takes some work. Do you want a single-family home or a condo? How big a home and in which neighborhood?

Let's begin by talking about different types of homes. Single-family homes are typically detached houses on a single lot. The owner is responsible for all aspects of the property, including the interior, exterior and landscaping. A condominium, on the other hand, is a real estate project in which the individual owner holds title to a particular unit in a building. Most condos have a monthly Homeowner's Association fee that may cover expenses such as exterior building insurance, landscaping, pool and recreation area maintenance, trash, water and a reserve for future capital improvements to the property. Town houses are legally classified as condominiums, usually share at least one common wall, but are generally situated in rows so there are no units above each other.

You've probably heard the old real estate adage, “Location, location, location!” The location or neighborhood you choose will have the biggest impact on the price of the property. Whether you're aiming for an exclusive blue-chip neighborhood or a lower-priced, emerging community, be sure to evaluate the area's shopping and business services, entertainment, park and recreational facilities, public transportation, traffic congestion, noise levels, and the general ambiance. While some of these factors, such as the quality of the school district, may not be important to you, they could significantly impact the home's resale value.

Speaking of resale, the longer you stay in a home, the better chance you have to make money on your investment. Generally, it takes at least three to four years to recoup buying and selling costs. Depending on how long you plan to stay in your home, make sure the home has the amenities that your family requires. For example, a two-bedroom cottage may be perfect for a young couple with no children; however, before long, the couple could quickly outgrow the space.

Smart buyers know that one of the keys to finding your ideal home is to prioritize your needs and your wants. Recognizing the difference between what you want and what you can’t live without makes all the difference. Make a wish list of all your “wants” including size, location and amenities. Unless you have unlimited financial resources, you’ll have to compromise here and there. Chances are that the number of bedrooms you need to accommodate you and your family is more important than the built-in barbeque or stained glass windows on your wish list. Keep your priorities in mind as you view homes with your agent.

It will likely take several weeks of research and legwork, but you will find a home that's just right for you. Deciding how much to offer the seller and under what terms will make or break the deal.

Your agent should run a comparable market analysis for you on homes that have sold in the same neighborhood within the past year. Comparing the amenities, condition and location of similar homes that have already sold and then weighing those factors alongside the current market is the first step to making a reasonable offer.

Next, decide how much you are willing to pay for the home. Part of your agent's job is to try to negotiate a below-market sales price. If you have your heart set on a house and you are prepared to overpay to get it, let your agent know.

One key to making a successful offer is to consider the seller's motivations. Have they already purchased another home? Is a relocation or divorce part of the equation? Perhaps the seller wants to close escrow within a certain timeframe; if so, are they willing to take less for the home if you are willing to accommodate their requests.

Your offer to buy the home will be presented in a Purchase Agreement. The seller may submit a counter offer with his demands for price and terms. You can accept the counter offer or submit another counter offer. If and when you and the seller agree, the purchase contract and the counter offers are signed by both parties and escrow, or closing, begins.

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