Buying Advice

21 Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

1. Plan Well Ahead

Getting pre-approved for a home loan may take a few days. But, on Maui, some sellers will not even show you their home if you have not been pre-approved. So do yourself a favor and talk with a lender early, and gather the documents you will need so that the process is smooth when you are ready to buy. It is really a relatively painless process, and I would be happy to help you.

2. Insurance

You will need to line up homeowners insurance. It doesn’t hurt to start shopping early if you know the general type of property you will be purchasing. Carriers specialize in different types of properties, so make sure to compare rates.

3. The Hunt

House hunting is the fun part, but it can quickly become overwhelming, especially on Maui where properties sell very quickly. Some buyers start hunting online, and then they reach out to their agent when they are ready to start visiting homes.

4. Search Sites

Each site has different strengths, and you will likely find a few favorites. Zillow maps out property lines, but typically Zillow is outdated, inaccurate and should be avoided, and has a nice app that shows you houses for sale nearby.

5. Open Houses

Open houses are a great way to learn about the market. But before you make an offer, be sure to visit the property another time when you can have some alone time with it. Open houses can be noisy and active, which can divert your attention from things like road noise, carpet stains, or worse.

6. Find a Great Agent (Me)

Agents should stand out based on their knowledge and expertise, not just because they pay for a lot of advertising space. Having a great agent will ensure the success of your transaction and give you peace of mind.

7. Check Out the Neighborhood

You’re not just buying a house; you’re also committing to the neighbors, the block and general surroundings. Don’t buy the most beautiful home on the block. It won’t appreciate as well as the dump down the street. Also, consider visiting the neighborhood on the weekend when the neighborhood kids are out of school and the working spouses are at home. It may impact your original opinion.

8. Be Open-Minded

Homebuying sometimes involves compromise. If you have your heart set on a newer home, please don’t avoid visiting older homes as well. You do not know how all the pieces will eventually fall together, so be open to unexpected good surprises.

9. Don’t Be Intimidated

It’s easy to feel outsmarted when you embark on the journey toward homeownership. There is no shame in not knowing how it all works. Ask everyone questions! As a professional, I have been down this path numerous times and I am more than happy to share my expertise.

10. Three Wrongs Don’t Make a Right

Three wrongs don’t make a right — it’s a basic rule. If a property has three flaws with no feasible solution, don’t buy it. Unless it is your thing, road noise, barking neighborhood dogs, obnoxious roosters, and no off-street parking should be avoided. After all, you may want to sell someday, and a bad decision could come back to bite you.

11. Staging

Plain and simple — staging works. Staged homes sell faster and for more money. Don’t let this prevent you from buying one, but know that the unstaged house might be a hidden bargain.

12. Staged Homes Sell Faster & For More Money

Look beyond the pretty furniture and pay attention to the floor plan, moldings, and the other aspects that will remain when the staging is removed.

13. Buyer Burn-Out

House hunting can become overwhelming, especially in a hot market like Maui. You might find yourself writing offer after offer without success. If you begin to feel overwhelmed by the market, rather than settling for the wrong house or paying too much, give yourself a break and restart the hunt when you feel ready.

14. Writing an Offer

When you are ready to write an offer, review comparable sales if available and determine what you feel is fair regarding price and terms. I will be a great guide in helping to establish a winning strategy.

15. Fixtures

Fixtures are anything attached permanently to the property including lights, faucets, and built-in microwaves. Appliances that are only plugged in, free-standing hot tubs and that pretty potted palm tree by the door are not fixtures and not necessarily included in the sale. If you want them, make sure you write it into the contract. It might look like that washing machine isn’t going anywhere, but it’s not a fixture — it can grow legs.

16. Aloha Letter

It never hurts to let the sellers know how much you love their home. Writing a letter of appreciation for the improvements they have made and the care is given to the property as well as your vision for how you will live in it can inspire them to pick you if there are multiple offers.

17. Negotiations

It might be hard to stomach, but if you strategically negotiate to let the other side win, you will walk away the actual winner. Always ask for more than you expect, and when the seller counters your offer with what you expect, accept and walk away the winner. It’s not about who has the last say.

18. Inspections

Invest in a certified home inspector so that you know what you are getting into. I don’t recommend asking the seller to perform the repairs. They have no incentive to do more than the basics because they won’t be living with the result. Investing in a solid home inspection will pay for itself, and you will be confident knowing what issues may require your attention in the future.

19. Closing Costs

It’s not just the down payment you need to save up for, but also all the added closing costs. Transfer tax, escrow fees and prepaid interest have caught many first-time homebuyers off guard. Ask your agent or lender for a complete list of the expenses for your area.

20. Closing

Many buyers expect they will sign the closing paperwork on the same day and then they get the keys for their new home. Although this true in a few states, in general, you will sign paperwork 72 hours before the actual closing.

21. Moving

Make a list of everything you need to do in advance. Here are a few good ones: Start packing — it takes eons. Book your movers ASAP. Shut down your utilities in your old home and start them up in your new one. Change your address for all your bills, and don’t forget the DMV. Put in a change of address with USPS. One final word of wisdom — move your clothes on their hangers.

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