5 Things to Research Before Buying a Home

Couple looking at a house

Post from MilitaryByOwner

Whether it's your military family's first home purchase or you've done this before, it's important to remember the basics when you're thinking of buying a home. Let's take a look at five important areas you should research before jumping in.

Finding a Real Estate Agent

Real estate agents, especially the ones who get the military lifestyle, are an integral component to the home buying process. Their guidance and expertise helps clients avoid a multitude of mistakes and also works to protect their client's best interest.

It's often advised to find a buyer's agent through referrals from friends and family. This is excellent advice, but it's not always possible if the military sends you to a new duty station where you don't have personal connections.

Tapping a friend of a friend or virtual group recommendations are the next best thing to a personal referral. It's always a good idea to consider either an experienced veteran or military spouse agent, because their military life experience coupled with their real estate expertise is going to be beneficial to your home search. Military life details are easy for them to recall, and in turn, find ways to serve you better.

An agent who has a Military Relocation Professional designation has proved themselves beyond knowledgeable about what buying a home looks like while living a military lifestyle. A Realtor who has adhered to these guidelines has satisfied the standards to add the letters, MRP, next to their name. They must meet these requirements:

  • Be in good standing with the NAR (National Association of Realtors)
  • Complete a one-day MRP certification course
  • Learn military basics like acronyms, branches, ranks
  • Take part in 2 one-hour webinars
  • Thoroughly understand VA loans/options for disabled members and veterans
  • Have knowledge of a VA compromise sale
  • Pass a final exam with a score of 80% or better.

A Personalized Non-Negotiable List

Home shoppers must go into their buying journey knowing exactly what they require from the house, and what they wish to have to have in a home. There is a difference. After determining a list of must-haves, the next logical step is to create a list of amenities that you prefer, but could sacrifice to fill the need for previously determined non-negotiable factors.

It's a rare instance that a buyer or real estate agent can find the perfect home when the wish list is completely checked. Take some time to really consider what the top necessities your new home should have. Buyers usually find themselves considering these popular qualifiers: budget, commute time, access to school, location, and size of the home.

Neighborhood Crime Statistics

There's no doubt you've heard good and bad things about the neighborhoods you're considering. While your potential neighbors' opinions are important, there are other fact based databases that your local, state, and even federal government have provided to inform citizens about how to investigate what types of criminal activity have occurred near them.

Again, your real estate agent can provide direction on how to find local resources, but good old fashioned Googling is a good place to start. You never know what could pop up when you type in the address. At a minimum, you'll see photos of what the streets and surrounding buildings look like. But for more accurate information, check out what these official websites have to offer.

  • The U.S. Department of Justice Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website
  • Family Watchdog identifies registered sex offenders in your area.
  • The FBI website houses a registry maintained by individual jurisdictions.

Knowledgeable VA Loan Lenders

The VA loan provides an amazing opportunity for service members to afford a home. But, this loan product isn't understood by every lender, so finding one who is an expert is imperative. Real estate professionals usually share their recommendations, but you can research other lending institutions on your own.

It is true, depending on your personal financial situation, a VA loan might not be the best option, but for many, it is. So, understanding the benefits of the loan is one of the first tasks a buyer should tackle, especially first time buyers. Reviewing Understand Your VA Home Loan Benefit is a perfect place to start.

Probably the number one reason military members like to use their VA loan is because they are not required to come up with a down payment. But, there are other reasons to consider applying, such as the option to re-use your loan later, private mortgage insurance isn't necessary, and you may qualify for a waived funding fee due to a disability.

Qualified Home Inspector

Investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into a house without a home inspection will surely leave you sleepless at night. In comparison, a home inspection will cost little (fees vary, but a standard estimate is about $500) to ensure a solid purchase and a good night's rest.

Home inspection contingencies are typical in a negotiation process and could save weeks of harassment and plenty of money. If the sale goes through without an inspection, and inefficiencies reveal themselves as you begin to live in the house, you'll only have yourself to pay for the repairs.

An inspection could give the next buyer an indication as to whether or not a home warranty is necessary. Inspectors will evaluate the lifespan and health of major systems like the HVAC, in addition to expensive replacements such as the roof and gutter system.

For in-depth knowledge on the home's previous damage and insurance claims, consider a report from either a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (C.L.U.E.) report, or an A-PLUSTM property report from ISO.

There is so much learn before feeling comfortable enough about the process to buy a house. Even those who have bought multiple homes through the years learn something new each time. Technology, housing markets, and interest rates are just a few of the factors that remain predictably unpredictable! It's up to the home buyer to dive in and stay up to date with the resources that detail what matters most to their family.

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