Buyer Resources - Articles

Should I buy a home, or rent?  How to make a good buying choice:

If you currently own a home, what are the pros and cons of adding on or buying new? Before making a choice between adding on to an existing home or buying a larger one, consider these questions:

* How much money is available, either from cash reserves or through a home improvement loan, to remodel your current house?
* How much additional space is required? Would the foundation support a second floor or does the lot have room to expand on the ground level?
* What do local zoning and building ordinances permit?
* How much equity already exists in the property?
* Are there affordable properties for sale that would satisfy your changing housing needs?
* How does the value of it stack up in the surrounding area?  Be cautious about over-improving or overpaying in case you need to get your money back out of it soon.

Do we dig deep and buy a dream home or settle for a starter home

There are many factors that go into making a good buying decision.  Often, choosing between a smaller house in an affluent neighborhood, versus an older, bigger house in a cool community, or a brand-new home is not easy. If you're in this situation, start by examining your priorities and asking the following questions:

* What about the location is important to you?  Is it in proximity to your work, church, schools, transportation, fitness clubs, doctors, shopping and restaurants?
* Do you want to be in the country with some land and privacy, or do you want to be in a neighborhood, where you can relate to your neighbors?
* Is the surrounding neighborhood or the home itself the most important consideration?  If it's the home, does it suit your lifestyle?  Is it functional?
* Is the area walkable and does it seem like you'd feel safe? 
* Is quality of the schools an issue?
* Do any of the areas seem to attract more families with children or adult residents? And where do you fit in?

As for the return on your investment, home-price appreciation is hard to predict. In the late 1980s, and again 10 years later, the more expensive move-up housing appreciated wildly. But during the recession that followed, smaller homes tended to hold their value better than more expensive ones.

How do you choose between buying and renting?
Home ownership offers tax benefits as well as the freedom to make decisions about your home, such as painting and making improvements to it.  There also are a number of economic considerations.  Unlike renters, home owners who secure a fixed-rate loan can lock in their monthly housing costs and make prudent investment plans knowing these expenses will not increase substantially. 

An advantage of renting is not worrying about maintenance and other financial obligations associated with owning property, and if you are expecting life or job changes, renting can be less complicated when you have to move.  However, when renting, you may be subject to rules and limitations on your use of the property, limited care and upkeep to the residence by the absentee owner, and the landlord can increase rents and possibly not continue to honor your lease.

Home ownership is typically a smart investment that can yield substantial profit on a nominal front-end investment. However, such returns depend on home-price appreciation, as well as the amount of care, upkeep and improvements you make to it while you own it.  Yet, a homeowner also needs to save extra money to invest in the home's upkeep, and be prepared for unexpected expenses.

Its also important to understand that if you plan to purchase a home, you should also plan to keep it at least 3 to 5 years or more, in order to gain any appreciation and mitigate the costs of selling.

How do I get the real scoop on homes I am looking at?
Home inspections, seller disclosure requirements and the agent's experience will help. Disclosure laws vary by state, but in some states, the law requires the seller to complete a real estate transfer disclosure statement. Here in Virginia, it is a "buyer beware" type of disclosure, which is more like a disclaimer.   It will be up to the buyers to satisfy themselves about the quality of the property and the surrounding area that might impact their use and enjoyment of it.

Sellers are still expected though to indicate any significant defects or malfunctions existing in the home's major systems.  But to be prudent, you (along with your Realtor and Home Inspector) should plan to observe interior and exterior walls, ceilings, roof, insulation, windows, fences, driveway, sidewalks, floors, doors, foundation, as well as the electrical and plumbing systems.  Also look for, or ask about, settling, sliding or soil problems, flooding or drainage problems and any major damage resulting from earthquakes, floods or landslides. 

And, you should specifically ask the sellers about the water, septic/sewer, age and reliability of components, the presence of environmental hazards, walls or fences shared with adjoining landowners, any encroachments or easements, room additions or repairs made without the necessary permits or not in compliance with building codes, zoning violations, citations against the property and lawsuits against the seller affecting the property.

People buying a patio home, townhouse, condominium or home in a newly constructed neighborhood must be told about covenants, codes and restrictions or other deed restrictions. It's important to note that the simple idea of disclosing defects has broadened significantly in recent years. Many jurisdictions have their own mandated disclosure forms as do many brokers and agents. Also, the home inspection and home warranty industries have grown to help you with all this.

What do all of those real estate acronyms in the ads mean?
If you find yourself stumbling over weird acronyms in a real estate listing, don't be alarmed. There is method to the madness of this shorthand used to save space in advertising mediums or fit into limited text fields.  Here are some commonly used  abbreviations and the meaning of each:

bsmt -- basement
* gar -- garage (garden is usually abbreviated "gard")
* BR, BA , MBR/MBA-- bedroom and bath, Master bed/bath
* Master -- a bedroom with private, adjoining bathroom
* rough-in --means there are preparations in the slab to add a bathroom
* FDR -- formal dining room (not the former president)
* frplc, fplc, FP -- fireplace
* grmet kit -- gourmet kitchen
* HDW, HWF, Hdwd -- hardwood floors 
* EIK -- an area to Eat In Kitchen
* hi ceils, vaults, trey -- high ceilings
* In-law potential -- potential for a separate apartment. Sometimes, local zoning codes restrict rentals of such units so be sure the conversion is legal first.
* pvt -- private
* pwdr rm -- powder room, or half-bath 
* upr- upper floor 

Dayna Patrick
Dayna Patrick
Patrick Team Homes - RE/MAX All Stars