Top Ten Tips when Buying Real Estate!

In today’s financial climate, real estate continues to be a strong investment in many areas. Educated buyers will always make the most out of the real estate market. These top ten tips to buying real estate will help you enter into your next real estate transaction with confidence.

TIP #1: Hire the right Agent!

Hiring the right Real Estate Agent is invaluable. If you are unfamiliar with the area, the realtor you choose is your link to important information regarding schools, zoning, city and county regulations, neighborhood trends, building and remodeling and rental restrictions, and property values. Every city has different laws governing what can and can’t be done with a property. Sanibel is one of the most beautiful cities in the United States due in part to its strict building codes and city planning. Having experienced many aspects of real estate transactions on a personal level, I understand situations and concerns of my buyers and sellers. I have been an island property owner for many years and have walked through several local real estate transactions myself. From buying and selling lots to building new homes with local builders, to investing in rental income producing properties and utilizing 1031 Tax free exchanges, I don’t just sell island real estate; I invest in it because I believe there is no place in the world like Sanibel and Captiva. Whether you work with me or someone else, finding the right realtor is invaluable.

TIP #2: Utilize 1031 Tax Exchanges and Save Money!

1031 Tax Exchanges are tax free exchanges of investment property. Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code is one of the last great tax shelters. If you purchase an investment property of “like kind” within 180 days of the sale of a similar type property, and you are willing to increase the amount of debt or value of the property, your capital gains taxes can be completely deferred. Having just completed a Reverse 1031 tax exchange myself, I believe in using this powerful tax shelter. Feel free to contact me if you are considering using a current Sanibel, Captiva, or Ft. Myers property in a 1031 Tax Exchange, or want to purchase an investment property that might qualify in the future for a 1031 Tax Exchange. A Reverse 1031 Tax Exchange is the same exchange concept as a 1031 Tax Exchange except you have purchased your replacement “like kind” investment property first, before selling the property to be exchanged. Learn more about 1031 Tax Exchanges, and how to use them to your financial advantage. Keep in mind that a neutral party must have act a Qualified Intermediary. Real Estate may also be bought and sold through your self directed retirement account. Whether you utilize a traditional IRA, Roth IRA, SEP, or company plans such as 401 (k) plans, Keogh, or profit sharing plans, investigate your options.

TIP #3: Pre-qualify for Financing!

Pre-qualifying for a loan may not seem that important until you find your perfect paradise property at the same time as another buyer. When a property is priced to sell, it will usually attract more than one buyer. Once a seller receives an offer, the two most important things they consider are …the price, and the contingencies. For some sellers, a contract contingent on the buyer obtaining financing makes them uncomfortable with the offer. Eliminate any doubt in the mind of a seller, by pre-qualifying for the amount you may spend on the purchase of any property. This is especially important if your dream property suddenly has a price reduction. When this occurs other buyers might come into the picture, that didn’t look at that property before it went “On Sale”! Often times a seller will take a financially solid contract over a higher offer. Be ready to put a deal together!

TIP #4: Location, Location, Location!

“Location, location, location”, while overused as a real estate phrase, is still and always should be a huge consideration to you as the buyer! If something about the location of a property bothers you, be aware that the same location drawback will bother any buyer you hope to attract when and if you need to resell the property! It’s important to ask a lot of questions, but often times it is difficult to know the right questions to ask if you are unfamiliar with the community. This is why it is so valuable to choose and hire the right real estate agent to represent your interests when buying a property.

TIP #5: Get a Home Inspection!

Obtaining an inspection report performed by a licensed professional building inspector of your choice, can protect you from many defects that are hidden from view. Why gamble with such a large financial investment? Let a professional building inspector point out areas to be fixed or replaced that aren’t obvious. A good inspector will give you a lengthy report covering all systems in the home from electrical, to plumbing, to roof conditions, and structural concerns. Once you receive a report you may begin negotiations again concerning repairs. Often a seller will agree to make necessary repairs up to a specified financial amount. When a seller lists their property “as is” they are letting you know that they are not willing to fix or replace any part of the property. If you are interested in an “as is” property and aren’t going to level the structure and build new, it is still in your best interest to obtain an inspection report. Don’t rely on the building inspector to look for termites and other harmful pest problems. Although an inspector will see pest damage, it is best to have a separate termite inspection conducted by a licensed company that understands pests and can eliminate them.

TIP #6: Obtain a Survey and Title Insurance!

Surveys will show easements, encroachments, and boundary lines of a property. By surveying a home in an established neighborhood you are assured that the property boundary lines have been maintained. As homeowners add on the their properties over time with fences, sheds, docks, garages, and other structures, boundary lines can be crossed placing part of their structure on your property, or vice versa. Surveying vacant land is also important for same reasons as a home, plus a survey will help determine the size home, or amount of coverage the lot will allow.

Title Insurance will protect your investment from another party claiming ownership interest in your property. Title searches will uncover liens placed on a property by vendors, or mistakes in past transfers of the title. The last thing you want to discover when you’re in the back stretch of a transaction is that there are encumbrances on the property such as tax liens, undisclosed owners, easements, or leases. Should a claim arise after the purchase of a property, the title insurance company is there to protect your ownership interest in that property.

TIP #7: Be Realistic!

“Wants” and “Needs” are very different when is comes to real estate features. If every home you see has the upgrades you “want” but exceeds the price range that you “need”…. be realistic. Who wouldn’t love a large, oceanfront, professionally decorated home or condominium, with all the bells and whistles? Looking at properties that exceed your price range is always fun, but it can be extremely frustrating and upsetting. Be realistic by looking at listings in the price range you “need”, keeping an eye out for that special property that has the potential to evolve into the dream home you “want”. Always look beyond the furnishings, wallpaper, and floor coverings to the architecture of the home; it is then that you will find properties with potential.

TIP #8: Use Contract Contingencies Wisely!

Contingencies in a contract for the purchase of a property are designed to protect you, the buyer! This may seem silly to mention but it’s important to remember that you need to work with the seller to come to an agreed upon contract. Valid contingencies to an offer are expected by the seller. Common contingencies include building inspections, termite and pest inspections, financing, and surveys. Many deals fall apart over small details, and easy to fix issues. Remember that sellers are emotional about their property. If you can see that major repairs or replacements need to be made due to neglect or age, make allowances for this in your offering price. The old adage “Everything is negotiable” still holds true, unless you upset the seller so much that they refuse to work with you. Try to avoid listing cosmetic changes you would like the seller to make as contingencies. Cosmetic changes are subjective, be objective when writing a contract.

TIP #9: Understand Regional Health and Safety Issues!

An informed realtor will help you understand other health and safety issues that should be considered when purchasing a property. Safety and Health topics can include EIFS (Synthetic Stucco), indoor air quality, mold, radon, and lead paint. Many of these require the seller to sign a disclosure statement, while others may not apply due to the age, type of construction, or location of the property being purchased.

TIP #10: Ask for Information!

Don’t be shy. When you have hired a realtor to work for you, ask them for information. Do you want to look at all the properties in your price range, with the features you need, or just the houses a realtor wants you to see? You deserve all the information you need to make an educated decision. Can you imagine buying the home that you felt was good for your family, only to find that you never received information on a similar property that is perfect for all your needs? I provide many services to insure my buyers always have information at their fingertips.

Ten Tips for Evaluating a Home Builder Website

When researching potential new home builders to hire, you need to rely on quality, professionalism, customer service and relevance to your wants and budget. Because most new home searches begin online, evaluating a home builder’s website is crucial to deciding whether or not the home builder deserves to be contacted. If you want to purchase a house, this helpful article offers home buying information and ten tips for evaluating a home builder website.

Because the website of New Home Builder Orleans Homes exemplifies many features indicative of a quality homebuilder website, it was used as a model for what a potential new home buyer should look for in a new house builder website.

House & Floor Plans

When you are considering the purchase of a new home – maybe the biggest purchase you will ever make – you need to know the house is what you want, inside and out. To save potential home buyers time, some homebuilder websites let visitors preview new home plans online. A typical home builder will offer several floor and house plans and a home builder whose website boasts interactive floor plans suggests both technical savvy and awareness of what site visitors want of a residential home builder.

Printable Brochures

Just as the availability of house and floor plans show an awareness of what those in the market for a new home want, the ability to print plans and brochures reinforces that awareness. If you print a plan, you have something tangible to use for reference and to use if you choose to tour new model homes.

Words, Pictures & Interactivity

A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the saying goes, but different people gather information in different ways. Some people are visual, others interactive while still more prefer to read to gather information. A home builder website should be equally open to these various ways of gathering information. And for those visual site visitors, if the pictures are of decent quality, it likely means the home builder invests in quality in other aspects of their business. One additional note on the pictures that appear on homebuilder websites: if the picture doesn’t show the actual home interior or exterior – shows instead a flower vase, say – it may mean the homebuilder is hiding something.

Usability & Navigation

For government and government contractor websites, the site must be accessible to persons with disabilities. Websites not obligated to this level of accessibility – but that are accessible nevertheless – are indicative of a company sympathetic to the needs of all potential site visitors. This is good, naturally, but accessible and usable websites also lead to a more rewarding site visit. In short, an open, easy-to-navigate website likely means open, easy-to-navigate homes.

Solid site navigation suggests, in addition, an awareness of how visitors will move throughout the website and a desire to make this process as intuitive as possible. A thoughtfully designed website means a thoughtfully designed home so look for sites that are both usable and accessible.

Interactive maps

To find a home, you need to know where it is. Maps, obviously, make the search for a new home easier. Furthermore, an interactive map – one where you can simply click on a location to view homes available in that area – makes the home search that much easier. When a website gives you multiple tools to find a new home for sale, it reinforces the notion that the homebuilder wants to make the search for a new home or new home development easier.

Easy-to-Find Content

Visitors to a homebuilder website may be looking for several unique types of information: new homes, home plans, home locations, financing information, company history, employment information, and home care tips. The content sought by a visitor should be easy to locate in a few simple clicks. Site maps, search fields, information architecture – these all help the visitor through the site. Again, an easily-navigable site suggests the homebuilder knows how to build well.

Search by Various Factors

A visitor in search of a single family home for sale, for example, may be seeking unique features. It so follows that a website should allow visitors to search by various factors such as location, neighborhood, price range, number of rooms, amenities, etc. There are many types of people in the market to buy a new home and a homebuilder should offer information to a variety of individuals. Even a luxury home builder builds a variety of models and a site that lets you search for factors pertinent to your home search suggests the company may be one worth further investigation.

Site Speaks to your Wants and Needs

Just as a site should allow for you to search according to your unique new home needs, a site should also speak to your new home wish list. If you are a first time homebuyer looking to buy a new house, evaluate the site content to see if they speak to needs similar to yours. If the site does not – there is no need to contact the home builder.

Links

A link is a vote for a website because, if there is a link to the site, the linking website owner decided the site content was worth referencing. So check to see if the site is linked to because links are essentially votes of confidence.

Financial Information

It is often said that the decision to purchase a house is one of the biggest most people will ever make. Most people have to think very carefully about investing in a new home, and how to finance it. Even if you have your own plans for financing a new home purchase, look for homebuilder websites that offer financing and mortgage information. It demonstrates a familiarity with the financing process and the ability of the company to give you good, reliable information. Some sites even offer a mortgage calculator [http://www.orleanshomes.com/buy/calc.cfm target=] – a very helpful tool to use during a new home search.

If you evaluate home builder websites based on these factors, you are better prepared to decide which new home builders to contact. One final note. If you like a home builder website, look for interest list forms or forms to request additional information. Filling out these forms not only ensures you are only provided relevant information, they will likely automatically qualify you for special offers, discounts and VIP openings. If you like what you see, fill out the interest list.

* You may republish this article provided you retain the active hyperlinks. Copyright 2006, Robert O’Shaughnessy.