The most important thing is to know what you are looking for… and, if there is more than one person involved in the home-buying decision, to make certain both (all) people agree on what you are looking for. It is not uncommon for a couple to assume they are looking for the same things, only to realize in mid-stream they actually have some significant differences of opinion.
Each person involved in the decision should make a list of “likes” and “don’t likes” (preferred communities, school districts, style of home) and a list of “must-have items” and “wish list items”: the home office may be a “must” while the ‘man cave’ may be a “wish”… the fenced-in yard may be a “must” because of the dogs, but the in-ground pool may be a “wish list” item.
Next, get in your car. In today’s information-saturated, technologically-advanced world, a survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors indicates that nearly 90% of Buyers use the internet to search for their home. But here’s the thing: pictures often lie! So, take a quick drive by the home, if you are able. Do you like what you see, in terms of the home and the neighborhood?
Or take a Sunday drive and do some reconnaissance… to acquire an intimate knowledge of the cities and towns and neighborhoods and subdivisions that interest you… and discover which properties are available for sale in those areas? If you see a home you like, assess the neighborhood – do you like it? Are the other houses well maintained? How much traffic does the street get? Is it located in an area that is convenient for you?
Select a few properties that have the most appeal and ask your REALTOR to acquire some information for you. He or she should be able to obtain a variety of information for you to review prior to touring the property: disclosures, condo “riders”, lead paint disclosures, property tax information, deed restrictions, association rules, regulations and/or bylaws. Review the information carefully, then rate each of the properties on a scale of 1-10 to keep the list manageable.
If everything looks good, ask your REALTOR to schedule a showing to see one or more of the properties that closely meet your new-home criteria. Take copious notes during those showings. Check out the details of each house: do the doors and windows work as they should? What is the condition of the cabinets? How is the water pressure? Is the electrical system “up to code”? How do the siding, roof and landscaping/lawn look? Is the basement dry? Don’t feel rushed – according to NAR the average home buyer(s) visit ten properties before purchasing their home.
When you have identified the property you would like to purchase, your REALTOR will prepare an offer to present to the Seller. The offer will be presented to the seller on a standard contract (Purchase and Sale Agreement) that has been developed by the NH Association of Realtors, among others. The completed form will not only set forth the proposed sale price, but also all of the other terms of the transaction: closing and possession dates, items to be conveyed with the real estate, earnest money to be offered (your good-faith ‘deposit’), inspections and reviews to be conducted, etc. It is typical to request a response from the Seller within a specified time period (say, 48 hours).
Once the offer is presented to the Seller’s Agent, it’s time to wait for the seller’s response (acceptance, rejection or a counter-offer). This is where the negotiation begins. It is not uncommon to have a succession of counter-proposals exchanged between the parties before an agreement is reached… or the negotiations are terminated by one of the parties. Be patient. Remember, your REALTOR has done this before and can help guide you through the negotiation process… but also, keep in mind, the final decision is YOURS.