Here are some tips to help you become your own landlord.
1- Hire a real estate professional. The first step is to select a professional to help you find your dream home and fine-tune your financial expectations. Working with a buyer agent is worth consideration since he or she is legally responsible for representing the buyer's interest in a real estate transaction. Before making a decision, however, have a Realtor explain the pros and cons of using a buyer agent versus a sales or dual agent. Your RE/MAX Associate can guide you through every step to buying a home.
2- Shop for mortgage rates and terms. A difference of even half a percentage point can mean a huge savings over the life of a loan. For example, the difference in the monthly payment on a $100,000 mortgage at 8 percent vs. 7.5 percent is about $35 per month. Over 30 years, that's $12,600.
3- Prequalify for a loan. Your third step should be to get prequalified, which determines how much you can afford. It allows you to move swiftly when you find the right home, especially when there are other interested buyers. It also indicates to the seller that you are serious and really can afford to buy the property.
4- Define what you want. The next step is to create a realistic idea of the property you'd like to buy. What features are most important to you? Make two lists: one of the items you can't live without and one of the features you would enjoy. Refine the lists as you house hunt. It is also helpful to search online to see what is currently available on the market. Your real estate professional can then show you houses that meet your expectations.
5- Visit properties. Now you're ready to visit houses. Ask your RE/MAX Associate to arrange showings, and keep track of the properties you've seen.
6- Know the features that help or hurt resale. In some areas, a swimming pool actually detracts from a home's value and makes it harder to sell. In neighborhoods with two-car, attached garages, a single-car or detached garage may impact the home sale and future value. Your RE/MAX professional can point out features that hurt or help resale value.
7- Rate the houses you tour. After touring each home, write down what you liked and didn't like. Develop a rating system that will help narrow the field down. For example, pick the house you like best on day one and compare all other houses to it. When you find a better one, use the new favorite as the standard.
8- Make an offer. Once you've pinpointed your dream house, it's time to get serious about the financial and contractual side of the purchase. Your RE/MAX Associate will be a strong advantage since you and the seller have different goals.
9- Arrange for a home inspection. After your offer is accepted, set up a home inspection. It's common to find problems, including leaky roofs, cracked walls, insect infestations and foundation problems. Your real estate professional can help find a reputable inspector, and will negotiate to get you the most for your money once the inspector's report is final. If you negotiate repairs as part of the purchase, ask for a "walk through" before finalizing the paperwork. Ask your real estate expert about home protection plans, which may save you money in the near future.
10- Close. Before your closing date, make sure you've made all necessary deposits and completed the paperwork - including mortgage, title, homeowners insurance and any other paperwork required by local or state governments.
11- Prepare for life in your new home. Before rolling out the welcome mat, consider some moving basics: arranging for an alarm company, turning on electricity, water and gas, cleaning or replacing the carpet, and notifying your local post office of your new address. The best time for renovations is often before you move in.