When my wife and I were house hunting in Teaneck a few years ago, I learned that searching for a home is similar to searching for a life partner. The more you search the more you learn about what you want and also what you don’t want. When you meet the right one, you’ll “feel it.” The process can be simple, or sometimes complicated, even if it’s not your first purchase. To ensure you can navigate this process confidently, I’ve listed some of the most important questions you should ask yourself when buying a house.
What Is My Budget?
This could be your million-dollar question, depending on what you are in the market for. Even if you aren’t searching for six-figure properties, your budget will have a significant impact on your search.
The reason? Sellers prefer doing deals with pre-approved buyers. This limits their risk and expedites closing. Having pre-approval means you can confidently negotiate with sellers and tour homes knowing that if you fell in love with the property, you could actually qualify for and get it. If you’re waiting on the sale of another property, base your budget on conservative valuations.
Is the Area Prone to Any Disasters?
While New Jersey isn’t known for natural disasters, if you’re buying a home in New Jersey, this is still something you should consider. Thankfully, the state has fewer natural disasters compared to most other states and appears 34th on the list of disaster-prone states. Even though federally declared disasters may not be a concern, you should still consider how the home you’re interested in would withstand heavy rain, freezing temperatures or fire, especially if you aren’t planning on remodeling the property. My home is on a hill, fortunately toward the top, so when it rains I’m less concerned of flooding than if I were on the bottom of the hill.
How Important Is Location?
At the risk of sounding like a “salesy” real estate agent, location is everything. The neighborhood you choose will either add to your standard of living or detract from it. Considering that your location will also determine the schools your kids attend, the shuls you attend and the work opportunities available, location is critical.
Should I Make an Offer Below Listing Price?
It all boils down to a few things, including comparable properties that are active, in-contract, and recently sold; what are those going for? There are markets where sellers will be open to negotiation. However, the New Jersey real estate market is currently experiencing tremendous demand. How much do you want this house, are you ready to lose it to a higher offer, or have you been searching long enough that you feel this is “the one”?
If so, I would advise that you make an offer at or above the listing price. The only caveat to that would be if the home is overvalued, in which case making an offer according to the current market is understandable.
What Are My Neighbors Like?
No one wants bothersome neighbors. While neighbors change over time, you should be interested in who resides close to the home you want to buy before you put in the offer on a property.
The first criteria should be the rental to owner-occupied homes. As a buyer, you want a neighborhood where there are primarily owner residents and not renters. Secondly, it’s a great idea to read or consume local news. Are there any developments on the horizon, anything that may affect your property’s value or safety?
How Suitable Is This Environment for My Ambitions and Aspirations?
Although this is the most challenging question to ask when buying a home, it’s also the only one where you won’t know if your answer is correct until you move.
However, similar to the importance of location, your needs will determine what sort of home you should look at purchasing and where it should be. Your daily demands like your job, hobbies and need for convenience will impact where you decide to reside.
If you are an expat from NYC and surrounds—as many recent buyers are—it’s likely that you’ll want a similar environment to what you have become acquainted with in NYC. What many professionals have learned as a result of the pandemic—and stringent lockdowns—is that you can cultivate that environment in any zip code. As an agent who’s worked in Manhattan, I still recognize and understand how vital intangible benefits are to determining where you choose to buy a home. You want the pace and opportunities you had in NYC. To ascertain if you’ll have that pace and opportunity, research your professional community in New Jersey. Many finance professionals, actors and entrepreneurs overlooked New Jersey because they perceived the area as having an insignificant professional community. But the opposite is true. Not only does New Jersey have a thriving professional and arts community, these communities are expanding at lightning speed and offer many of the same perks you’ve come to expect in NYC.
As a real estate agent, I’ve had the privilege of helping hundreds of clients. My secret to success? Developing a formula to ensure that my clients feel assured with their transaction. That formula begins by ensuring my clients answer these six all-important questions when buying a home.
Levy Tewel is an associate real estate broker and team leader of the Tewel Team at Compass, helping sellers and buyers in Bergen County and New York City, with nearly a decade in the business and over 1,000 closed transactions. Levy can be reached at 201.477.0117, [email protected], www.TewelTeam.com