In the market for your first home? Maybe you’re just thinking about becoming a first-time homebuyer. There’s a lot to consider: you’ve likely discovered that a mere mile or two can dramatically affect the cost of real estate, housing stock quality, school performance, services available, anticipated tax burden and neighborhood safety.
Sometimes, first-time homebuyers get cold feet.
Maybe you’re worried about tying up so much money in a single investment and renting seems a lot more comfortable.
Don’t give up! David Bach, author of “The Automatic Millionaire,” recently told Business Insider that “the pundits who say homeownership doesn’t work: they’re just wrong. Homeowners in this country are worth 38 times what a renter is. If you want to guarantee yourself financial insecurity, rent for the rest of your life…Ultimate financial security comes from buying the home that you live in, paying it down and getting debt-free.”
Here’s a look at some of the basic information that every first-time homebuyer should know before signing another check for the landlord — or inking a mortgage on a big mistake.
What every first-time homebuyer should know
Location is key. Are you going to be more at home in a city? A suburb? Out on the farm? It’s the first choice you need to make.
The case for urban living…
A first-time homebuyer may prefer the convenience of walking to restaurants and shops in the city rather than driving from suburb to suburb to visit the next mall or shopping center. There are more jobs to be had and a wider variety of experiences to enjoy.
“Urban areas have more opportunities for employment, especially in competitive, progressive industries, such as computers, technology and high-level corporations,” notes Reference.com. “Cities often have a better quality of living, and though cost of living is higher in most cities, the trade-off for a better quality of life is worth it for some people. Educational centers are more prevalent and common in urban areas, so for people interested in furthering their education, a city has many more opportunities than rural areas.
“Social and personal life are two other commonly quoted reasons for moving. Cities provide more opportunities to get out and meet people, such as social clubs, bars, dance clubs and support groups. For people with unique interests, it is easier to find like-minded individuals in urban areas than in isolated rural regions. Some people move to urban areas for personal reasons, such as getting closer to the family or work of a significant other, or to find better opportunities for their children.”
…and the case for the suburbs.
Living in the city can be expensive and millennials and other potential first-time homebuyers are discovering this unpleasant fact: The Atlantic reports that they can’t afford to leave.
“Millennials,” writes Joe Pinsker, “often don’t have enough money saved up to consider buying a house somewhere else—let alone covering the moving costs to get there or possibly suffering a pay cut or taking on a less thrilling job.”
What’s so great about the suburbs? The quality of schools are often better; the environment can be less noisy and over-lit; the cost of living tends to be lower.
Overall, suburban dwellers seem to be pretty happy.
“Suburbanites are happier with where they live than those who live in cities or rural areas, according to a recent Pew survey,” SFGate.com reports. “The survey found that 42 percent of suburban residents rated their community satisfaction as high, a larger percentage of residents than those who live in cities, the country or small towns.”
Research neighborhoods when you consider your first home. Some basics to consider:
- Are you looking to live near people your age?
- If you have children, do other kids and families live nearby?
- Where are the nearest schools located?
- What are the crime rates in the neighborhood?
Some red flags to note:
Abandoned properties / neglected landscaping. Deteriorating houses and buildings can be breeding grounds for rats, mice and other pests. Blight is a key indicator of crime issues. Neglected landscaping can hide rodents and bugs and may be a sign of heavy foreclosures.
Lots of renovations / new builds. When a dated region starts experiencing growth property values in tend to rise. This could signal a great investment opportunity for your and your family — if you’re willing to put up with a few rough years while the neighborhood transitions.
Revitalized neighborhoods can be a double-edged sword for a first-time homebuyer. The classic pattern in neighborhoods referred to as “transitioning,” “gentrifying” or “reviving” starts with initial investments that lead to popularity with new residents who were priced out of other parts of the city.
These new residents can now afford to invest in their own properties. They patronize nearby services and businesses. More businesses move in, along with another wave of residents. Property values soar. Crime rates drop, schools improve — and the original residents, which may now include you, are priced out as property taxes increase and the cost of living spikes. Something to keep in mind.
Where does this take place?
In Washington, D.C, there are a whopping 18 neighborhoods that are listed as gentrifying by the D.C. Tax Revision Commission. Nearby Baltimore has several neighborhoods, including Sharp-Leadenhall, the lower Charles Village, Reservoir Hill, and Greenmount West, among others, showing increased investment in residential properties.
Down in Charlotte, another Long Roofing market, neighborhoods in the northeast and northwest sections of the city have also shown significant economic growth in recent years.
First-time homebuyers with school-age children love to find great public schools for their kids — hey, they’re paying for them, it’s convenient to use them. Websites like Zillow, Great Schools and Trulia have this data easily accessible.
Some great schools in Long Roofing’s markets include Washington D.C.’s Benjamin Banneker High School, known for its 100% college acceptance rate.
Summit Park Elementary and West Towson Elementary schools stand out with great scores in the Baltimore area.
According to Niche, Fort Mill School District and Union County Public Schools lead the pack in the Charlotte, N.C. metro area.
How is your house built?
Once you know where you want to live, you want to make sure your home is in good, solid shape. Unforeseen repair costs can easily put a hard pinch on a first-time homebuyer already financing an expensive move.
To help our first-time homebuyers hunt for the perfect home, here’s a list of structural items to consider:
The roof. Look for missing or curling shingles. Moss may mean that the shingles are old or in need or replacement. Inadequate ventilation can also prematurely age a roof — make sure that any venting issues have been addressed.
Is the gutter system in working order? Broken, damaged, leaking or clogged gutters need to be replaced. Depending on the amount of time these gutters were left untreated, there could be water damage to soffit, fascia, roofing or foundation. Look for warning signs like discoloration, rot, mold, cracking, shifting or peeling.
As a first-time homebuyer, you may not have a lot of experience with chimneys. Check for visible cracks in the mortar that could call for repairs. Is there a chimney cap to keep rain, debris and critters out of the flue? A chimney will need to be inspected to determine the functionality, and a cap should be added if there isn’t one already.
Checking the home exterior
Examine the exterior walls and foundation for cracks, discoloration, or bowing, which could indicate water damage or a shifting foundation. These can be big-ticket repairs that must be done to maintain the home’s structural integrity.
Note any shifting, cracking or drainage issues near the driveways and sidewalks or any retaining walls. Concrete work can be a major expense.
Checking the home interior
Windows and doors are another detail that is often overlooked. Watch for discoloration, moisture or visible gaps around windows and doors. Single-pane windows and wooden windows and doors are common in older homes.
Even if there aren’t signs of rot or water damage, these older items aren’t nearly as energy efficient as their modern replacements, so you’ll want to consider replacements costs if before you make an offer.
Floors and walls are great indicators of a home’s structural integrity. Discoloration on walls or floors can be a sign of water damage or mold. Bowed walls or floors may be a red flag for a moisture or foundation problem—both potential fixes that any first-time homebuyer should investigate further before talking numbers.
Long Roofing now serves the Charlotte, North Carolina, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Richmond, Virginia metro areas.
If you are thinking about buying a house — congratulations! We welcome you to the ranks of first-time homebuyers. It’s a great investment and a big step in your life.
As you settle into your new home and discover, down the road, that you need a roof replacement, give us a call. You can contact Long Roofing at 1-866-328-1187.
Long Fence & Home also provides roofing, windows and doors in the Washington, D.C. metro area.