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Tips for the Single Home Buyer
by Leticia Chapa

The feeling of nausea swirled in my stomach as the ink touched the paper; I had finally done it. I purchased my first home on my own. Purchasing a home is a daunting task, especially when it is done alone. Tired of living in over – priced, cramped space apartments, I decided to start house hunting. I naively thought this shouldn’t be too difficult, and I know what I want in a home, however, enthusiasm and preferences will not get you through it. The following seven tips are ideas I thought of along the way and wished someone had told me before I began my journey into buying a home.

Tip #1 – Start talking to banks, brokers, and mortgage companies early, the sooner the better. Once you have determined what you have available for a down payment, or if you are going to put one down at all, you can determine the price of home you can afford. The bank or mortgage company will issue a pre-qualification letter that is crucial in making an offer on a house. Also, research possible tax credits in your state or nationwide. The $8,000 tax credit for qualified first-time buyers expires December 1, 2009.

Tip #2 – Decide or narrow your search area, especially if you live in a large city. Take into consideration commute time, gas prices, schools, and property taxes. You can research the property taxes in your area by contacting the county appraisal office. Limiting your area will also make the process less overwhelming when looking at homes.

Tip #3 – Use a realtor you know or that someone you trust recommends. Yes, all realtors are trying to sell you a home, but you want someone who will be honest with you and not try to suggest something out of your budget or down play home repairs or features. Ask important questions, did the realtor listen to requests, make suggestions or have compatible availability times?

Tip #4 – Take a notepad and pen to make notes on houses you see. I often saw four to five homes a day and would confuse neighborhoods or features. The notes helped me remember what I liked and didn’t like about a house. I would also take notes on the neighborhood, possible repairs, and how long it had been on the market. When possible, I would take out my camera and take pictures. Photos are usually okay in vacant homes, but those that are still occupied, I would ask permission or rely on my notes.

Tip #5 – When looking at homes, keep the age of the house and possible repairs in mind. Older homes appeal to me, however, I have to think of the time and money needed for repairs. As a single woman who has just begun her career, I don’t have the extra time or money to invest in an aged home. If these resources are available to you or you are interested in restoring a home then you may have more home options available to you. However, if you are like me and have little to no home repair experience other than picking up a phone, then definitely take age and repairs into consideration. Remember, repairs may not be immediate, a ten year old house may need a new roof in three to five years. Do you have the money to pay for that?

Tip #6 – So you’ve found a house that you are interested in, take a trusted friend or relative to see the house to give you an honest opinion. My sister was my voice of reason, she has the same taste as me but she’s a little pickier on quality. She brought things to my attention that hadn’t been, but needed to be. When I really felt indecisive about a house, I brought my father. He quickly assessed what he believed would need to be repaired and gave me a better perspective on the house. I also went to look at the house at different times, various hours of the day and night, to observe the neighborhood. I am pretty sure this annoyed my realtor, but he had a nice check waiting for him at the end so there was no complaining. Do what makes you feel comfortable, buying a house is a big deal and a large investment so you need to feel confident about what you are doing. The only way I felt confident was to revisit, A LOT.

Tip #7 – Remember, this is your starter home, it’s an investment not your home for the rest of your life. You may not be able to afford the beautifully aged home with hardwood floors and intricate details but those are improvements you can add to your home over time. These improvements will also add value to your home for resale so that you can buy the home of your dreams.

According to the National Association of Realtors, in 2008, twenty percent of home buyers are single women (NAR Home…). Hopefully, these tips will ease your stress and help you concentrate on finding a home. Though there are many more steps in the process of purchasing a home, these tips will help you get started.

"NAR Home Buyer and Seller Survey Shows Rise in First-Time Buyers, Long-Term Plans." 08 NOV 2008. National Association of Realtors. 30 Jul 2009

About the author:

Leticia Chapa is a middle school English Teacher in San Antonio, Texas. Leticia recently purchased her first home in February of 2009.