Thoughtful Home Buying in an Impulse World

7 tips for making a decision you won't regret

buying a home tips
We've all gotten pretty good at impulse purchases. Our rapidly globalizing, technology-obsessed society has seen to that. Indeed, our economy thrives on the principle of providing consumers with any product at any time - just click a mouse, swipe a credit card, instantly transfer funds from one bank account to another. So in a frantic, fast-access, it's-all-disposable world, how does one even begin to make the decision to purchase something of great and lasting value ? like, for instance, a home?

If you're a first-time home shopper, you're probably feeling a bit out of your element. But don't worry. While buying that Tudor, ranch, or brownstone is a bit more complex than buying say, a latte, it is doable. Just gather your thoughts, turn on your reading lamp, and take some advice from real estate and financial gurus Eric Tyson and Ray Brown.

Co-authors of "Home Buying for Dummies?, 3rd Edition" (Wiley, January 2006) - the newest version of America's number-one best-selling home buying book - Tyson and Brown insist that although the idea of purchasing a home for inexperienced buyers can appear daunting, it can be done painlessly if you follow the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared.

"When people have bad experiences buying a home it usually isn't due to lack of intelligence or good intentions," asserts Tyson, who has decades of experience in dealing with real estate. "Rather it is a result of not knowing the right questions to ask and the proper steps to take. That's why we have provided the essential tools for anyone ready to leave leases and landlords behind or trade up."

Clearly, America agrees. Countless consumers have already found Tyson's and Brown's wisdom an integral component of their home buying experiences. Holistic, objective, and in plain English, their latest book covers everything from financing to credit scores to closing the deal. If you're undecided, it will even help you determine whether you're really ready to move out of Renterville.

Among other surprises, there is a brand new chapter devoted to the Internet's new role in real estate. Home Buying for Dummies walks you through the entire purchasing process, from browsing to buying, and outlines any possible scenario likely to occur. Read on to sample a few insights directly from the book.

1. Keep an eye out for a cosmetic "fixer upper." A lazy seller may not even clean or repair their property for perspective buyers. So keep in mind that repainting, tearing up old carpet, replacing worn out appliances, and landscaping can be relatively cheap projects once you purchase. Just be sure you are realistic when assessing whether these defects can be corrected in a cost-efficient manner before you buy. If you play your cards right, one man's trash really can become another man's treasure.

2. Look for the ones motivated to sell. It is easier to buy a home at or below fair market price if you find what is known as a motivated seller. The best way to find a motivated seller is simple: Ask questions! "A huge amount of prospective buyers never ask why a seller is selling, but it immediately determines their level of motivation," Brown says. "You can get a real deal from a person who needs to move to another part of the country pending a new job, for example. Because they have an agenda of their own, a seller in need is a friend indeed."

3. Ride the real estate wave. Real estate sales go through remarkably predictable busy and slow periods. It can be beneficial to shop and buy during the slower times because there is far less competition from other buyers - plus you can often get an even lower price if you find a motivated seller. The holiday season in the dead of winter is a good time to shop, for example. The colder the region, the later this slow period lasts. In warmer regions, however, business begins to pick up as early as February.

4. Make your credit more credible. Most of us need a loan to purchase a house and a great credit report card can ensure that you get a loan with good (low) interest rates. Most credit lenders today consult a FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) score to determine what risk a loan candidate carries. Therefore, it is necessary to keep good credit good and work to improve less than perfect credit before trying to buy.

5. A few ways to improve your FICO score:

- Pay your credit card bills and other monthly payments on time.

- Don't open multiple credit accounts in a short period of time in an attempt to improve your score. Rapid account buildup looks risky to loan officers.

- Know that closing an existing account doesn't erase the account completely. It all remains in your history.

- Do your rate shopping for a specific loan within a focused period of time. FICO scores distinguish between a search for a single loan and a search for many new credit lines, in part by the length of time over which inquiries occur.

6. Enter: Net. Tyson and Brown insist that newer technology is highly beneficial to the savvy prospective buyer and suggest that home shoppers take the initiative to do at least some of their research online. "The Internet is a very useful untapped resource when it comes to buying a home," they assert. "Not only can you check out statistics about perspective communities but you can also peruse houses for sale." Home Buying for Dummies, 3rd Edition includes a compendium of the best web sites.

7. Negotiate your best deal. Negotiation is the key factor in getting the home you want at a fair price. The term negotiation means coming to the table with all the information you need and need to know close at hand. There are several things to keep in mind when you have your eye on a certain estate:

- Do your research and have a good idea of the fair market value for the home you're interested in and determine your own personal upper limit of cost. This way you won't get involved in a bidding war and end up knee-deep in debt.

- Especially with well-priced homes in popular areas, put yourself in the seller's position and remember that they have probably had several inquiries regarding their home already and will eventually choose the candidate with the best combination of price and terms of sale. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage offers the seller tremendous peace of mind that you're serious about buying a home and financially qualified to do so.

When you decide the time has come to buy a home, rest assured that after some well-spent research and exploration, sooner or later you will find your dream home. Applying the formula outlined in Home Buying for Dummies delivers guaranteed results. Tyson and Brown insist that being patient and educating yourself are the best steps you can take to prepare yourself for this exhilarating rite of passage.

"You don't need to be terrified of real estate jargon and seemingly complex processes just because you're the new kid on the block," they say. "Invest the time you need to make a confident decision and you won't regret it; make a hasty decision and you probably will. In some ways buying a home is like hailing a taxicab. If you miss out on one, be patient and keep your eyes open. Another one is just around the corner."