We’ve spent the last few months searching for a home in the Syracuse area! It’s been a loooooong process but is finally coming to a close. We will be the first to admit it has been fun at times but torturous at others! We decided to compile a list of things we knew and found out the hard way along with some general words of advice from two amateurs who are excited for move in day! Here is what our experience looked like. If you’re going through this exciting time in your life, we hope it saves you a headache or two!
Decide on a location
This seems pretty obvious but the first thing you’ll want to do is decide where you want to live of course! It isn’t as easy as deciding you want to live in Syracuse, New York. There are tons of different areas and factors to take into consideration. You’ll want to look into different neighborhoods, school districts, and other things that are important to you. When you do settle on an area, drive that commute to some of your most frequented places like work or the grocery store. You’ll want to do this again once you find a house you want and are able to pinpoint the exact location.
Look into taxes in the area
When we began the process, we quickly eliminated some areas we loved based on super high taxes. You’ll be able to see the tax information for the previous year online when you find a house you’re interested in.
Tools to use:
- County website property records. All the property information is public such as; costs, taxes, home additions, etc.
If you want to be taken seriously, do this first! If you find a house you like, chances are it’s a good one. The good ones ALWAYS go fast. This is something you’ll learn very early on. When a good one comes along, you’ll want to be in a position to make an offer before it’s gone. The last thing you’ll want to do is have to figure out your financials before you can make an offer. Don’t wait. Be prepared! Trust us on this!
Set a price range
Just because you are pre-approved for an amount does not mean that is your price range. Once you get pre-approved for a specific amount, you’ll want to seriously sit down and look at your financials to come up with a price range that fits your lifestyle. You’ll want to factor in everything single thing that has to do with your financials, for example; your income, current bills, amounts in savings and checking accounts, and new expenses that come along with being a homeowner. There are great tools out there to help you set up a budget and layout your financials but we used a simple excel spreadsheet!
Get a real estate agent
At this point, you should be ready to find a real estate agent! If you know someone who recently bought a house it doesn’t hurt to reach out and ask if they had a good experience with their agent. If they did and are willing to refer them, take this route! It’s always a better experience to use someone who has a good reputation with clients rather than calling a number you find a billboard. We ended up using a highly recommended agent Mary Doody, from Coldwell Banker. You can find her on her facebook page and website.
Be prepared to do some of the work yourself
It’s 2017. There are tons of websites and apps you can use yourself to house hunt. Don’t expect to hire an agent and have them pick houses you may like. Find the houses yourselves and present them to your agent. They’ll act fast and get you in to see the properties but make sure you have realistic expectations on how this works!
Make a must-have list
Make a list of “must haves” and then quickly come to terms with the fact that you’ll need to be flexible on this. Of course there are some things that are non negotiable. I can imagine everyone wants a place with a bathroom and possibly a roof)but there will be other things you may need to sacrifice. You can spend hours writing out a list of things you’ll need but if a good house comes along and is missing something small on your list, you may want to weigh your pros and cons!
Don’t be afraid of a fixer upper.
We were terrified of a fixer upper. This wasn’t even on our radar. After months of searching for a house though, it’s exactly what we ended up with. When we started house hunting, we were googly eyed over a certain neighborhood. The houses were out of our price range by a long shot and we knew that. One day a fixer upper at a low price popped up in the area we wanted to be in so we were like why not? Let’s go take a look. Location is one thing you can not change! A day later we made an offer!
Understand the process
This is something we had absolutely no idea about when we began looking for homes. Believe it or not, we actually ended up putting an offer in for the very first home we saw. We submitted an offer and received an accepted offer by the seller right back. There is a 3-day contingency for any accepted offer. This means that the seller has up to 3 days to accept other offers but after that the contract is locked. Well, this 3-day contingency actually doesn’t begin until the seller’s lawyer sees it (there are many difficult, small things to know with this process) so we ended up losing the house to a better offer. Even though, it was techinically after the 3-day contingency we didn’t want to push it further and felt like it was a sign.
Come to find out, it was definitely a sign because we ended up finding our home a couple months later in our dream location. It is a fixer upper but now we can make it the way we want it to be! After we received our accepted offer with a bit of negotiating, we filed for a mortgage. This included lots of signing and working with your lawyer. We were lucky enough to work with an amazing mortgage consultant at SEFCU in Syracuse, Carey Clark. She really simplified everything for us and made sure we were getting the best possible rate.
The next step is the absolute WORST! Waiting. We have been waiting for what feels like forever. However, we may have been unlucky because not only was it right through the holidays but the sellers aren’t from Syracuse, nor are they in a push to sell. The one recommendation we have is really having your lawyer push the seller’s lawyer to get things moving if you want to close sooner than later. Our lawyer has been really pushing and we should be closing this week!