You’ve thought about it and talked about it and finally made your decision: purchasing a new house is one the horizon for you and your family. But is it the right move for you? Buying a house, after all, is a huge, long-term financial commitment. If you go into it armed with a little knowledge, though, you can be fairly certain you’re making the right decision. To that end, here are 6 things every home buyer should know about purchasing a house in Los Angeles.
1. Distinguishing Between Wants and Needs
Before purchasing a house in Los Angeles, one of the first things you should do, according to financial experts, is to get clear on what you want and what you actually need. “Before you even think about hitting an open house, you need to know what you are looking for. Otherwise, you may find yourself falling in love with something impractical or, worse, sweet-talked by an agent into placing an offer on a home that doesn’t fit your needs.”
A good way to proceed here is by making a double-columned list with your wants (the negotiables) one side and your needs (the non-negotiables) on the other. One column will contain all the things you have to have in a house, and the other column will list all those things that you can live without even though you want them. For example, you probably do need three bedrooms, but do you really need that huge master suite.
There is, of course, no perfect house. Your agent, though, can help you find the very best compromise between wants and needs. (To find out more, just call 562-881-9811.)
2. Getting the Process Right
Purchasing a house in Los Angeles also entails a definite process that must be approached in an organized, step-by-step manner. Following the established steps will make everything go a lot smoother.
- Your first step should be to shop for a lender and financing. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage loan is important here. For it will show sellers that you are a serious buyer and will give you more negotiating leverage.
- Next, you should find and retain an experienced local real estate agent. A good agent can help locate all the likely listings and then bring her negotiating experience to bear to help you get a better deal. The time savings alone is worth the agent’s commission.
- The step in this process involves making an offer and then all that comes after – which often means making another offer to counter the seller’s counteroffer and/or negotiating concessions.
- Typically, the final step before closing is the inspection (unless the inspection turns up major problems).
- If the inspection reveals major issues, then you’re back to the offer/negotiating stage. And in this case, it’s wise to lean on your agent’s expertise.
3. Understanding All the Costs
The cost of purchasing a house in Los Angeles goes well beyond the list price. This is something home buyers often forget in all the excitement and then wind up with a home that costs more than they can actually afford.
Homebuyers should, the experts say, “walk into ownership with eyes wide open. That means factoring in all the costs associated with having a place of your own.” And these costs include the following above and beyond the monthly mortgage payment:
- Property taxes
- Homeowners insurance
- Private mortgage insurance
- Cost of maintenance/repairs
- HOA fees
- Closing costs
4. Buying What You Can Actually Afford
Similarly, affordability (which is slightly different from understanding all the costs) has to be factored into your purchasing decision. So in purchasing a house in Los Angeles, you have to determine what you can really afford by looking at all the contingencies.
This means, for example, taking a close and objective look at your job outlook. Is your job secure, or is there the possibility that you could become a victim of outsourcing or automation? And if you were suddenly unemployed, could you keep making those big mortgage payments for several months till you found another job? These are the kinds of things you need to take into account when determining affordability.
Here’s a concrete example from a writer who’s been there. “When my husband and I bought our first house, we were approved for a mortgage of about three times more than we ultimately ended up spending. Fresh out of law school and working for established firms, our finances looked good on paper. But we dialed back our expectations because we weren’t convinced that our income and expenses would remain at those levels. We were right: two years later, we started our own business just as the economy turned south. The less expensive house meant that we could still make our payments even with less income in pocket.”
5. Buying for Your Future Life
One thing that’s absolutely crucial to keep in mind when you’re purchasing a house in Los Angeles is that you should be buying a home that will suit your future life. Things change, and your current life situation may not last long. And if that happens, the home you bought for your life now may not be suitable in a few months.
For example, your family may be just the two of you right now, but will you have enough bedrooms when children come along. Or if you don’t plan to stay in the house for many years, will the price tag allow you to build some equity before you sell? “Depending on the market and terms of your mortgage.” according to industry pros, “you may not actually pay down any real equity for between five and seven years: if you aren’t sure that your house will be the house for you in a few years, you may want to keep looking.”
6. Hiring the Right Agent
Of all the things Los Angeles home buyers should know about purchasing a house, this one very well could be the most important – that is, that you should make sure you hire the right real estate agent. A knowledgeable local agent can help find the house that’s just right for you, protect you against shady dealings, and help you get a better price. Ultimately, it pays to hire a good agent.