Finding the perfect home is similar to trying to find the "perfect" man or woman. It doesn't exist. The real question is "What is the perfect home for you?" Every person and family has a different definition of the perfect home. You should start with some self inquiry to determine your needs and concept of a perfect home. What do you love and hate about your current living situation? What are some must-haves, specifics that you just can't live without? What would your home look like if money, location & obligations were not a factor? Can you find some of these items in whatever area you are looking and price point that is realistic? Fill out my Home Buyers Brainstorming Questionnaire to get yourself started.
Be honest. Is there is something that you think that you would love but is unrealistic? Try to determine what it is about that specific idea that you find appealing. For instance people sometimes think that they want to live far removed from busy areas but once they live there they are miserable or it just won't work for their lifestyle. What is the draw to live far away? Is it privacy, living off the land or amazing views? Can you find some of what you desire right in town? Most areas have little pockets of privacy that are close in to more populated areas. Sonoma County is a great example with tons of sweet little areas like this. I was able to find 3/4 of an acre that feels remote but is actually just minutes from a Starbucks! With young kids, living closer in works so much better for us but we feel very secluded. You can find just the thing to satisfy your greatest desires if you are clear on what you need.
Think BIG but then narrow it down to the necessities and non-negotiables. You may want a pool, a workshop, or be close to the SMART train. Which of these items are must haves? Which are deal breakers. If you love everything else about a house could you put in the pool? Build a workshop? Only you can decide. Location is often the most important factor. You can change a lot about a home but you can not change where it is located! Make a list and refer to it often as you are looking for a home, this will keep you on track to finding a home that you will love for many years to come.
Have you found a house you love only to be disappointed that there are already many other offers on the property? Have you put in an offer on a home only to lose out to other buyers? One strategy that may help is to include a personal introduction letter which will differentiate your offer and may tilt the odds in your favor.
To write a great introduction letter begin by finding out as much as you can about the seller of the property. Have they lived in the home a long time? Did they raise their kids there? Did they make any upgrades or put in landscaping? What do they love to do? All of these questions will give you direction for what to include in your letter. If they have lived in their home for many years they will have many memories and feeling that you will love it as much as they have will make your offer stand out.
What to include in a letter:
1. Introduce yourself to the seller- who are you and what makes you unique?
2. Find connection-what similarities do you have with the seller? Do you both love baseball, gardening, travel, animals?
3. Help them envision you in their home-Can you see yourself sitting on the back deck drinking your morning coffee? Would your child love the play structure in back? Show them that you will love the house as much as they have.
4. Compliment them on specifics about the house, especially if they made the changes!
5. Mention specifics about your offer that may make it stand out-Are you offering a short escrow & closing? Free rent back? Show your flexibility & ability to complete the sale.
6. Don't talk about changes you want to make. Even if you're planning on gutting the place, talk about the things that you do love, the layout of the house, the view, etc.
7. Show emotion, be sincere and highlight positives. These are all things that will help the seller find more connection with you and will highlight your offer.
Will a personal introduction letter help every time? No. Sometimes a seller is motivated solely by money or other factors that you can't compete with. If the seller is an investor or has never lived in the home they are less likely to be swayed by your heartfelt introduction. But many times, a letter can be just the thing to tilt the scales in your favor and have someone choose you over other similar buyers.
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Don't despair! There are many things even first time home buyers can do to be more competitive in today's market. Yes, the market has been going crazy for some time. Interests rates are still extremely low and it is a great time to buy a home for that reason alone. It does look like the steady increase in prices of homes is starting to slow down or level off. Many properties are staying on the market longer and getting fewer offers. There is still a lot of activity in more entry level homes. This means that if you are looking for your first home you need to do EVERYTHING that you can to make YOUR offer to as competitive as possible. Here are some things that you can do to help sellers notice your offer and put it on the top of the stack:
1. Include in your offer a pre-approval letter from your lender that is specific to the property
2. Include a sizable deposit in the offer
3, Offer as much down payment as possible
4. Offer many things to the seller that will help their situation (ie:free rent back, long or short escrow)
5. Include a personal introduction letter (My next post will go into more detail on this)
All of these things can help highlight your offer in the eyes of the seller. Sometimes you just can't compete with an all cash offer or other items but there are many things you can do to stand out and be as strong as possible.
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As a First Time Home Buyer you may be getting very excited about buying your first home. You've started noticing all of the For Sale signs around the neighborhood. Maybe you've gone to some open houses. You are tired of paying someone else's mortgage (that is essentially what you are doing when you are paying rent). Maybe you just want a place of your very own, where you can make improvements that really reflect your personality. A place to wake up every morning and know that it is yours. Your own home.
Well, where do you start? The house hunt process really needs to start with the money. You need to determine what you can afford. I suggest that you meet with a great loan officer (Contact me for recommendation) to discuss where you are currently and what steps you need to take to get where you want to go. It can be a surprising process and you want to be well prepared to make an offer when you find a house that you love. Money is a large factor when making your initial offer. You want to have the following in place when you get serious about finding your new home:
What is the scariest thing to you about buying your first home? Is it the money? Commitment? Regular maintenance? Stability? Understanding what you're signing? Finding the right place?
When I bought my first home I was terrified by the sheer magnitude of the money involved. I couldn't really even fathom what $200,000 was. The most I had made in a year so far was less than $20,000 and I just didn't comprehend how I could commit to buying something that was worth more than I would make in 10 years at the rate I was going. Why would a bank even loan to me? I was lucky that my Dad helped me immensely with both the down payment and getting the loan. Otherwise the bank probably wouldn't have!
It still seemed like such a huge commitment to owe that much money each month. I had always had roommates. They would contribute a big portion of the amount needed for the mortgage payment. But what if one of them moved out? Yikes. I was nervous! But I went for it.
I was SO glad I did! I quickly got used to making the monthly payments with no problem. My home felt different. I would look around and see things that I did not like about the house and I realize that I not only COULD change them but that it was actually making an investment in something that I owned. It was improving my own property and when I would eventually sell it would be more valuable. Even just walking out in the backyard felt different. This was my place, my land, my home and no one could take that away from me.
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Heather Thurber is a Sonoma County native with a strong love for and knowledge of the local area. Running her family business for years, Paperbacks Unlimited, has given her extensive experience that she now brings to the real estate industry. She is highly skilled at working one-on-one with clients and will guide you through every step of the process, helping to make your path home as smooth and stress free as possible. A home purchase is often the largest purchase you will make in your life and Heather is 100% committed to providing excellent service and supporting you to make your best real estate decisions with confidence and clarity.