The purpose of this Boston real estate blog post is to help first time home buyers as they begin to consider purchasing their first condo. By the end of this article you will be an informed, first-time home buyer and you’ll have an understanding of how to approach a Boston real estate transaction. My goal is to save you time, money, and hopefully headaches.
This particular topic has been written many time before from the top real estate agents in the country, and I’ve also taken the benefit of pull it all together from of the top resources online for this blog post. I’ve spent a good bit of time on this, so hopefully this will answer all your question regarding buying a Boston condo. Okay, lets get started.
We begin the home buying journey at step #1
Educate yourself on the Boston Condo buying process
The most important step in the home buying process, especially for first time Boston buyers, is educating yourself on both the real estate market and home buying process. You’re going to want to understand everything about a real estate transaction from selecting an agent to viewing properties, to the terms real estate agents use, all the way to identifying the right type of mortgage that fits your needs.
It’s important to understand that there is more to a real estate transaction than typing the term “Boston real estate” into the Google search and choosing the first Realtor that contacts you. In fact this is a dangerous way to go about the Boston condo buying process, especially if it’s your first time.
Before you start looking for Boston condominiums, start looking for the right team that will help you and and makes you fell comfortable. It s fun researching Mortgage Lenders and Real Estate Agents as it is to search for Boston condos on the web, I understand that. It’s also not fun losing thousands of dollars because you selected the wrong Boston real estate agent to represent you.
If you’re anything like me you would rather jump in the pool vs. check to see if it’s cold first. Real estate is a little bit different than jumping into the pool, you can’t just buy a condo and learn from your mistakes as you go because it will cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s why it’s extremely important to educate yourself on how to buy your first home, understanding the process from beginning to close will save you a lot of time, money, and hopefully headaches. I probably could you stated all of this with a lot less words, I’ll work on that moving forward.
Now it’s time to find the money.
When Buying a Boston condo, Shop For The Best Mortgage
Are you still with me. Good. In this part of the blog post you will find tips to help you understand certain terms, processes, and give you the best tips when shopping for money. This section is a long one. You will be borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars, so it’s important for us to be detailed.
If you’re wondering what you can afford the best place to start is at your local bank. Introduce yourself and set up a meeting. I’ve been with Santander Bank in Beacon Hill for several years, please feel free and mention you know me and you will be greeted very friendly and professionally with one of their bank reps.
Compare your loan options.
There are many great programs out there for first time Boston condo buyers and each has benefits, restrictions, and drawbacks. A mortgage professional will outline and compare these with conventional programs to see which meets your needs best.
Don’t fear the PMI. (Private Mortgage Insurance)
Many homebuyers make the mistake of waiting until they can put 20% down to begin their Boston condo search. This usually means spending more money on rent instead of building equity in your own home. Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) allows you to place a smaller down payment in exchange for a small monthly premium until you get to the 20% loan to value (typically 6-8 years). It’s actually cheaper than most people think especially compared to waiting years to save enough.
This is great advice for all first time home buyers who are shopping around for mortgages. A lot of people are still under the impression they ‘can’t’ afford a home because they don’t have 20% to put a down payment. Those days are long gone. When we begin working with clients who haven’t spoken to a lender yet, they typically ask ‘What do I need to know about mortgages?’ so we wrote an article to help answer that question.
Are you familiar with the differences between a mortgage pre-qualification and a pre-approval letter? A mortgage pre-qualification is an informal process that gives you an estimated amount you can afford, while pre-approval letter means the lender has given your file a thorough examination, ran your credit score, checked your W-2 income data, bank statements, etc. A pre-approval letter is far more powerful when you go to make an offer on a home.
There are a lot of great first time home buyer programs Boston residents. I’ll get into that in another real estate blog post.
Work With a Boston Real Estate Agent
It’s important to understand that not all Massachusetts real estate agents know the Boston condo market. Select an agent who knows the market you want to buy in is important. A friend might refer you to broker who operates in the South Shore, but he/she won’t understand the local Boston condo market that you want to buy in.
So my first piece of advice is to interview more than one Boston real estate agent, and if you interview me first we will encourage you to interview others as well. Okay, that may not happen…lol.
In Boston, Massachusetts there are thousands and thousands of Real Estate Agents. Many of them are great, and you’ll know which ones are when you interview more than one. Some Boston real estate agent want to sell you a condo, others want to sell you a lifestyle that meets your needs and will give you a great financial start on your first home purchase. These two types of people are very different, so hire the one that makes the most sense for you.
The intelligent buyers and sellers are going to interview several different agents, and are going to look at a variety of factors before choosing the one they like best. It’s important to ask the right questions if you’re a buyer or seller. Do you want a tech savvy agent? Or a a real estate broker who is going to net you the most money for your home when you sell in a few years, utilizing today’s top strategies?
What I would recommend combination of both, but especially someone who is tech savvy and understands how the web works. If 95% of people are finding Boston condos online it’s important that your broker know whats on the multiple listing service and agents who have pocket listings that will share with your broker. I dive more into MLS and pocket listings at another time.
Once you’ve hired the right Boston real estate agent for the job, it’s time to develop a plan.
Buying a Home? Create a Strategy!
You have formed your Boston real estate team. Now it’s time to develop your plan with all members so you’re all on the same page.
Form a list of priorities for your ideal Boston condo and rank them from the most important to least important. It’s important that you understand you’re not going to find the perfect home. You’ll need to be ready to make some sacrifices, and having a clear list of your priorities will help you make a great decision.
Is location important to you, and how does that location relate to your work commute? What type of economic factors could potentially play a role in home appreciation or depreciation? There are numerous factors that are coming into play when selecting a Boston condo, so make sure you know what you’re looking for and that it’s specific.
A lot of times I’ll work with buyers who are asking to see homes in Beacon Hill, and I have to stop them. Without picking a particular location you’re setting yourself up for wasted time, effort, money and a decision that isn’t based on any data. A lot of the time these are clients relocating to the Boston area who need a Realtor’s help. Our recommendation is to spend time in each different Boston neighborhood, understand what makes them different and how that relates to your list of priorities. Once you have a clear understanding of which neighborhood you’d like, it’s time to move on to the criteria of the condominium you want to purchase.
You’ll want to have a clear understanding of how your criteria (price, location, #of beds and baths, etc.) matchup with the condos you’re looking for. In some cases you may be shopping in a price range that will make it tough to meet your criteria for the location you’d like. At this point the question becomes are you willing to change the location or change your criteria to fit the price point and location? Each client is different, however there is no right or wrong decision, just a belief that location is what matters most to people.
Emotional decisions can cause you to divert from your plan. Educated Boston broker wont let you make decisions based on emotions because they will understand what you want before emotions play a role in your decision making process.
Finding the Boston condo
You have your Boston team, you have your plan, now it’s time to execute it. Treat real estate like a sport. A football coach like Bill Belichick of the Patriots doesn’t go into a game without a plan or strategy to beat the other team, just as you shouldn’t be searching for a Boston condo without a plan or strategy in place to find the perfect one. What makes some teams better than others is their ability to adjust if something isn’t working, remaining agile is important in your Boston condo search.
It’s important to understand, especially for Boston first time home buyers, your home search is likely to begin online, and there are significant differences between searching online and in person for condos. Technology today has given people the ability to enhance photos so much so that it can create a distinctly inaccurate representation of the home. A lot of times photos will portray a room as being a lot bigger than it really is. People can become emotionally attached to a property before they even see it.
Finding a Boston condos to view is my job, your job is picking the best one for you and your love one. If its not me, your Boston Real Estate Agent should have processes in place to ensure you are alerted the second a home comes on the market matching your criteria, our styem will send it to you within minutes of once its online.
What Happens When There Are no Boston condos that meet your specifications?
There are a plethora of first time home buyers in Boston. Right now they’re experiencing some frustration because of the shortage in Boston condos on the market for sale. Fear not, the spring market is almost here and we will be inundated with new listings once the weather warms up. Hopefully by late April or May. I can’t control our New England weather, sorry I;m getting off track again.
Once we find the right Boston condo it’s time to make an offer.
Negotiating the Offer When Buying a Boston Condo
Making an offer is exciting. It’s a game of give and take with just the right amount of give to make sure both parties are happy with the deal. The first thing you need to do is gather information on the sellers and figure out if they priced their home preparing to negotiate down or if they have their home priced firmly. Use this data to understand just how much they will move. Your Boston real estate broker will guide you through this process.
First determine if it’s a buyer’s market or if it’s a sellers’ market because your strategy is going to be different. Some Boston condos are priced just right, and others might be asking for too much, so it’s important to know what you want and what you want to spend. presently, we are in a Sellers market, but don’t fret that could change.
Understanding the competition is another great way to drive the price down. You can see how many other condominiums are priced and compare the differences with the sellers broker. Using the Boston condo sales comparable report can be something you can use to your advantage and if you can’t find a way to use them, there is a good chance you already have a good deal in front of you.
If it’s a buyer’s market we suggest our clients ask for 10% more than they want so they have room to meet in the middle with the sellers. If it’s a strong sellers’ market we urge our clients to not to expect much room in negotiations, instead to focus on asking for things other than a price reduction.
After an offer is accepted there is a quick sigh of relief before clients start wondering what comes after an offer? Don’t drink that cocktail yet, you still have work to do.
What is Ernest Money?
There are common questions regarding Due Diligence money and Earnest money when it comes to a Boston condo purchase. Due Diligence and Earnest money is funds used to secure your intention to buy the condo. Due Diligence gives you a time period to view, inspect, and ensure the property is worth the amount you’re spending. Earnest Money is good faith money that sits in an escrow account until; You reach the closing table or comes back to you if you back out before the end of the Due Diligence period.
If you’re in a seller’s market you’re going to want to use Due Diligence and Earnest Money to your advantage. Let’s say you spot a great deal and you know it’s going to attract multiple offers, how are you going to make your offer stand out from the rest? Due Diligence and Earnest Money is a great way to ensure your offer stands out from the rest in the eyes of the seller.
Inspect EVERYTHING When You’re Buying A Boston Condo
If you’re a Boston first time home buyer you should pay for inspections, even if you don’t think you need because this is a big investment for you. Say an inspector costs you $1,200.00 yet they find thousands of dollars worth of problems with the condo or the condo complex like a roof. You have the opportunity to ask the seller to fix them, or for money back at the closing table. This will cover the inspectors cost and sometimes more and the problems the inspector finds are worth $1,200 back at the closing table.
Inspections are a great insurance policy. Take your time when hiring a great inspector that you can trust to do a good job, just make sure you start it immediately after an offer is accepted.
First Time Home Buyer’s Need an Attorney
Actually all buyers really need an attorney. Hiring a real estate attorney is a wise investment. Make sure the lawyer you’re hiring is a specialist in Boston real estate law and isn’t a general attorney.
A good real estate attorney will be able to help you understand everything that is required. If this is your first time buying a home, a real estate attorney is going to be a great member of your team.
Now that you have found your Boston condo, and everything appears good, it’s time to close on your new home. Our recommendation is to do a final walk through the day of or day before heading to the closing table.
Receiving the Keys to Your First Boston Condo. Your New Home.
Congratulations! You’ve closed the deal and now it’s time to move in. The entire process was a roller coaster ride of emotions, and it probably took a lot out of you. Now its time for that drink, use me as a broker and I’ll buy the first round.
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