The fall/winter 2018 Boston condos for sale market is experiencing increased inventory, less pending sales (less buyers), dropping prices, and increased DOM or days on market, according to the most recent MLS report
If some of those real estate terms have you scratching your head, you’re not alone. A recent survey by NeighborWorks America found that 70% of Americans think the home buying process is overly complicated. Although 87% percent of home buyers use a real estate agent or broker, according to the National Association of Realtors, the agent’s primary job is to facilitate the sale, and they are discouraged from serving as financial or life counselors (we can advise in certain areas, see the last section of this blog post).
5 Essential topics in homebuyer education
If you’ve never owned a Boston Beacon Hill condo or Boston high rise condo, and nobody in your family has ever owned one, how are you supposed to understand the process or even know whether homeownership is a good fit for you? It’s a huge topic area our public education system doesn’t really touch. Fortunately, Boston is rich in financial and home buying experts who want to help fill in the gaps.
Individual classes may vary, but any homebuyer education program should cover some basics. These include:
- Making the decision. Most people buying homes for the first time are making the decision whether to continue renting, or invest in a home. Both have pros and cons. We have written plenty of articles on this on our real estate blog, but sometimes there’s no substitute for having a conversation with other folks who may be facing a similar question.
- Determining how much home you can afford. The class should walk you through the major expenses involved in purchasing a home, from the down payment to mortgage assistance and closing costs. You might also do a basic mortgage calculation to figure out how long it would take to pay off a home based on your current income.
- Learning about borrowing programs. There are a few financial assistance programs in Boston to give a boost to low-income home buyers. Your instructor may know of even more strategies to make the most of your housing resources.
- Strategies for home shopping. How do you know if a home is a good deal? How can you tell if your real estate agent is qualified? What’s the best way to choose a lender? The class should cover these basics and more.
- What to expect from home ownership. Buying the home is just the beginning. A good homebuyer education class should spend a significant amount of time discussing the commitments involved in owning a home, how to budget for ongoing costs like home insurance, taxes and repairs.
What to bring to a homebuyer education class in Boston
Planning ahead can help you make the most of the class you attend. Here are some suggestions from Boston condo agents on what to bring to the table, whether or not you can get it in writing.
- Your long-term plan. You don’t have to have your life mapped out (who does?) but it’s helpful to have some idea how long you’re planning to live in Boston. This is a major factor in making the rent vs. buy decision.
- If you have a budget, it may be helpful to bring a copy. Other financial information, such as a credit report, can also come into play. You don’t need to share this information with anyone, but the instructor may have some specific advice about how much debt is too much, and how much you should be prepared to spend on a mortgage.
- If you’ve gone ahead and gotten a preapproval letter from a lender, that could also be helpful to have on hand.
- So that you can calculate some real-world examples, bring a few flyers from sample homes that you’d like to own. Nothing motivates learning like a sweet reward at the end.
- All of your questions. The agencies leading homebuyer education classes are there to help — and many instructors have been in the lending or real estate business a long time. They love to hear your questions and serve as a resource.
Use a buyer’s specialist, an experienced, educated top real estate buyer’s agent
Real estate agents have a wealth of knowledge about the homebuying process and what to expect as a homeowner. It never hurts to ask, and if we don’t know or can’t answer, we’re always happy to refer you to another resource. Here are some topic areas our buyer’s agents are happy to chat about any time:
- What’s going on with the Boston Beacon Hill condo housing market, what’s the difference between average and median home prices, anyway, and why does inventory matter?
- The best time of year to buy a home
- How to be “in the know” when new listings come on the market and stay ahead of the (often) fast-paced Boston high rise condo market.
- Finding specific properties in Beacon Hill (homes with acreage, fixer-uppers, etc.) and how to get the best overall deal for what you’re buying
- When is the best time of the year to buy a home? (FYI – right about now)
- How long it might take to find the right home, and what to expect at the time of closing.
- Characteristics of various Boston downtown neighborhoods, schools, etc.
- Boston-specific housing laws and zoning restrictions that could affect you.
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