There’s only one place that Dorothy reminds us is like nowhere else: home. When thinking about purchasing a home, though, the process can seem overwhelming. There is so much to consider, and each person will have to think carefully about what the most important features are in his or her perfect house. Whether you’re looking for a home with a finished basement, a three-car garage or an amazing yard, there are plenty of professionals in town who can help. Read on as they share their advice for selecting the best home for you in Johnston.
Most of the professionals agree — there’s one place to get started, and that’s getting preapproved for a loan. This important step will help you determine how much you can spend on a home and figure out what your budget will be. It’s important to determine the price point at which you want to start your search.
“We start by asking them what they think they can afford, and we can give them a reality check in terms of whether that’s realistic,” says Matt Morris, vice president of lending with Charter Bank. “We typically are not in the practice of recommending a higher-priced home than what they’re comfortable with. It’s unique in terms of each person.”
Morris says industry standards say that your house payment should not be more than 40 percent of your take-home pay. However, most people aren’t comfortable even spending that much. He says a good lender will work with you and evaluate each situation on a case-by-case basis to determine the best budget.
For first-time buyers, it’s also important to remember that those checks will be run again before closing. Don’t go out and buy a new car or do other things that will change your qualification numbers.
Morris says the most popular product for first-time buyers is the 80-10-10 loan. The borrower comes up with 10 percent of the cost of the home, and then the bank does an 80 percent first mortgage and 10 percent second mortgage. It makes it easier for a homeowner to get out of the home if they have to move suddenly without writing a big check.
Right now, rates are still good and historically low. It’s possible that they will stay relatively low as long as the economy continues to struggle. Low rates are good news for buyers.
The housing market in Johnston is also booming, realtors agree. Things slowed down like they did all over the country, but now Johnston is a seller’s market. Inventory is low, and if you are thinking about selling, it’s the right time.
“Things are moving very fast,” says realtor Tina Johnson with Coldwell Banker. “Most houses are moving within five to seven days if they’re priced correctly. People are losing out if they wait.”
For those who can’t find what they want and decide to build, that can also be a bit tricky right now. Lots are in short supply, and prices have jumped up.
“There are pockets where lots are available, but not as many as are needed to fulfill the demand,” says developer Kevin Kohles. “We can’t meet the needs, so there are more buyers than there are lots. We used to consider affordable lots $50-70K, and with the cost now, those lots are now $70s and up.”
For those who purchase new construction, another thing to remember is property taxes will kick in and make your payments grow. It’s another important factor to remember when budgeting for a new home. Kohles says.
Choosing the right home
Once you’ve determined your budget and you’re ready to start hunting, it’s time to do a bit of research. Determine where you want to live — with kids, think about schools — and what you want in a home.
“You always want to look at location, and schools are a part of that whether you have kids or not,” Johnson says. “Know the district and boundaries.” Knowing where the elementary schools are located is important when buying, particularly since this can change frequently in a growing district.
What are the most important features you want in a home? Realtors agree it can be next to impossible to find a home with every single thing, but make sure you get the top ones.
Also, be sure you think about all the expenses that go into home ownership. You need to figure in things like property tax when determining if the home is within your budget. If it’s a new home or you’re moving from an apartment, you also need to consider whether the home will have out-of-pocket costs like appliances and window coverings.
Johnson says that you also need to consider resale. If you get a good deal, you have to give a good deal. You also need to make sure the home you choose is the right home for your lifestyle. You might get a good deal, but you have to live with that home after the deal is done.
“We try and get people to understand that even though you might not want this or that feature, you have to look at the issue in terms of resale,” Johnson says. “I’ve done this for 16 years, and I can count on my hands the number of people who have been in their house more than five years. You never know what will happen.”
Professionals also recommend that buyers include their option to hire a professional to inspect the property they wish to purchase in the offer. It’s also important in Iowa to think about radon testing. Since a large majority of homes are coming up with high radon levels, deciding who will pay for that to be fixed is another concern.
Johnson says another consideration is choosing the right realtor. Make sure you choose someone you can trust and who will work with you in a timely manner.
“You want to make sure your client gets out to look at properties right away so they’re not gone before they even have a chance to look at them,” she says. “You want to make sure your realtor will answer their phone and be prompt and will be available to you. I don’t mean just 8 to 5. You want a realtor who will work with you to get that property that you want.”
Annie Novak and her fiancé Thomas Clough knew they wanted to purchase a house together in Johnston, but their home search went much faster than they anticipated.
“We’re getting married in July, so we thought we’d wait to buy until school got out since we’re both teachers,” Novak says. “I was renting, but Thomas put his house on the market and it sold in three days. So it took us two weeks to find our house, and we were moved in by the end of March.”
Novak says they knew they wanted to stay in the Johnston school district. Novak’s daughter Juliet had just finished first grade at Lawson Elementary. Their new home puts them in the boundary for Timber Ridge Elementary. She’s thrilled to have found a home that will allow her daughter to continue in what she believes is a top-notch district in the metro.
They also had some other wish list items for the new home. Clough loves to cook, so a big kitchen was a priority. They both wanted hardwood floors if possible. Novak says she was also hoping to get a large master bedroom with closet and bathroom.
“This one we walked in and said, ‘This is it,’ ” she says. “It’s honestly all we had hoped it would be and more. The bike path is right off our sidewalk. Juliet’s new school is half a mile away. Really and truly, we got the house for a great price, and the timing worked out. And we love it.”