Buying a home starts with planning

• We’re thinking about Buying our first home, how should we go about doing it?

— Figure out how much you can afford: What you can afford depends on your income, credit rating, current monthly expenses, down payment and the interest rate. It’s best to visit a lender to find out for sure.

— Shop for a loan: Save money by doing your homework. Talk to several lenders, compare costs and interest rates and negotiate to get a better deal. Consider getting pre-approved for a loan. It may also assist you in your negotiation process when you do find that perfect home.

— Learn about home-buying programs: FHA loan programs offer lower down payments and are a good option for first time home buyers. There are also first-time home buyer classes that will educate you on such programs.

— Know your rights as a consumer: There are several laws consumers should know about when buying a home. Take the time to find out more about these laws: the Equal Opportunity Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, borrower’s rights and predatory lending

— Shop for a home: Choose a qualified professional. On Kaua‘i, you can go to www.kauai-realtor.com to find a member of the Kauai Board of Realtors.

— Have a wish list: Decide what features you want in a home. Have a home shopping checklist, and take it with you when comparing homes. Know the facts about “fixer uppers” and home purchase and repair programs.

Decide if you want to buy vacant land and have your home built for you. If you choose a home in a neighborhood with a home owners association, be sure to request more information so you can review it before closing.

— Make an offer: Discuss the process with your real estate agent. If the seller counters your offer, you may need to negotiate until you both agree to the terms of the sale.

— Get a home inspection: Make your offer contingent on a home inspection. An inspection will tell you about the condition of the home, and can help you avoid buying a home that needs major repairs.

— Shop for homeowners insurance: Lenders require that you have homeowners insurance. Be sure to shop around.

— Sign Papers: You’re finally ready to go to “settlement” or “closing.” Be sure to read everything before you sign!

• I am going to sell my home. Do you have any advice for me?

— Time becomes money: It’s a good idea to place your home on the market as far in advance as possible of purchasing a new home. If you find a new home first and then try to sell your present home, you may end up paying two mortgages.

— Check your curb appeal: Strong curb appeal will lure potential buyers inside, where you have to live up to their expectations. Potential buyers could be looking for well-maintained lawns, smooth driveways, properly stored lawn mowers and hoses. Trimming trees and planting flowers will enhance the visual attractiveness of your house.

On the inside buyers are attracted to clean, spacious, and attractive houses. Cleaning is key. Your windows, floors, bathroom tiles should sparkle. Keep your home neat, clean and picked up at all times.

— Choose a real estate professional: Professionals will help promote your home to other agents and list your property in multiple listing services (MLS), which is a computer database that all real estate professionals who subscribe to the service can access, giving your home exposure.

Professionals will help you establish a fair asking price for your home. They will schedule appointments to show your home to prospective buyers even when you are not there.

They will help you negotiate with a qualified buyer.

— Setting a fair price: You and your real estate agent will factor in many conditions and variables when pricing your home. Your location, economic conditions, supply and demand in the local housing market, seasonal influences, local schools and comparable home prices in the neighborhood. The unique aspects and features of your property will also be included in price setting, some of which include pool, air conditioning and security systems.

• The Kauai Board of Realtors is a nonprofit organization comprised of 700 Realtors and associates from the bank, mortgage and escrow industry. The board answers reader questions twice a month in the Business section. For more information, visit www.kauai-realtor.com

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