House hunting tips
October 20, 2012 6:15 PM   Subscribe

House hunting tips please.

We're beginning to look for homes. What smart tips do you have? We downloaded the RedFin app and started going to open houses. A realtor suggested we sit at different ends of a table, make lists of what we wanted and then compared. That was a neat idea. More stuff like that would be welcome.

Similarly, I discovered that sharing a RedFin account was easier than sending each other links.

We haven't found a relator yet, but tons of people have recommended them to us. Plus I think going to open houses is good for getting a vibe from people.

FWIW, we're not actually going to get serious about buying (because of current lease, child's school location, and lack of downpayment) until after the new year. But we're checking out open houses to see what is out there.

We've settled on a particular high school area (our kid is 4, but the reach for this high school works for both of our commutes). We did a mortgage calculator and know what we could afford. We haven't yet talked to our credit union.

We're in Seattle if that matters. Our biggest concerns are school district and commuting time. One of us bought a condo over a decade ago, but we're fairly green when it comes to buying a home.
posted by k8t to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
The two things that you cannot change after you buy a place is its location and the size of the lot. Almost everything about the house itself can be changed (barring things like historical district restrictions, of course) -- you can reconfigure interior walls, add an entire floor, change all of the physical systems, and so on. But you can't move the property or (except in unusual situations like buying an adjoining property) change its boundaries.

So I'd argue that when you are looking at places and making comparisons to weight location and the physical attributes of the lot more highly than things that are totally mutable like the number of bathrooms. It probably doesn't need to be said, but location includes things like what the traffic on the street is like at different times of day, not just school district and commute times.
posted by Forktine at 6:34 PM on October 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

I'm gonna run counter to the "Choose a realtor" suggestion: We went to open houses, when we found one we liked we made the purchase through Redfin. I hope to never buy another house, but if it means working with Redfin again, I'll consider it: We love the people we worked with at Redfin.

Everyone values different things: We wanted an older neighborhood with mixed age homes and a grid street layout, walking distance from a downtown, and absolutely no HOA. As Forktine suggests, weight location and lot size more than other elements.

The other thing to watch out for: Beware Realtorization: watch out specifically for new landscaping and new paint. We thought we were careful about those and still ended up with things that we thought were okay that we hand to fix. In many cases new landscaping means you're going to have to haul off a whole bunch of wood chips to get back to code separation of wood in the house and landscape, and new paint is slapped on as cheaply as possible and you're going to have to strip and wash with TSP and re-paint with high quality paint. A lot of the "we'll gussy this place up to make it look good" means "it's going to be worse to fix it right than if they'd just let it be".
posted by straw at 6:47 PM on October 20, 2012 [8 favorites]

A realtor suggested we sit at different ends of a table, make lists of what we wanted and then compared.

Also make lists of what you don't want. What are the dealbreakers? A busy road? A pool to maintain? A tiny kitchen? Etc.
posted by scratch at 6:49 PM on October 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

You've settled on a location and a price range, which is a good start. And you're right to make commuting time and good schools a priority.

Make a list of the qualities you're looking for in a house. Think about who will be living in the house and the things you'll do in the house and what kind of space you'll need for those things. How many bedrooms do you need? How many bathrooms? How much parking? How much storage space will you need? Do you need room for a home office or studio or kid's playroom? Do you have family from out of town who visit a lot and will it be a good idea to have a guest room? Think about future needs too. Do you need an extra bedroom for the second child you might be planning on having? Do you want a fenced-in yard for the dog you might want to get? Divide these qualities into "must haves" and "nice to haves", and keep it in mind while you look.

Then think about how much work you're willing to do on a house. Some people will only buy a house that's in good shape. If you're willing to take a place that needs work, you'll get more house for your money and have a more valuable house long-term, though you will have to be willing to put the effort and the reno dollars in to get there.

In any case, get a home inspection and read it very carefully so you know what you're in for.

When you look at a house, look at it could be rather than as it is. Some people will go into a house and say, "I don't like the paint colour in the living room," and walk back out. There are different grade levels to renovations. Things like a fresh coat of paint and new light fixtures and curtains or new hardware on the kitchen cupboards can make a world of difference and aren't very expensive or terribly time-intensive changes, and at any rate these things are inevitable changes any homeowner has to make at some point, so don't let that stop you from buying a house that would work.

New flooring or drywall is more expensive but not terribly so. Things like moving walls or replacing bathroom fixtures or redoing an entire kitchen can be a major investment, so think twice about those. Things like a damaged foundation are REALLY problematic, and I would say don't take a house needs a lot of structural work, because it's no fun living in a construction site for a year, especially with a small child.

Don't be put off by dirt or the current owner's decor, either. It really means nothing about the structural condition of the house. When I was shopping for a house, I walked away from negotiations from a cute, tastefully decorated house that had major structural and mechanical issues and bought a house that looked like a grimy dump but was in great shape structurally.

Above all, keep your head and don't let fun extras or dumb trivial things over-influence you. I've heard a story about a couple who had a needs/wants list, and then threw it out the window when they found a house with a hot tub. The realtor for the hot tub house told the couple's realtor he couldn't believe he was able to sell the house for the high price he did, that it really wasn't worth it. Don't be that couple.
posted by orange swan at 6:52 PM on October 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you decide that you'd like the roof redone or the windows redone, ask for a discount on the price. DON'T ask that the homeowners do it before you move in, as they'll just have the lowest bidder to the work. A friend of mine ended up with 10 single pane windows he had to then turn around and replace again 2 years later, because he asked the homeowners to do the replace before the final sale.
posted by RogueTech at 6:56 PM on October 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

1. Start looking at mortgage information now. It's a lot to learn at once and can be kind of frantic in the last few weeks. Figure out all of the little nickle & dime costs and what can be left out. There are some other threads here specifically on mortgages. Talk to your credit union, other banks, online banks, etc.

2. Take photos of open houses. It's so easy to forget what a place actually looked like, and either disparage it or glorify it in your mind, weeks later. They'll all start to blur in your head. Take a bunch of pix, dump them into one Flickr gallery or whatever, and document with the asking price and sale price, bathrooms and bedrooms, square footage, lot size, and the major issues/benefits. The photos on Redfin and other real estate sites all disappear shortly after the sale, so take the interior shots when you're at the open house. You don't have to go crazy - 10 or 15 will really help.

3. No need to get a realtor now.

4. Ask around about redistricting. It would really suck to move into a place for a specific school and find out there's a redistricting plan for 3-5 years out. Then again, he's four, and lots can happen in the next 10 years.

5. Find a good house inspector now. Talk to a few on the phone and have one or two that you really like and trust. You might want a structural engineer too -- we hired both kinds of inspectors for our house purchase and it was a good move.

6. Drive by and walk around the neighborhood at all hours of the night and day, if possible. If there is a neighborhood listserv, get on it now, if possible. You can both ask questions and get a sense of major issues in the area.
posted by barnone at 6:59 PM on October 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

How many bedrooms do you need? How many bathrooms? How much parking? How much storage space will you need? Do you need room for a home office or studio or kid's playroom? Do you have family from out of town who visit a lot and will it be a good idea to have a guest room? Think about future needs too. Do you need an extra bedroom for the second child you might be planning on having? Do you want a fenced-in yard for the dog you might want to get?

After you sit down and write out a list like that (which is a great thing to do), take the time to break that list down into things that are easy and cheap to change (eg building a fence), things that can be changed with some money and hassle (eg adding a bedroom), and things that are extremely difficult or impossible to change (eg number of off-street parking spaces).

While I'd never suggest someone buy a house without getting an inspection, my experience of house inspections is that they are a total waste of money and you get a rudimentary report with no recourse for errors. It's a mandatory part of the mortgage process, I think, and there's always the chance you'll get a useful one, but if you want to know about the house's condition there's no substitute for doing a walk-through with an experienced contractor who does framing, foundation, and rehab work.
posted by Forktine at 7:05 PM on October 20, 2012

Always be willing to walk away. You are the buyer, its your money and their are lots and lots of houses.

Buy the worst house on the best street you can. You can't change the lot, neighborhood or neighbors so factor all that in. And if you buy the worst house (especially if it was a rental previously) you will be neighborhood heroes (assuming you fix it up).

Once you start pursuing a house or two:

Get a structural engineer and a contractor to look at anything you are iffy about. The couple of hundred dollars for either professionals time is well worth it.

Go to your local public works desk/planning desk(for whichever town you are buying in-lots of suburbs) at city hall and ask is their anything we need to know about this lot? like future planned improvements, is it part of a pending local improvement district or is the street it is on a future arterial? ask about any vacant land nearby if big things are in the works their. Ask about the age of the infrastructure in the neighborhood and local flooding , ask about floodplain zone it is in and what kind of soils are in the neighborhood.

Buy Mike Holmes book and start watching holmes on homes. Get a subscription to fine homebuilding magazine so your inspectors and Realtors can't take you for a ride. And don't be shy about asking specific question on here.

This is the biggest single purchase you will make. Don't make it a bad one. Each individual part of the house is usually pretty simple. But there is so much to look at it can be overwhelming.

Do your own inspection. Buy a good flashlight, square and at least a 3' long level. Mike holmes books and fine home building will give you the stuff to look for.

Don't just look at houses in your price range. Look above and below also. YOu can get an idea for what each 50k in home prices buys you. Also look at homes outside your district if you have time (and you do). Maybe you can get a much better home cheaper and close enough to work you don't need two or even one car and can use that money for private school (or something like that).

The houses I have enjoyed living in the most where the ones close to where I work and a good grocery store. It is really great to walk to work everyday, and being able to run over to a grocery store to get the fresh ingredients for a great meal is not to be taken lightly either.
posted by bartonlong at 7:14 PM on October 20, 2012 [10 favorites]

Don't buy a house without getting a home inspection first.

One critical piece of information here is that (maybe not where you are, but certainly where I am) any jackass can hang out a shingle and call themselves a home inspector. Figure out who the real, reputable home inspectors in your area are, and pay the money for them. They won't be cheap. But if you think they're expensive, suck it up and imagine the cost of them getting something wrong.

I have stories there, because the home inspector on my first home was an idiot, and those stories are epic.

Occasionally the seller will do a home inspection and provide that information to any prospective buyers; don't let that convince you not to have your own done. You want the inspection done by somebody whose contractual obligations are to you, not to the seller.

Beyond that, one thing we did that was not cheap but was still very much the right decision is: value time over space. A smaller place with a much shorter commute has made us much, much happier than the alternative would have.
posted by mhoye at 7:32 PM on October 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

When we bought, bidding wars were the norm. We only ever made an initial offer and one follow-up offer. Then we walked away. We didn't want to be that couple that woke up the next day having bought a house $75,000 over our budget.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:35 PM on October 20, 2012

I'm not at the stage of my life yet where I can afford my own house, but I use the Zillow app like a fiend whenever I'm in an area that I like so I can see what houses have gone for historically and get details on whose house has been upgraded or was sold in a short sale. It's a nifty look into neighborhoods sometimes.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 7:51 PM on October 20, 2012

Right after you visit a home, make some quick notes on the sales sheet on the features you like and don't like. If you can be organized, keep a binder with 3 sections: Like It, Love It, Hate It and file the sales sheet away for future reference.
If you are on the hunt for several months & have seen over 30 houses without finding a good prospect, go through your sections and determine what it was that made you like, love or hate various properties. You might find out that you want things you really weren't aware of wanting and those "must haves" aren't really that important.
If you want stainless, granite, wood floors, you are almost better off finding a house without those "hot" features and adding them later so you get exactly want you want.
Ask your friends, coworkers and family if they've worked with an agent recently and if they have recommendations.
The agent I used was a friend of my parents, her husband worked for my dad and she sold my grandmother's condo before she worked with me. She went on to sell a great aunt's house, help siblings buy and sell their houses and I also referred her to a coworker.

Ditto on the house inspection. Only make an offer contingent on the house passing inspection. I brought a friend who video taped the whole thing - the inspector had no problem with it and even asked for a copy himself. I have goofy track lighting and without that tape, I'd never remember how to remove the casing for bulb replacement.
posted by jaimystery at 7:52 PM on October 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Choose a house based on the three L's: lot, location, and layout. Do NOT pay as much attention to the three C's: color, cleanliness, and condition, because you can change those.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:04 PM on October 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

I remember your previous question about Seattle neighborhoods. We've been actively house shopping in Seattle since May. I don't have slam-dunk tips for you, obviously, since we've yet to successfully buy a home. But here's some Seattle-specific advice.

Regarding schools - as annoying as they can be, the neighborhood mommy email groups are a decent source for school news. Since you work at UW, I am going to hazard a guess that you are looking at the Roosevelt High feeder neighborhoods? NE Seattle has experienced a baby boom that's taken the SPS district by surprise, and there is not enough space for all the kids. It's not yet clear where the district is going to make the space in the elementary and middle schools. SPS has done redistricting in the recent past, they are likely to do it again in the future. I don't think this will affect the high schools as much, but it may affect what your area attendance school is, which may affect which high school area you are in.

Seattle Public Schools' address lookup tool is here.

However you feel about state-mandated testing, you can pick through the data at OSPI's Washington State Report Card website. It's a way to get a feel for the general quality of individual schools.

Regarding houses - so here's a gotcha that we weren't aware of. We all know during the housing boom years that the banks would underwrite any loan and most of the appraisals were of the drive-by variety. Things have changed. In Seattle there are many older homes with finished attic or basement spaces listed as bedrooms. They often are not bedrooms per the building code, and banks are starting to catch this in their appraisals during underwriting. The sellers (and buyers) will call some house a 3br and price accordingly, and then the deal falls apart because the appraiser determines it's a 2br. A lot of agents just don't mention this ... there seem to be a number of agents and sellers around who believe it's still 2006. We got a little burned on this, but it was an educational experience ...

Regarding $$$ - Mortgage brokers do not have a fiduciary duty to their "clients." They can present whatever they want to you and tell you it's the best deal, even if what they mean is that it's the best deal that gets them a high commission. It is worth it to shop around for mortgages and see what the different banks and credit unions are offering. Mortgage shopping has been my favorite part of all of this. It turned out that there was pretty much no difference in the rate offered. The differences came down to the assorted closing costs, cost of points, and PMI. (The PMI is really where some banks/credit unions hose their customers, so watch out if that's relevant for you.) I've mentioned this before on AskMe, but I found that as good a deal as our credit union offered, a bank offered us a significantly better one.

Regarding agents - we've already gone through one and are now working with a real estate lawyer. Some stuff he told us - agents are basically trained to show you five houses right off the bat and get you to buy one of those. Also, in the MLS, there are notes for the agents that are private, and sometimes they will put incentives in there for each other, like, "Bring a full-price offer and buyer's agent gets extra 1% commission." Shady stuff like that. It's not an ethical industry. So ask your agent to show you those notes. I'm sure most agents are just generally helpful salespeople, but aim for the most ethical one you can find.

I have a friend who used Redfin when buying her (very nice, expensive) Capitol Hill house, and she was not overly pleased with them. She told me that it felt like they rushed her through closing and did not make an effort to get her questions answered. Then again, a lot of real estate agents will do the same and charge more.
posted by stowaway at 8:15 PM on October 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

After owning our home for a while, we have a list of Things We Don't Want to Fix that we're keeping in mind for our next home. They include:
- Foundation must not be made of brick. We are not redoing the foundation completely in order to make the house remotely earthquake proof.
- We prefer all the systems of the house be in reasonable order. We can, but don't want, to muck with electrical and plumbing as much as possible.

Otherwise, though, you can fix most problems in your house. Think about how you use your current space, and what rooms are most important to you. For us, that's the kitchen. Next time, we'll look very closely at the kitchen and how it's laid out. I might even pretend to cook in there before we make an offer.

When you fall for a house, spend some time in the neighborhood. Are there other kids around for your kid to play with? Is your house on a major bus route? Is there a store on the corner where people spend their evenings yelling? What are the surrounding neighbors like?

In contrast to stowaway's commentary on realtors, ours was great. He drove us around to a gazillion houses, mostly to have use get the feel for househunting. Basically, he said, he wanted us to see SO MANY houses that it was easy for us to go into a place and say yes or no. What you're doing now is great for that -- it'll help you become inured to a lot of the BS in the real estate industry so that when your right house shows up, you can jump on it.
posted by linettasky at 8:41 PM on October 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I was house hunting (took me 2 years of looking), I enjoyed reading blogs like Curbed as a way of getting other people's perspectives on homes. They usually do a mix of fantasy mansions, hot listings and starter type homes. If you read the comments, you see a wide variety of responses and I found the LA version of the blog to be entertaining.

One tip for you is to narrow in on the neighborhood you like and set alerts in Redfin. Do not go by the photos alone, a quick drive by is worth it to investigate.

The house we bought had HORRIBLE photos on Redfin and I actually X-ed it out in Redfin because it looked so shabby. Another house was listed around the corner that we came to see, which turned out to be artfully photographed but horrible in actuality (dog pee soaked into carpet all over house). On a whim, we walked by the house that I had written off and fell in love with it. It was great in person and I never would have known based off of the horrible photos on line.

Another tip is to let you know that it is a good idea to go pull the permit record for any house you go into escrow on. First of all, you learn a lot about your house and second of all, it is important to verify what work on your house was permitted and what was not. If there's a skylight in your bedroom but no permit for one on record, that is something that you want to know.

Go to as many open houses as you can. When you first start looking, you have special goggles on that are distorting. This is only temporary and you can remedy this by exposing yourself to a wide variety of homes to get educated.
posted by dottiechang at 8:48 PM on October 20, 2012 [7 favorites]

The other thing you cannot change after you buy your house is the orientation of the house and/or lot. I knew nothing about house buying when we bought ours besides "south facing garden." I bought a house with a south facing garden. I neglected to think though the part where that garden is entirely overlooked by a very tall embankment.

Occasionally I look at the houses across the street with their "less desirable" north facing gardens and feel a real pang of regret at their sunny fa├žades.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:03 PM on October 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

As others have mentioned, do all you can to overlook the appearance of the house that you can change, and focus on the bones that you can't (or at least, will cost you more). Try to imagine how you would use the space, how you would furnish the rooms, ignoring how the house currently appears or (if the seller is good) is staged.

Ditto looking beyond the online photos. A good photographer can sell the house, and a bad one can make you skip it. Also, photos rarely give a good idea of how rooms flow.

Ditto checking in on the permit history. Also, you could then chat with the zoning/ planning staff about the upgrades you're thinking of doing, and get their input in the amount of work it would take, or if nothing else, the rough cost for permits. And if you find a home with a view, find out how that view could change. How tall can houses get in your area? Would a second story next door change what you love about the house?

Decide how much you want to modify the house, and if you are open to renovations and remodeling, figure out how much you'd do, how much it would cost, and when it would have to be done. For example, my wife and I are getting a house with great space, but a less-than-stellar kitchen and sub-par bathrooms. The spaces are fine, and we can live in these spaces, so the timing of these upgrades aren't critical, but they factored into our value of the house. Also, we have family in the area, so we can share their kitchen if ours is torn up for a few weeks.

Along these lines, don't let yourself get wooed by a home with great upgrades. Consider: would those upgrades be something that you would make, or are they things that look nice but are best fit for someone else's life? Granite counters and stainless steel utilities are great, but you can add those in yourself if you really want them.

On the flip side, don't focus solely on price per square foot. It's an easy criteria to use to compare houses, but doesn't take into consideration the use of those spaces. Who needs two great rooms? If you do, great! If not, you're getting useless space that could bring price per square foot down.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:17 PM on October 20, 2012

No HOA if at ALL possible. They can make your life a nightmare with their picayune and often arbitrary demands.
posted by parrot_person at 3:29 AM on October 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Buying a home is a strange experience. You are a sheep, and a long line of professionals are waiting in succession, each to clip a little wool from you. You're an amateur surrounded by professional fleecers. You are the money; you are in control, but you are severely limited by your ignorance which no one has any real interest in curing you of. It can be hard to cure yourself of it as well because there are so many variables that general advice is often too general to be useful down in the trenches of your particular case.

If you do get an agent keep in mind an agent's motivations. They want to close as fast as possible. What keeps them more aligned to your interest is hoping you recommend them to other people. But even that can be more about making you feel good than necessarily doing right by you.

She told me that it felt like they rushed her through closing and did not make an effort to get her questions answered. Then again, a lot of real estate agents will do the same and charge more.

Yep once the deal is lined up, agents will want to rush closing and start making themselves less available to you. The money is coming, so any further work they do for you is basically for free. They are mentally "done" with you at this point, which means they are suddenly a lot less likely to return calls promptly, and pretty much guaranteed to go back on at least one small promise of something they would do for you. They're your best buddies until the deals are lined up.

It turned out that there was pretty much no difference in the rate offered. The differences came down to the assorted closing costs, cost of points, and PMI.

There's APR but APR assumes you will pay off the mortgage over the course of the whole 30 years. A lower fee and higher rate is a bet you will be moving sooner rather later, which most people do. Hence why banks are happy with trying to make a low rate seem like The Most Important Thing. Try to calculate the total cost given how long you expect to live there which sounds like a number they might help you calculate but brother it isn't.
posted by fleacircus at 5:08 AM on October 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Get a realtor who's experienced with the neighborhoods you're looking in. When we started looking we had no idea how much that knowledge mattered - we just went with the nice guy that Redfin assigned us, who'd been a lumber salesman until the previous month - and thank God we didn't get the place that we put in an offer for with him, because he knew nothing about demographics, schools, demand, etc., and we would have been wildly screwed in the downturn if we'd bought that place. Ask people who live in great neighborhoods for a recommendation.

(Things like schools matter a great deal even if you don't have kids or plan to have them, because they impact the resale value of the house.)

Be aware that good places may not show up on the websites. My agent sold my place and it never went up on Trulia, Zillow etc., because serious buyers have realtors who will bring their clients in for the open houses (or even private tours) and she didn't want looky-loo traffic; we had more than enough as it was.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:03 AM on October 21, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks all. Walter (of Tina-rescuing fame) is very impressed. :)
posted by k8t at 9:11 AM on October 21, 2012

You are a sheep, and a long line of professionals are waiting in succession, each to clip a little wool from you.

This is ABSOLUTELY true. The residential real-estate business works by convincing the buyer to "fall in love" with a "home" so they can be bilked at every stage of the process. The most crucial advice is to walk away if you think you HAVE to buy a particular house to be happy. Buy the most rational house and let the wonders of confirmation bias take care of the subjective part.

I bought a house a few months back, and here's my advice based on that experience:

1) Stick with Redfin but find an experienced, high-volume Redfin agent in their directory. The other buyers' agents I talked with had closed 6-8 transactions in the last 12 months; my Redfin agent had closed over 50. If you do 6-8 deals a year, you're going to be desperate to make each one happen and will do whatever it takes to get a buyer to close. If you do 50, you'd like every deal to close but you're not going to force it -- heck, you don't have time to force it. Redfin also does a bare minimum of pressuring and cajoling to BUY RIGHT NOW. Plus the rebate is pretty fantastic.

2) If it's anything like my market, expect total chaos the week after your offer is accepted. I should have had a title company and home inspector selected ahead of time and I shouldn't have been travelling much of that week. It worked out in the end but made for a stressful week.

3) Great as Redfin is, expect any agent to push you to use low-friction service providers which are often among the more expensive. My agent recommended a title company that turned out to be the cheapest but pushed back on using my credit union for a mortgage because they're "sometimes slow." Remember that you're in the driver seat.

4) NEVER use a home inspector recommended by an agent or who is also a contractor. Plan to attend the inspection and take your own notes. My inspector was phenomenal (50-page report including pictures, explained everything as he went along, fixed minor problems), well worth the extra $120 he charged over the going rate in this area. I also found the articles on InterNACHI's site a valuable resource for reading up on features I was unfamiliar with in houses I considered.

5) The best mortgage site out there is The Mortgage Professor. I'm not sure about using the site's referral service, but being able to look up wholesale mortgage rates was useful since I could quickly figure out that no one was likely to beat my credit union's rates.

6) Take the pre-closing walk-through very seriously. Retrace your inspector's steps, paying particular attention to anything the seller fixed or the remnants of any staging that was done (e.g., holes left by staged curtains).

7) When you get the HUD-1 before the closing, ask your lender about every single fee that you're unaware of. Ideally, have a friend who knows your local real-estate market review each charge, since things like owners' title insurance may or may not be useful depending on the particulars of your local market and even your specific house.

8) With a smaller family and with high school so far in the future, I'd consider the trade-offs of individual houses rather than looking at only one high-school district. Where I live in northern VA, the premium for the best school pyramids would buy a lot of private-school tuition and even the worst schools are, on a national level, fantastic. I don't know if that's the case where you are, but I see a lot of people buy bad-fit houses here to get into the "right" school.
posted by backupjesus at 10:01 AM on October 21, 2012 [11 favorites]

Fleacircus and backupjesus's comments remind me of something else: beware of the spurious tax advice! A few of the mortgage brokers and real estate agents I spoke with volunteered some completely wrong "tax tips" as some sort of selling point. It was somewhat satisfying to tell them they were wrong and rattle off the relevant part of the internal revenue code (I am an accountant), but mostly I was appalled. I can't imagine that tax advice is the only thing they are getting wrong.

And like fleacircus said, no one will do any calculations for you at all, other than what they show you on the loan worksheet. It's always worth it to run through the numbers yourself, with a consideration for your own needs.
posted by stowaway at 11:21 AM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

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