How to Look For A Home

Monday August 09, 2021

There are lots of people entering the real estate market every day and although most know how hard it will be to find and secure a home, if you are a first time buyer or haven’t bought in years you may not know what you are in for. Here are some common slip ups to avoid and potentially helpful tips.


I recently began working with a couple from England looking to find a home. They are new to Massachusetts and really have no idea where they would like to end up (they both work from home for technology companies) other than east of Worcester. My first suggestion to them was to go to an open house in each town they are considering and spend time touring the town. You may not like the home but you may love the town. You can do a ton on your computer but stepping into the town library, town hall and speaking with people who live in these towns can go a long way in deciding if living here is right for you.

Not using professional help

It is absolutely possible to go out and buy a home without the aid of a REALTOR®. But why? Think about how much time, stress and money a good REALTOR® can save you. Are you required to have a home inspection? No, but why wouldn’t you? The home inspector checks everything in your new home. They evaluate the structure, construction, and mechanical. They will examine everything from the electrical system, water heater, and HVAC system to the foundation and floors. One thing they are not allowed to do is quote pricing for fixes. You can have a specialist (contractor, plumber, or electrician for example) come in during the home inspection period to do that for you.

Thinking you’ll get everything on your “wish list”

Another big mistake people make is focusing on a wish list. Sit down and create a list of “must haves’ and “wishes” or “wants”. We need 3 bedrooms and a two car garage would be nice. If your goal is to be able to afford everything you need, as well as much of what you want, sit down with your REALTOR® and express the needs and wishes. Your REALTOR® can set your expectations up front so you won’t be disappointed that you can’t seem to find a 3000 sq. foot house for under $250,000.

Not getting preapproved

You have found your dream house! Congratulations! It’s now time to sit down and make an offer. What? No pre-approval letter from your mortgage company or bank? Forget it; the seller is going to take the other offer. Why sell to someone who hasn’t bothered to get preapproved for a mortgage. One thing I hear a lot is “not going to be a problem, I can just call and get a preapproval with my friend/relative who is a mortgage agent”. What happens if your mortgage agent doesn’t get right back to you? What if you are preapproved for less than what you thought? Get pre-approved now if you are serious about buying a home.

Check your credit

If you aren’t pre-approved at the very least check your credit. Review your credit report a few months before you begin your house hunt, and you’ll have time to ensure the facts are correct and dispute mistakes before a mortgage lender checks your credit.

What’s hiding?

Although you factored in the purchase price of the home, taxes, insurance, and even utilities, there are several other hidden costs that buyers often neglect to prepare for. They can be anything from the closing costs to appraisal fees, escrow fees, homeowner’s insurance fees, and even moving costs. The one most commonly overlooked is the cost of repairs and maintenance. When you were renting and the kitchen sink leaked you called the landlord and had him fix it. No charge. No more. You now have to fix it yourself or pay for a plumber to come out. One thing I was told was to set aside 1% of my purchase price every year for home maintenance costs. Not sure anyone does that but it seems like a great way to fend off any issues that come up.

Check your budget

Last but not least is money. A good rule of thumb that I have heard more than once is to budget no more than 30-35% of your monthly household income to housing costs. These costs can include mortgage principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. Obviously, less than that is ideal. I will never forget when my wife and I were pre-approved and told by the mortgage agent what we would pay monthly on a mortgage that size. I thought “that is nice we are preapproved for that but we can’t pay that every month”. Being a little conservative isn’t a bad thing.

Take the time to sit down with your REALTOR®, go over what you want and wish for in a home. Talk with a mortgage agent and find out what you can afford. In setting your expectations and finding the right people to guide you it won’t be long before you are a homeowner.

If you have any questions about this article, real estate in general, or are looking to buy or sell a home please contact me, John McCarthy at Rowley Realty, 165 Main St., Rowley, MA 01969, Phone: 978 948-2758, Cell 978 835-2573 or via email at

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