Buying a home in the United States is a long, complicated, and expensive process that most people only go through a few times in their lives. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, just under two-thirds of Americans have purchased their own home. Since most people only buy a few properties over their lifetime, they lack the experience to understand that process well enough to use the rules to their greatest advantage. Buying a home involves finance, law, construction knowledge, and other disciplines—and very few people have expertise in them all.
People invest a lot of time and money into their homes. They also entrust their family’s safety and security to them. In many parts of the country, getting the right deal on a home is harder now than it has ever been.
That’s where this book comes in. It’s structured to give you, the prospective home buyer, basic insights and practical tips into the various processes and requirements associated with purchasing a house, condominium, or apartment. Many of the steps also apply to purchases of other types of property, such as vacation homes or rental units.
Whether you’re getting ready to buy your first home, are moving up to a larger house for your expanding family, or are downsizing to a condo after retirement, this book can help you make smart decisions early on that will help you find the right home while saving money and avoiding major headaches. It is not a comprehensive guide, but is rather intended to give you a foundation of understanding and best practices that can help protect your interests as you evaluate homes, make an offer, and close the deal.
Decades of experience
I was a home inspector in the Greater Boston area for 25 years. I learned a lot about the business, and later wrote about housing, inspections, and construction in various local and national publications. I covered all aspects of residential real estate in Massachusetts and Connecticut for nearly three years at The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman. I’ve also written about real estate for The Boston Globe, Boston.com, and am a contributor to Forbes.com.
In that time, I’ve met and worked with the best people in their respective fields. I’ve learned a great deal from them. But I have also seen a lot of incompetence. Mistakes cost homebuyers money—sometimes lots of money—and many of those mistakes are easily avoidable.
Markets rise and fall with the economy. Real estate is no different. You may remember that home prices were sky-high in the mid-2000s, before the mortgage market collapsed in 2008, sending prices into free-fall. Since then, prices in most major markets have recovered, though that recovery has been uneven across the country. Nationwide, home prices are generally on the rise—and that means more risk for buyers.
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), U.S. listing prices are close to $300,000 as of this writing. NAR says that a six-month inventory of homes for sale is considered a balanced market, meaning a market the favors neither buyers nor sellers. Currently, most markets have less than six months’ inventory. This means sellers are typically in the driver’s seat—and buyers had better beware.
Nationwide historic low inventory and high demand pushes prices up, and the current rising interest rate market makes housing even more expensive. That raises the stakes for homebuyers. This book will help you mitigate that risk and save money.
The hotter and more competitive the market, the more important the information in this book will be to buyers. In highly competitive markets, even seemingly trivial mistakes can crater your chances of getting your offer accepted. Even if you’re lucky enough to be looking in cooler markets, you still want to get the right deal on the right property.