Thinking about taking the plunge and making what could be the biggest commitment of your life? No, we’re not talking about getting married or adopting a puppy, although those are big life-changers, too. This is about the trials, tribulations and absolute pleasures of becoming a homeowner. For our purposes here, we’re just going to assume you are an absolute homebuying newbie. Beyond dreaming and drooling over new homes for sale near you, there are a slew of practical things you need to do, not do and learn about. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work helping you get essential skills and basic home owner know-how. With this guide get handy tips for buying, owning and taking good care of your new home, along with links to some resources where you can acquire even more home-owning savvy.
Homebuyer Lingo Bingo
Sometimes the biggest challenge to learning anything is understanding the specialized jargon. Real estate is full of mysterious terms like warranty deed, mandatory delivery commitment and loan acceleration. This is one place where ignorance is NOT bliss. Ignorance, in fact, can be really costly. Not to worry. The Taylor Morrison homebuyer’s tool box includes a comprehensive real estate glossary with easy-to-understand explanations of everything from abstract of table to Zum Pex manifold plumbing system. Book mark it and refer to it anytime you’re not sure of what something means.
Are You Really Ready to Buy?
Sure, you’re sick of shelling out rent and getting nothing in return except surprise rent increases and noisy neighbors. But before you get in over your head, do some basic homebuying homework. A good place to start is our post, 5 Signs You’re Ready to Buy a New Home. It’s a reality check list that covers financial considerations, budgeting, goal setting and dream wrangling, along with links to bonus reading.
Our Home Buying ABCs is another useful blog post that will take you from getting started to getting help in three steps.
Okay, you’re certain you’re a candidate to become a new homeowner. Yay! Now it’s time to figure out how much new home you can afford to buy. This is the REAL part of real estate. A few of things you’ll want to settle before you start shopping include:
- The size of your down payment. This is the upfront cash component. Generally speaking, the bigger your down payment, the lower your monthly mortgage. It can also affect the type of loan you qualify for. Be sure to keep some cash in reserve for closing costs, moving expenses, etc.
- Your credit worthiness. If you have a lot of credit card debt, pay it down before you apply for a home loan. Too many revolving charge cards with big balances are red flags to lenders.
- Find out about government assistance programs that can lower your loan or down payment costs.
- Use prequalifying tools (there are plenty of free ones online) to learn how much mortgage you can afford. That’s your magic number. Keep it in mind when you make an offer and don’t let yourself get in over your financial head in a bidding war.
Happy House Hunting
Don’t let the stars in your eyes cloud your commonsense while you’re touring those dazzling model homes. Take along a cheat sheet to remind you to ask smart questions like these:
- Are there public schools nearby and how to they stack up? Maybe you don’t have kids so you don’t think this matters. Wrong. The quality of area schools can be a huge make-or-break factor to prospective homebuyers should you decide to sell your home one day. So ask, and then go online and do a little research on your own.
- What kind of monthly utility bills can you anticipate? Gas, electricity, water, sewer, even trash collection can add to the cost of homeownership. Taylor Morrison builds new homes that are energy-efficient and designed for the local environment. Look for things like Energy-Star appliances, water-saving features, adequate R-factor insulation, even placement on the homesite to take advantage of passage solar heating.
- Is there a Home Owners Association? Not only does an HOA mean added costs to consider for the maintenance of common areas and community amenities, it also can restrict your home’s outward appearance. You probably don’t have your heart set on recreating Stonehenge in your front yard, but you may want to add a water feature or window shutters. Find out what, if any, forms of self-expression your HOA prohibits. Do keep in mind that the purpose isn’t to stifle your creativity. The rules are there to protect property values. After all, you may not want to live next door to a neighbor who paints his house black or lines his windows with aluminum foil.
Don’t Forget About Insurance
Your lender will require you to carry homeowner’s insurance that covers the cost of the structure. Standard policies typically do not include coverage for special perils like earthquakes, floods or hurricanes. For that you’ll need an additional policy or a rider. Your lender may also require that you include PMI (private mortgage insurance) that covers the cost of the loan should you default. And you should definitely carry sufficient insurance to repair or replace your personal belongings in the event of theft, fire, vandalism, etc., as your standard policy may not cover these losses. Do ask you insurance agent about discounts that can bring down your policy cost. There are many available and they can really add up to significant savings.
Your Taylor Morrison new home includes home warranty coverage, which is a completely different from homeowner’s insurance. Warranty coverage protects you against early failure of new appliances, miscellaneous material/product failure and issues related to electrical, water, plumbing, and HVAC systems in your new home for a limited time. You can learn more about the difference in this blog post.
You’ve Purchased, Now What?
Yikes! You did it. You’re a new homeowner. What comes next? Even if you’re an old hand at new home buying, this short post is a nice reminder of basic business you need to attend to before you change the address labels. Read this article that shares things to do before you move in.
Getting Ready to Make the Move
Congrats! You bought your dream home. Now what? This short post is a nice reminder of basic business you need to attend to leading up to moving day.
Tips to Keep Your New Home Beautiful
Along with pride of ownership and the over-the-moon elation of moving into a new home comes the sobering reality (there’s that “r” word again) that you have to take care of it. Home maintenance isn’t just about attending to esthetic appeal and creature comforts, although those are important. What you’re really aiming for is maintaining the value of your home. Regularly scheduled maintenance can also keep you from running afoul of HOA smack downs. And did you know that claims on your homeowner’s insurance can be denied because of negligence? Finally, warranties only cover so much for so long–that’s why they’re called “limited warranties.” The rest is up to you. Here’s a quick rundown on how to protect your new home investment.
- Establish a regular inspection schedule. Spring and fall are good times to get in the habit of checking for compromised caulk, cracked seals and hoses, drafty doors and windows, roofing issues, mold, drips and insect/critter damage. Your insurance company’s website probably has a printable check-list.
- Keep a record of inspections and repairs, along with receipts. This is proof of your diligence in the event of an insurance claim dispute.
- Check your insurance policy annually to make sure your coverage is keeping pace with cost of repair/replacement increases. This will help you avoid unpleasant surprises if you need to make a major repair.
- Have a rainy-day fund that is sufficient to pay your insurance deductible as well as repairs to items that have fallen out of warranty.
- Hang onto all those manuals that came with your new home. When you need to know a model or part number or find an authorized repair person, you’ll have the info at your fingertips.
- Know where the main water valve is for your home and how to shut it off.
- Know where the electric panel is and keep the breaker labels clearly labeled. Keep a good flash light next to the panel, this is a good practice to get into.
- Understand the basic working of your toilet. A running toilet is a big water waster and it’s usually a simple fix. Invest in a quality toilet plunger while you’re at it so you can deal with small clogs.
- Replace or clean your heating and a/c filters monthly during times of high use.
- Put fresh batteries in home alert systems every spring and fall (time it to when you change your clocks forward and backward).
- Don’t try to save money on do-it-yourself repair and remodeling projects that are beyond your skill level. Hire a qualified, licensed contractor and get the work done properly and safely.
Hurray! You’re a Homeowner.
We hope you’ll choose Taylor Morrison for your first or next new home. But, wherever you decide to settle, our wish to you is a safe, happy home filled with love and laughter.