Question: I've read recently that it's getting harder to find rentals. I'm thinking about buying a home after our lease expires. I already have seen all the advice online about cleaning up my credit and saving up for a downpayment. Do you have any other words of wisdom about finding a home? – Ross
Answer: While I can't overstate the value of finding a good real estate agent to guide you in this process, there is no substitute for educating yourself. There's a ton of free information readily available online, but it's not necessarily all accurate.
Before you start looking for a house, you should make a list of what is most important to you – both now and in five years. Consider how many children you might have while living in the home. Is it possible an aging parent could be moving in with you?
Look at neighborhoods before you identify specific homes. Most people seem to limit themselves to the area in which they currently live. I recently had clients who looked for a home for a year in one area without any luck before deciding to broaden the search. They quickly found the perfect place elsewhere.
When you do tour individual homes, concentrate on the aspects that are difficult to change: walls, bathrooms and bedrooms. Don't get too caught up on floor coverings, paint colors and decorations.
Finally, drive through the area during the day and night – and during the week and on weekends. What looks like a quiet neighborhood Wednesday afternoon can be an entirely different place Saturday night.
About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He is the chairperson of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is an adjunct professor for the Nova Southeastern University Paralegal Studies program.
The information and materials in this column are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed. Nothing in this column is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.