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Location, Location, Location… Then What? Tips for First Time Home Buyers

Paul LaMastra

Tuesday, July 1, 2014 • 3:32pm

One of the top priorities young couples is finding a home.  Often, first time home buyers want to stick close to home.  For anyone who has grown up in Scotch Plains, Fanwood, or other nearby town, there are things about this area that are particularly attractive:

· Suburban feel yet still close to urban attractions

· Many different types of houses ranging from Capes to ranches to stately Victorians

· Access to a train line for commuting into New York City

· Proximity to the airport for those who frequently fly for business (or pleasure)

· Solidly performing school system

If you choose to look for a home here, there is plenty to consider.  Location, price, style of house, closest school, and much more. Here are some suggestions that I offer first time home buyers, as well as folks who have been around the local blocks before.

Know your price point

You might want a four-bedroom Colonial in move-in condition on a quiet cul de sac, but the reality is that it might be out of your range of affordability.  However, if you are handy, perhaps move-in condition is less important.  If you do not have children yet, perhaps you might settle for a three-bedroom home and then trade up sometime in the future if you require more space. Figure out which aspects of the home are “must haves” and which ones are “nice, but not essential.”  Perhaps nothing you like is available at your price point.  It might behoove you to rent for a few years, save money and then be in a position to put a larger down payment on a home that suits you.

Shop around

Potentially, you could walk into a house that immediately reminds you of your grandparents’ home and the wonderful memories you had of them.  Even if you think you have found love at first sight, it is prudent to see as many homes as time will allow.  You might find something comparable at a lower price, or perhaps you will come to the realization that your initial favorite becomes less attractive for a reason you might not have previously considered.  A quiet street might initially seem ideal, but if most of the home owners on the block are empty nesters, you might want a location where there are couples in similar stage of their life so that your children might play together.  Additionally, after this past winter, you want to choose a home that is in closer walking distance from the train station. 

Play close attention during the home inspection

First-time home buyers oftentimes rely on the expertise of others since they have not yet had the experience of being a property owner.  Your home inspector is paid for his expertise.  If he or she is thorough, you should be well informed about troublesome issues that already exist and the ones that may pup up five or ten years down the line.  Sometimes you can use the information garnered during the home inspection to negotiate a better price.  For example, if the roof has not been redone in almost 20 years and there are signs of water beginning to sink in, you can use this as leverage to lower the price because the likelihood is that you might have to replace the roof – an expensive proposition – sometime in the new future.

Buying a home is an endeavor that has many important aspects connected to it.  First time buyers often need extra advice whether it comes from a savvy parent, trusted friend, or a professional with life and business experience that can be helpful.  Be open to ideas and suggestions because, ultimately, a home is a long-term investment.

Paul LaMastra has been a real estate agent in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood area for more than three decades. He and his brother, Donald, are the owners of ERA Suburb Realty (1773 East 2nd St., Scotch Plains). Call (908) 322-4434, ext 161 or email Paul.lamastra@era.com.

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