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How Realistic Is House-Buying Advice?

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The housing market in many areas has become very competitive, both as remote and freelance work have allowed people to look outside of very tight markets and as general housing costs have gone up. The result is that markets that might have been slow or selling at a moderate pace at one point now face the same pressure as larger markets in very desirable cities. This also means that house-buying advice has changed substantially over the years. Even the lessons of the recession seem to be fading away as people once again gain the confidence to buy. How well does the typical house-buying advice hold up?

Visit the Neighborhood at Night

One of the research methods for buying a house is to visit the neighborhood in question at night. A calm neighborhood in the daytime could turn noisy when everyone is home, or you could find more wildlife in the area than you think is comfortable, if you have small pets. However, in a very tight market when you don't have a lot of time to make a decision, you have to grab a house when it's available. So this advice to visit at night works if you can research in advance, but not if you're making a last-minute visit to an open house and have to decide right then.

Rather than be caught in a situation where you don't have much information and have to make a choice, start researching neighborhoods now, and make trips into different areas both in the daytime and at night. Keep a list of neighborhoods that you'd definitely be OK with and those that you decided were not good choices. That will also save you time because you'll know not to look at open houses or go to showings in those neighborhoods.

Buy if You're Going to Live in an Area for More Than 5 Years

Some advice focuses on getting the best value for your money, and for people who plan to stay put for at least a few years, buying is often a better choice as it helps them build equity. The usual warnings about your rent money paying someone else's mortgage and all that apply. However, what if you don't know for sure if you'll be somewhere for more than a couple of years? What if your past experience has shown you that your plans can change at any time? This is old advice that you don't have to follow. Buy when you feel comfortable with buying, not because someone else thinks you should buy.

Avoid Mortgage Insurance and Variable Rates

Other advice focuses on avoiding mortgage insurance if possible, mainly because it's just extra money you'd have to pay out. That's definitely a point to consider, but mortgage insurance itself isn't that evil. If you have to pay mortgage insurance because you were able to get a mortgage that required a lower down payment and thus let you into the housing market, you may want to ignore the advice to avoid that insurance.

Variable rates, though, are another matter. Do everything you can to avoid these rates because you never want your payment to change from year to year unless it's consistently going down. Variable rates make it possible for the payment to go up, creating havoc in your budget.

Talk to your real estate agent about this advice and more. No matter how tight the housing market, be diligent and do your research. For more information, contact companies like RE/MAX Alliance.