When young home­buy­ers take the plunge

Tips on what to look out for from ex­pert, other 20-some­things

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - REAL ESTATE - By Molly Sprayre­gen

Buy­ing a home can be daunt­ing, es­pe­cially if you’re young.

Twenty-some­things (many of them new to sav­ing and some car­ry­ing stu­dent-loan debt) can be in­tim­i­dated by the sheer amount of money and pa­per­work in­volved in home­buy­ing.

And there’s a vast amount of con­flict­ing in­for­ma­tion on­line.

“I think a lot of young buy­ers get a lot of bad in­for­ma­tion,” says Chicago-based realty agent Matt Lar­icy, who sug­gests go­ing to a real es­tate agent for re­li­able in­for­ma­tion.

Other 20-some­things who have taken the plunge also have ad­vice to share. Here’s some of what they’ve learned:

“Stand in the bath­tub be­fore you buy the house,” says Alyssa Bear, 28, who owns a home in Iowa with her hus­band. She had a home in­spec­tion done, and was sure to check ev­ery faucet and even turn on the oven be­fore agree­ing to pur­chase her home. Yet she wishes she’d been even more thor­ough.

She dis­cov­ered a crack and leak in the bath­tub upon step­ping in to take her first shower after mov­ing in. Had she known about it in ad­vance, she says, she would have in­sisted that the pre­vi­ous own­ers fix it.

McKen­sie Kah­n­weiler bought a condo in Chicago at age 25 and sold it four years later, in 2015. She adored it but re­grets not look­ing more closely into the park­ing sit­u­a­tion.

She also urges buy­ers to check the qual­ity of win­dows and ap­pli­ances. Make sure, she says, “that you’re not buy­ing into a money pit.”

Get­ting a pro­fes­sional home in­spec­tion is a stan­dard and vi­tal step in buy­ing a home. Con­sult ex­perts, and do re­search to make sure you hire a rep­utable in­spec­tor.

Emily and Brian Townsend, 28 and 27, own a condo to­gether in Chicago and were sur­prised by the many un­fore­seen costs dur­ing the buy­ing process. They found them­selves stressed as they pulled to­gether money for clos­ing ex­penses.

Ac­cord­ing to the real es­tate web­site Zil­low, clos­ing costs, which may in­clude fees for ap­praisal, orig­i­na­tion, un­der­writ­ing and more, can add up to be­tween 2 per­cent and 5 per­cent of the cost of the home, which can mean sev­eral thou­sand added dol­lars.

There is also the cost of main­te­nance. Alex Garza, 27, an­other Chicago condo owner, em­pha­sizes the im­por­tance of keep­ing an emer­gency fund.

“If I do have a large ex­pense that I need to take care of, I’ve got that fund there to help me feel se­cure,” she says.

And on the sub­ject of money, keep a pa­per trail. The Townsends used gift money from spe­cial oc­ca­sions, like their wed­ding, to help pur­chase their home. The bank wanted proof of how they got it.

“They will ques­tion where ev­ery penny you make comes from,” Brian Townsend says. “You don’t need to be po­lite,” says Zoe Polk, 26, who owns a condo in Boul­der, Colo. If you don’t like a prop­erty, tell your real es­tate agent.

“We’re talk­ing about hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars of your money, and you definitely shouldn’t set­tle,” she says.

Bear re­turned to ex­am­ine and ex­plore her home sev­eral times be­fore mak­ing an of­fer. Her agent as­sured her that was OK: It’s a huge de­ci­sion. She needed to be sure.

Many young home­own­ers say that one of the best things about own­ing is the free­dom to make the space feel truly theirs.

“I can do what­ever I want to it; it’s mine,” says Garza. “I can put holes in the walls, paint what­ever color. I in­stalled win­dow treat­ments.”

If the prop­erty is part of a home­owner’s as­so­ci­a­tion, take time to un­der­stand the fees and re­quire­ments.

“Hav­ing to deal with the fact that ev­ery­one in the build­ing is re­spon­si­ble for com­mon ar­eas has been the only draw­back,” says Garza, who re­cently had to con­trib­ute to up­grade her build­ing’s el­e­va­tors.

Polk’s home­own­ers as­so­ci­a­tion’s fees in Den­ver to­tal over $300 per month, but she feels it’s worth it.

“Think about what you get for it,” she says. “Like you don’t have to do any land­scap­ing — all those things you don’t think about.”

Polk re­cently moved, but de­cided to hang on to her prop­erty and rent it out.

“I thought, once I find some­one and they sign the lease, it’s over, and then I just cash the check for the next 12 months,” she says.

She didn’t re­al­ize how many is­sues, large and small, would be hers to deal with. “I’m re­spon­si­ble for (my ten­ant’s) well-be­ing in the apart­ment, so it’s a lit­tle bit of pres­sure,” she says.

Kah­n­weiler loved that her Chicago condo was near her fa­vorite stores, events and restau­rants. “That is, in my opin­ion, the most im­por­tant thing,” she says.

Lar­icy agrees. He says many young home­buy­ers are at­tracted to the “glitz and glam” of shiny new kitchens and bath­rooms, rather than to where a home is, and how that suits the owner’s life­style.

CHARLES REX AR­BO­GAST/AP

Emily and Brian Townsend own the top-floor unit in a three-flat build­ing in Chicago. They used gift money to help pur­chase the home.

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