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Home Buying Checklist: Step 4 to Homeownership

Home Buying Checklist

Hi! It’s Treasure Valley Dave here in Nampa, Idaho. Now, we’re ready to start part four of our webinar series about what to consider regarding your next home. In other words, what should be on your home buying checklist. And we’ve got our special guest star, Mareen, today.


Mareen: Thank you.


Dave: Thanks for stopping in, Mareen.


Mareen: Thank you! Thanks for having me.


Dave: I wanted your input today because are going to discuss what people should be considering before buying a home. You go through those conversations and exercises with clients all the time. You know how to pull out the correct information.


Mareen: And it’s always fun.

What Are Your Home Buying Needs?

Dave: It is. Oh, we have this excellent booklet about it. If you still need to get yours, go ahead and download it. It’s going to be very helpful. There are a lot of good things in there that you’ll want to refer back to over and over again. The most important thing is figuring out what’s important to someone. Is that usually what we find important at the end of the day?


Mareen: A lot of times, no, it’s something different that’s important, yes.


Dave: Really?


Mareen: Yeah.


Dave: I’m just thinking of several clients who wanted one thing and got the opposite.


Mareen: Exactly. For example, when we bought our house here, I wanted an acre and a bigger house than 1,300 square feet. But I have a standard-sized lot, and I love it. When I saw how big an acre is, I thought, “Who’s gonna take care of all that?”


Dave: Excellent. So, expectations sometimes change when you get here. When we moved up here from California, our agent helped us, and we looked at 80 houses before we figured out what we were looking for. We don’t want you to go through that, so do your research first.


If you’re already up here in the Treasure Valley, it’s easy. You can drive through neighborhoods and look at parks. If someone already lives here, what else is essential to check out?


Mareen: If they’re already living here, it’s the easiest. Look for schools, proximity to activities, the river, or the zoo. The hardest part is for people not here. They need to figure out if they want country living and be aware of a few things.


Dave: In our book, the next thing is to choose a neighborhood you love.


Mareen: For example, I found our neighborhood through Google View.


Dave: Really? And this is when you were still out of the area?


Mareen: Yes. I looked for the greenest spot and found where I wanted to stay.


Dave: Nice. If you aren’t living up here, we will encourage you to make a fact-finding trip.


Mareen: We did. We knew our area, came out and explored a bit outside to ensure we picked the right one. Luckily, yes, we did.


Dave: The internet’s a great way to eliminate potential properties. So you can focus and get the house you want on your fact-finding trip.


Mareen: We’ve had people who’ve never been here before and are very satisfied with where they bought. Your videos showed them the areas.


Dave: We’re their eyes and ears.


Mareen: And I’m the nose.


Dave: This is a big one: lifestyles. Your lifestyle would be different if you had moved to that one acre.


Mareen: I’d be cutting my grass now. My kids wouldn’t have friends nearby because everything’s further away if you have more land.


Dave: So lifestyle’s a big thing.


Mareen: It’s a big thing, yes. And here it comes: it’s location, location, location. It could be just that one lot that makes that location.


Dave: Very true. If you’re relocating from out of state, everything we discuss still applies to you. There are just those few extra things. We’re your eyes and ears here. We’ll help you eliminate different possibilities, whether for town or homes. So when you come up on your fact-finding trip, it will be hyper-focused.


There are all these things you’d like in your perfect house, but you will only get some of what you want. You are doing good if you find a home with 80% of what you want. But some things are wants, and some are needs. What discussions have you had with people about distinguishing between wants and needs?


Mareen: First, after determining the lifestyle you want, there are things you can’t change on your home purchase. For instance, if you need two bathrooms, don’t look for a house with only one because changing that will be expensive and hard. We’ve had clients who loved homes but realized certain features couldn’t be changed easily.


Dave: That reminds me, in our previous segment, we discussed the cost of waiting. When you buy a house, many people get a mortgage, which can change. If interest rates fall, you can refinance. So, if you find the perfect home with high rates, changing the number of bathrooms is hard, but refinancing to a lower rate is more manageable.


Mareen: Not sure why we went there, but…


Dave: Oh, just sheer luck. That’s what I wanted to say. Now, essential questions when considering your next home. I’ve thought of some, but you’ve likely had these conversations with clients.


Mareen: You should first figure out your desired area. You could start with wanting to be in Idaho, then narrow it down to the east or west side. Maybe the Treasure Valley. The cost of the house, or your budget, will determine the areas you’re looking at. Is home buying cost one of the essential questions?


Dave: Well, yes. It’s a huge factor. For example, if you have two summer homes close to Boise, it will be pricier than if you moved to Parma or Wilder.


Mareen: True. And then there are closing costs, utilities, proximity to amenities, shopping, and the airport. The latter was essential for me.


Dave: We have a client who moved to a small town 30 minutes outside the population center and commutes in. Where he came from, he commuted for hours every day. Now, it’s less than an hour.


My perspective changed as well. Initially, I thought nothing of an hour-long drive in California. But now, a 10-minute drive feels long. Your mindset changes over time.


Concerning expenses after moving, utilities will be a significant change for many, especially those from California. They’ll find it much cheaper here.


Mareen: Yes, especially gas and electricity.


Dave: But if you move out further in the country, you’ll have a propane tank, or you’ll be in an all-electric home. Their costs can be different. Central heating furnaces are a whole lot cheaper. They’re probably a lot more expensive than gas-fired furnaces. So there will be other things to compare from one house to the next.


An HOA might be another thing. My HOA is under $200 a year. We have a couple of little parks, and that’s about it within our community. However, some like that one over at Sky Mesa have two or three pools and a clubhouse.


Mareen: And a tennis court.


Dave: And their HOA is a little bit more than mine.


Mareen: Just a little.


Dave: So those are the amenities that you guys may find important. It’ll be worth that extra money. But if it’s not, go to a community without those things and save some money.

What Are You Paying for?

Dave: So, what’s included in the sale of a home? Gosh. So it’s like someone’s looking at a house. Usually, the listing says what the home seller’s just offering to start with to include in their home.


Mareen: Yeah, the biggest is that most home sellers do not include the washer, dryer, or refrigerator. It’s most likely negotiable, but many people expect it to be the case. And that’s a big question: What is included?


Sometimes, there are play structures outside that are included. Furniture? Typically not. It’s also something the lender doesn’t like to lend money on. It’s not real estate; it’s personal property.


Dave: With new construction, sometimes a backyard is not included.


Mareen: That’s right, that’s right.


Dave: Backyard, fence.


Mareen: French drain.


Dave: French strain. Right, uh-huh. And then another thing is when you’re looking at a particular house, whether it’s online or we’re out showing you, you’ll see the DOM number — that’s “days on the market.” And that can be an indication of what?

Why Sell a Home?

Mareen: That is a big one. If it looks perfect on paper, you think, “Wow, why is nobody taking that house?” There could be something. If it’s longer on the market than every other house and the price is right, then the nose needs to go into that house. And that goes along with, “Why is the seller moving?”


Dave: Yeah, why are they moving? What’s the history in general of the house? How often do people move in and out? How frequently has it been sold? Didn’t you have an example recently of a seller that wasn’t motivated and what happened there?


Mareen: He’s getting motivated. It’s been on the market now for several months. He tried to go in high, hoping somebody would catch it, but it didn’t work out. Now, we can make it work.


Dave: Ah, interesting. Is the home prone to natural disasters? Those are things that you can find out.


Mareen: Yeah. We only have a few — the hurricanes, tropical storms, etc.


Dave: Hillary.


Mareen: Hillary. Right, it rained up here because of that.


Dave: For a couple of hours.


Mareen: And it didn’t rain on my side.


Dave: No?


Mareen: No.


Dave: Oh, wow. I’m over on the south side of the valley. So that was the difference — the property’s history. I keep saying California because I have some experience there. But if someone dies in the house, you have to report that. In Idaho, it’s not necessary.


Mareen: You can find out if you would like to.


Dave: Oh, the neighbors will love to talk.


Mareen: Exactly.


Dave: Let’s see. The area… Is this house priced right? That’s where we’re going to be helping you out.


Mareen: Absolutely, that’s one of my favorites.


Dave: Nice. That is important.


Mareen: Yeah, I think so. I don’t want anybody to pay too much for a house. It gets emotional too quickly, so only move in once you have the keys.


Dave: So many people think that coming up with a CMA — a comparable market analysis — is something a seller needs when they figure out the price. However, a buyer needs to know that as well.


What’s the neighborhood like? We’ve gone over that. In Nampa, we have the sugar beet factory, and the internet is all abuzz about, “Oh, it stinks, blah, blah, blah.” When it does put out an odor around December/January, it smells like burnt peanut butter. It’s not a bad smell.


Mareen: It’s OK. It’s like a 50/50 situation where people say it’s OK.


Dave: Kind of like cilantro.


Mareen: Yeah.


Dave: You know, it’s not every day you smell that odor. It could be a couple of times a year.


Mareen: Being closer to the freeway, you’re bound to hear the road noise. Properties closer to the highway are typically priced lower.


Dave: I once helped a family from California captivated by photos of a house online. They had yet to see the area in person. When I pulled up the map and showed them how close the house was to an active train track, they were shocked and grateful for the insight. It’s these neighborhood nuances that are so crucial.


Mareen: Agreed. And speaking of neighborhoods, are there local events to consider? I have a client living near the Fort Idaho Center. He enjoys fireworks displays and concerts from the comfort of his home.


Dave: That sounds like a perk of buying a house for some. For others, maybe not so much. I prefer some peace. When our clients are considering properties, it’s not just about them — it’s about their family.


They should engage their family in the decision-making process. And they should consult with us. We’re here to guide them, helping them narrow choices so they don’t have to sift through dozens of properties.


Mareen: Exactly. And for those who need to sell a property before buying a new one, we’re here to help bridge that home buying process. We’ll coordinate with the agent selling their house, ensuring a seamless transition.


Dave: Couldn’t have said it better. We always advise about talking with a lender early in the process.


Mareen: Right. Don’t delay. Starting soon alleviates the pressure of having to make hasty decisions. I’ve shown properties to people who aren’t planning to move for another two years, but it gives them a clear perspective.


Dave: Some folks have misconceptions about our area, like thinking we don’t have modern amenities. But our homes are standard and well-insulated due to our northern location. They’re of high quality.


Mareen: And yes, we do have air conditioning! I get that question a lot, especially from those in Oregon.


Dave: It’s funny but true. We get a few weeks of intense heat each year, but overall, our summers are pretty pleasant.

The Criteria

Dave: I have my personal story in the booklet. You guys could take a look at that. Just know that we did go through that process of looking at 80 houses.


Our agent was the nicest guy, but we took up more of his time. I had retired and came up here, so we had nothing but time. We enjoyed talking with him but wasted so much of his time. We could’ve saved him time if he had asked those questions beforehand.


Mareen: One of the first questions I usually ask is, “Have you thought about new construction?”


The most significant difference between new construction and an existing house is if you buy new construction, you don’t have to worry for at least ten years. But you don’t have a mature landscape and might still have some noise around you for a few more years. That is one point to determine.


Dave: Right, and that’s a big one. That’s a good point. Before I moved up here, I was still living in that little ratty house there. But a new house was a concept I didn’t even think about because it’s like, “Wow. A new house. That’s gotta be way expensive.”


But existing homes are about 98% of what new construction costs. So they’re almost the same price. And you know what? It shocked me when I learned that when you buy a new house, the roof and the HVAC are new. The flooring is new.


Mareen: Yep, cabinets are new.


Dave: I had no idea.

How a Real Estate Agent Can Help

Mareen: Paint, carpet, everything. So, what’s your agent going to be doing?


Suppose you’re out looking at homes. You may not be ready to bother an agent yet. Well, bother us — that’s what we’re here for. We’ll give you advice, but you may also want to check out those neighborhoods. So while they’re doing that, what kind of stuff are we — real estate agents — doing behind the scenes?


Dave: Right now, we’re looking for somebody for a property, and it looks excellent. Everything looks good on the paper. But then it’s like, “Hmm, what’s the surrounding area gonna look like in the next couple of years?”


So that’s a big part, too. Especially if you buy an acreage in the countryside, you may ask, “What’s going on?” Because more houses will be coming in right across the street. So we’re trying to cover all areas.


Mareen: It’s like between Nampa and Meridian, they’re extending the highway from Star down to the freeway. Where people used to live out in the country, now they will have a big four- or six-line freeway.


Dave: We looked at the property before they started construction for somebody. I said, “Wow, that is a wonderful price.”


Mareen: Now, you know.


Dave: Yeah, now they have the perfect view on that new stretch of street. And, you know, living in a regular subdivision that’s already been plotted and planned is one thing. But if you are in that country property, we’ll check out different things like easements or shared driveway agreements.


Mareen: Absolutely. Of course, we’re going to go out and go house hunting for you. If a property could match your criteria, you will get a video of that. And we’ll ask things like:

  • Is that what you’re looking for?
  • Would the kitchen work for you?
  • Does the size of the house work?
  • How about the lot when you step out in your backyard?
  • Is that enough space?


Dave: You don’t have to be someone in California, Oregon, or Washington. If you’re up here but have one of those hectic schedules and want to see what this particular house is like, we’ll go out for you. We will do that same video tour for you, even though you’re here, because it’s more convenient. I like to say it’s not to get you to buy that particular house but to find a reason why you don’t want to buy it.


Mareen: Exactly, you don’t wanna have the regret, like: “Oh, I should have seen it.” We just had that situation where somebody got sick and could not see the house. They were here for the fact-finding trip, got ill, and couldn’t see that house. And so we shot a video, and it’s all good.


Dave: Nice.


Mareen: And we were OK. We let that go, and we feel good about it.


Dave: The whole point is, “Let’s find a reason not to move forward with that house.”


So when you are looking at a house, we’ll get all in the car and meet you out there, whatever it is. I’ve got this great little home buying checklist. You can print off as many copies as you need. We have a clipboard they could borrow if they needed one.


And as you’re going through the house, mark these things. How did it impress you? Was it good, bad, or was it great? Any other little comments? Because after you’ve seen 40, 60, or 80 houses, they all blend in.


So, for a particular house, you may ask…

  • What do I want to do?
  • Do I want to come back and look at it again? You know, sleep on it and then come back.
  • Do I need more information?
  • Am I ready to put in an offer, or is it eh, maybe, or kind of ish?


Or is it like, “Nope, let’s just take it off our home buying checklist.” So it’s like when you come back, you don’t have to go through 40 houses that we saw. “Oh no, what was good?” You could go through the ones you said, “Yeah, I want to check out this further.” It helps you — and us — out so much.


Mareen: Yeah. We only got to 40 houses before finding the right one.


Dave: What do you suppose is the most houses we’ve ever shown to someone?


Mareen: The most houses?


Dave: Could it be Jack? Jack was particular. He wanted us to check the toilets. They had to be strong enough to pull an arm off. There are few houses with that specification, and that’s not information you find online. “Will this toilet pull your arm off?” You have to visit each place and check.


Mareen: On average, it’s about 20 houses.


Dave: If we show up to 20 houses, you’re doing well because that’s normal. Consider these factors when searching for your next home. What’s next in the process? It’s “the process.”

What to Put on Your Home Buying Checklist

If you have questions you don’t want to forget, jot them down on your home buying checklist. We’ll figure out the process. You can watch that in episode five or segment five. Mareen, thanks for discussing what to consider for your next home. Any last things I missed asking?


Mareen: No, ask questions. Communication is key.


Dave: Absolutely.


Mareen: If you see a house online you love, contact us.


Dave: If you’re away, we can create a video.


Mareen: Exactly. What do you want at this moment? What’s perfect for you? We’ll find it.

Dave: Thanks. See you next time.

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