Feature | Great Neighborhoods

10 must-dos before buying a house in Columbus

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From the April 2014 edition

Pick your location first.

A commitment to a neighborhood will lead you to the right real estate agent, who, in turn, will lead you to the right property, says Ken Wightman of Prudential American Realty Center. If you stumble through this process backward, you’ll wind up settling.

Ditch the “forever” mentality.

This rule is pertinent for first-time buyers. It’s a nice idea, Wightman says, to buy the house you’ll live in for the rest of your life, but you can’t know what your priorities will be in five years. “You’ll know what you need by the time you reach your second house,” he adds.

Shop for money lenders like you would shop for a car.

“Don’t go with the first one,” says Topher Hannon of Hannon & Graves. “Talk to at least three.” The buyer-lender relationship lasts until closing day, so you need to be comfortable. Many real estate agents can recommend the right lender for your credit profile.

Be wary of online aggregators.

Most real estate aggregators list properties long after they’re sold and list only agents who are paying for the advertisement. Wightman recommends driving through your neighborhood of interest to see which local agents have signs up.

Save for incidental expenses.

The listing price is not the last price you’re going to pay. “People forget about the hundreds of dollars that can come with home inspections and paperwork—not to mention closing costs,” Hannon says.

Don’t overlook storage space (or lack thereof).

This is especially important in Columbus’ diverse market, Hannon says. If you long for walk-in closets, an old house in a historic neighborhood may not cut it. Alternatively, don’t pay extra for that two-car garage in the suburbs if you don’t need it.

Great houses may need a little attention—and that’s OK.

Before buying a house because it has the perfect bathroom or kitchen, ask yourself if you can create that room in a more affordable house. “A little sweat equity goes a long way,” Wightman says.

Know a good value when you see it.

“If you make a low offer on an underpriced house, someone will beat you to it,” Wightman says. And don’t get caught up in the property’s sales history. “What it went for even three or five years ago is irrelevant and a distraction,” he adds. Your agent can help you assess the current market and make an appropriate offer.

Listen to the experts.

When it comes to money, Wightman urges his clients to refrain from acting on the recommendation of a friend or relative. You employ lenders and real estate agents for a reason.

Hold your agent accountable.

Wightman and Hannon agree your agent should be your advocate. “When it comes to real estate, knowledge and experience are everything,” Wightman says. “Yet, they’re undervalued.”