Is it a buyer's market or a seller's market?
How are you supposed to know, and why does it matter? You just want somewhere to call home. Buying a home in CT, NJ or NY is harrowing. Around 35,000 single-family homes changed hands in Connecticut in 2018 alone.
The Connecticut market hasn't matched its peak of 2007. The median price is still only $268,000, nearly 10% less than the median price at the peak in 2007. There are pockets of the state in high demand, so prices are rising in those areas.
Other places are seeing only modest price increases. Read on for tips for buying a house in Connecticut.
1. It's Always a Good Time to Buy
Mortgage rates continue at or near historic lows. Be ready to pounce on the right opportunity to buy a home. To do that, you need to have your finances in order.
Take a good look at your finances before you start looking. Consider the size of your down payment as well as the amount of cash you need on hand during the closing process. Typically, you will need a 10% - 20% down payment plus sufficient cash for closing.
Mortgage pre-qualification forces you self-report your financial position and have your paperwork on hand. It means you are ready to enter escrow as soon as you find a home. Pre-approval is even better.
Pre-approval is a deeper look into your finances than pre-qualification. A lending organization scrutinizes your income, your debts, and your credit history, and approves you for financing.
For a seller, it assures them that you have the capacity to complete the transaction. It removes a huge amount of uncertainty from the equation. Pre-approval indicates you are completely serious about buying a home now and are ready to negotiate in earnest.
2. Research the Market
To make the best choice for you and your family, have an understanding of the market conditions. Trends are constantly in flux in Connecticut and vary by county and neighborhood.
Savvy home buyers use the internet to begin their search for homes. Narrow down your criteria: buildings, schools, conveniences, etc. Don't expect all the information you want to be online, however.
Do you want town life or something more rural? There's a huge difference between Backcountry Greenwich and Bridgeport. What is the difference between the asking prices and the actual selling prices? A large percentage difference between asking and actual sales price means there is room for negotiations.
A good agent can show you if prices and supply fluctuate wildly at certain times of the year. There may be better and worse times to make an offer. For example, there aren't many buyers out in the middle of winter, so offers at that time of the year are less competitive and more open to negotiation.
On the other hand, the supply of homes is higher in the spring, but buyers are out in full force. There may be multiple offers on a property. It could be worth it to time the market for the best deals. Begin your search at the tail end of winter to take advantage of the post-holiday slump and harsh weather.
If you’re serious about timing the market, an experienced local agent is the right way to find a relative bargain.
3. Find a Great Agent
The next important step is to find a real estate agent. Agents can represent buyers or sellers. Agents are paid through the seller's commission at the end of the sale, so it is in their best interest to get you the house you want. They don't get paid for their efforts unless the deal is closed.
In Connecticut, there are buyers’ agents who solely represent the buyer. An agent must disclose who they work for. They may represent both the buyer and seller, but they must disclose that fact. A broker may have buyers' and sellers' agents under the same umbrella but must disclose this fact.
Unless you have a written agreement with an agent, assume that they have no duty to look out for your best interests.
How to find an ideal buyers' agent:
- Ask for referrals from friends and family for agents they worked with successfully
- Visit a few properties you like and contact the broker
- Ask other professionals (mortgage banker, home builder, etc.)
- Use the power of the internet to find agents
Take the time to interview several agents. You want someone with knowledge of buying a home in CT and tools to get the job done. Don't feel pressured that you have to buy a home with any specific agent unless you sign a contract.
All Realtors are licensed real estate agents, but not all real estate agents are Realtors. Realtors belong to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and pledge to follow certain levels of conduct and practice. Only Realtors can display the Realtor logo.
4. Find the Perfect Home and Make an Offer
It's easy to get seduced by breathtaking open houses and charmingly staged homes. Go into your search with a firm idea of your priorities. Sit down and list exactly what you need and want in a home. Include everything! Write down the dealbreakers, too.
What if you find the perfect house but the commute is too long? Or how about a home right on the railroad tracks but in the school district you want? Is privacy your priority or are amenities important?
Note the neighborhood to the architectural style you want. The more information you supply, the better an agent can help you. Your agent can also supply you with information about market trends, price fluctuations, and nearby neighborhoods you might not have considered.
Once you’re ready to make an offer, your agent should work with you to present a realistic number and deliver an offer letter to the seller. Then your agent should be available to assist you in entering active negotiations or giving you alternatives to walk away. Don't go competition crazy and outbid your own budget!
If you do get an acceptance, the offer letter becomes part of your contract agreement. You’ll give an “earnest money” amount to hold the house for you. Your agent will then help execute the details of the offer letter.
5. Get the Home Inspected and Close the Contract
You probably took a cursory look at the home before you made an offer. Now have a formal inspection done during your contract due diligence period.
Find out if your home is susceptible to flooding, roof leaks, electrical woes, etc. These issues can unveil themselves during a professional inspection. While inspection isn't mandatory, it is recommended. Home inspectors in Connecticut are licensed professionals.
For former apartment renters, inspections also give you some peace of mind! A home inspection may not be the only type of contingency for you to clear. You may have a termite inspection, fire insurance or an appraisal as well. Your mortgage company may require underwriting inspections.
As a reminder, your agent's pay depends on closing the sale, so they will work hard to keep the contract closing on track. Buying a home in CT does not require an attorney. You will use a title company for most transactions.
Your agent can help you keep track of paperwork, coordinate inspections and request any repairs suggested by the home inspector. They can also help you make any needed modifications to the contract once the inspections are done.
Ready to Find Your Dream Home?
Every real estate market is unique. If you are thinking of buying a home in CT, you will need to familiarize yourself with the following before making a purchase:
- Financial matters
- Current market conditions
- The right real estate agent
- Finding the ideal house
- Closing the deal
Begin with getting your financial house in order. You cannot begin a search until you have an idea of what you can afford. Pre-approval is better than merely pre-qualifying for a mortgage.
Research the current market conditions. Some neighborhoods are seeing meteoric rises, others more modest. Some sales are more seasonal than others. Take your time to familiarize yourself with past trends and future predictions.
Choose a buyers' agent to represent your interests. Dual agency is permitted in Connecticut but must be disclosed. Take time to contact and interview several agents before selecting one to represent you.
Take the time to define your ideal home and note your dealbreakers. Work with your agent to set a realistic budget and homes that fit. Prepare offer letters with closing the deal in mind. Don't outbid yourself.
Always get a home inspection. Homeownership is very different from apartment rental. Enter into the process prepared. Be aware that a home inspection may not be the only inspection needed. A good agent can assist you in coordination.
Ready to get started? Contact us now!