Five tips for buying a home

Patti Salem, realtor at Barrett Sotheby’s International Realty. (Image courtesy of Patti Salem.)

Home buying is a daunting process. Buying property is one of the biggest purchases for individuals, which is unfamiliar for most people. We spoke to realtor Patti Salem of Barrett Sotheby’s International Realty for her tips from nearly 20 years of experience.

Salem is a registered nurse by training, who starting selling homes after her youngest child went to school. She also volunteered for the Lincoln school committee, Unicef and Tufts Medical Center. Among the countless homes she has sold are retired Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce’s house in Lincoln.

“After 20 years of experience, I help people negotiate the process of buying and selling real estate,” she said. “It’s a big transaction for most people and it makes them nervous, as well as excited.”


  1. Find out how much you can spend and how much you want to spend

Everybody’s circumstances are different. A single working professional is going to need a different home from a married couple living with two children. People need to know what they can afford and what’s comfortable for them.

Salem advises customers to meet with a mortgage professional before looking at homes. Some people want to spend as much as they can on a house, while others want to spend less.

“I don’t want people looking for homes they cannot afford,” Salem said.


  1. Identify three to four priorities for your home

All people have dream homes in mind. It’s important to come up with three to four requirements before stepping onto a property. It’s not about whether they like it, it’s whether it meets their needs.

Everyone has to make compromises, whether they spend $100,000 to $1 billion. Once customers are in properties, they will realize what matters most and the home search often changes. A customer may say they don’t want to live on a busy street, but Salem will have them look at properties on busy streets which meet all their other requirements. They may realize a busy street is OK because it gives them two parking spaces.

“After you go into five, six or 10 condos, you will know exactly what you can get for your money, then decide what you are willing to give up,” Salem said.

Life is singular and everyone lives a little differently. If you like to go get a cup of coffee, then it will matter whether there are coffee shops nearby. If a house is wonderful for entertaining, how often do you have parties?


  1. Visit many properties before deciding on a home

“Home buyers need to get into a lot of properties,” Salem said. “Even if you know you’re not going to buy a home, it gives you a sense of value.”

People have the bad habit of going online to look at pictures, but once they are in the space, it’s very different, she said. Inside a home, they have to analyze the space to see how it works for their needs.

Buyers need to be confident they know the market. Based on properties in same price range, even if the house does not work for the buyer, they can understand how it might sell for a certain price. Salem warned the current greater Boston market is not a buyer’s market, but a seller’s market. Many desirable properties have multiple offers.


  1. Find a local broker

If clients are buying outside the community they currently live, such as from the city to the suburbs, Salem suggests working with a buyer’s broker in that town.

There might be things about the location buyers are not aware of. A Boston agent will not know Wellesley, such as plans to put a dump across from your prospective home, because they don’t live, work and read local newspapers there every day. It’s important to work with somebody who knows the area well.


  1. Trust the home buying process

Once prospective buyers find out how much they can afford, how much they want to spend, identify priorities, look at properties, readjust priorities and know pricing, you will find your house. If you follow the process, you will make a decision that is good for you.

In sellers market, if you lose a house, do not dismay. There’s always more than one house for you.

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This post is also available in: Chinese

About Ling-Mei Wong 黃靈美

Editor of the Sampan, the only bilingual Chinese-English newspaper in New England

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