One of the first questions to ask yourself when searching for a new home is: How much can I afford? “I always have my clients get preapproved [for a loan] before we start looking for houses. We do that first before I start sending them properties that might be out of their price range,” says Allison Jung, Realtor with Elite Realty.
While the average Las Vegas home costs nearly $230,000, you can still find the home of your dreams on a smaller budget. To help you make the most of your money, U.S. News asked some of Las Vegas' top real estate agents for their top tips for finding an affordable home.
Expand your options.
If you’re working with a tight budget, living in a different part of town or opting for a smaller property can save you money.
“Buyers should open their eyes to other areas of town,” Jung says. Farther north and south of the city center, homes are typically cheaper. Jung recently had clients who wanted to live in Silverado Ranch, but they soon realized the houses they could afford there were smaller than they wanted. She encouraged them to consider homes in and around North Las Vegas. After visiting the area, the clients decided they would be happier in the North Las Vegas area because they were getting a bigger house for the same amount of money.
But, “if the area is more important than having a whole house with a backyard and garage, then buyers should look for a condo in that area,” says "Big Mike" Tchobanian, broker and owner of Vegas Capital Realty. Ultimately, you may have to choose between your ideal location and your ideal square footage.
Be financially savvy.
Jung suggests taking advantage of Nevada's Home Is Possible down payment assistance program. The program is designed for buyers who can afford a monthly mortgage payment but who don't have the cash for a down payment and closing costs. If you qualify and take a homebuyer education course, you can receive a grant for up to 5 percent of the loan amount, and you don’t have to pay the grant back. To find out more, ask potential lenders about the program during the prequalification process.
Las Vegas buyers should also consider multiple lenders. “Shop around for different [mortgage] companies. One may offer you a better rate or a better payment; therefore, you can buy more,” Tchobanian says.
Sweeten your offer.
Although agents say the market has become more competitive since the announcement of the Oakland Raiders NFL franchise moving to Las Vegas, there are ways to make your offer more appealing to sellers. Jung highly recommends writing a seller’s letter that explains to the owner why you want to buy the home. “It’s been especially effective if [my clients and I] go into a home and the homeowner happens to be there, and my clients make a connection,” Jung says.
Also, in a less competitive market, it is not uncommon for a buyer to ask a seller to cover closing costs, but in the current environment, paying closing costs can make the difference between having your offer accepted or not. “When you are coming in with a loan versus a cash offer, you are already at a slight disadvantage because an appraisal has to be done, so you want to have enough money to pay your own closing costs, if at all possible,” Jung says. It may even be worth waiting until you can save up the additional money.
An experienced agent will help you take creative approaches to minding your budget and getting a great home. For example, Tchobanian suggests looking specifically for homes that are occupied by a tenant, not an owner, because typically those homes are harder to show. If the home is harder to show, fewer potential buyers may see it, which means there will be fewer offers to compete with.
Additionally, Tchobanian continuously looks for new listings in the hope that his clients could be the first to submit an offer and thereby increase their chances of having the offer accepted. “Part of what I do is actively look for new listings so that I can help my buyers. I am calling potential sellers directly instead of just waiting on MLS [a catalog of homes on the market],” Tchobanian says.
When you’re trying to save money on a house, taking a little extra time can be important. “When I have clients on a smaller budget, I tell them to have a lot of patience, and I explain to them that in this price range, we’re going to have a lot of competition,” Jung says. So, don’t get discouraged if you have to make offers on multiple properties. Good homes come to those who wait.
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