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Buying a home can be one of the most stressful times in a person’s life, especially if they are a first-time home buyer. There are many ways to make this process easier for the home buyer, as well as save them some money in the short term or long term.

Sharon Friedman, broker associate with Berkshire Hathaway in Cleveland; Donna Glazer, a Realtor at Howard Hanna in Pepper Pike; and Susie Loparo, a Realtor at Re/Max Traditions in Beachwood, said there are a few steps to take before buying or making an offer on a house.

Loparo recommended home buyers always get a home inspection prior to buying a house. Although those inspections can cost up to a few hundred dollars, she said they can save money in the long run if the assessment catches something like a bad furnace or a waterproofing issue.

“You have no way of knowing what you’re buying,” Loparo said. “And most of the things that inspectors find, truthfully, sellers didn’t even know about. I mean, when was the last time you were in your attic? I just talked to a mold guy five minutes ago leaving someone’s attic. That’s just one example. Some people don’t even know if their electrical box is wired. So, yes, you can and you should.”

Friedman said, “However, because the market is moving rapidly, some sellers have got a pre-sale inspection. Which, in some cases, the buyer accepts and waives an inspection in order to be more competitive. If there’s five offers or 10 offers on a property, the one that is the ‘cleanest’ with as few or no contingencies as possible often takes the lead of being accepted. I’m not advocating it necessarily, but it is happening.”

If a buyer is aware there are other offers on a home and wants to be more competitive, the buyer can offer to purchase the seller’s closing costs.

“Today because the inventory is so narrow, everything is going over asking price,” Glazer said. “And everybody has a limit as to how much they should go over as well. We Realtors have also been surprised by sometimes what something has sold for that somebody has gone way over for. And to a buyer, everybody has a limitation ... instead of saying, ‘well, I put in another $5,000 or $3,000,’ offer to reduce the sellers’ closing costs.”

Another thing Loparo said could be helpful is the use of appraisal addendums.

“One of the things we do is offer appraisal addendums with a dollar amount,” Loparo said. “I might say, ‘if your house doesn’t appraise, my buyer is willing to pay $10,000 or $20,000 of the difference.’ My two houses this morning were both on $30,000. So, that would have meant the seller would come down 30, and that extra 20 the buyer now has to pay cash for. The bank is not going to cover what doesn’t appraise.”

Whether a buyer should go above or below the asking price of a home depends on various criteria, Friedman said.

“How long the home has been on the market, if it’s priced fairly and competitively to the market, how many people are competing – you may or may not know that answer though,” Friedman said. “I generally have the mindset that if you like a home, someone else is going to like it also. And you don’t have a second chance for a first impression. It just depends on the situation. I still recommend coming in with your highest and best offer.”

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