So you're thinking about moving to the Louisville area? In all likelihood, one of the first things you'll need to do is find a place to call home in your new city. Whether that's an older home in an established neighborhood, a home in one f Louisville's many new subdivisions, or one you have custom-build for you and your family, this guide is designed to help you in your search by taking you step by step through the things a home buyer must know to become a homeowner.
CHECKING OUT THE PRICES
Defining what you can afford is an obvious, but crucial, first step toward home ownership. Since the Louisville area offers a wide range of prices, you will want to do some initial exploring to find out where you can find homes in your prize range. The best place to start is at a reputable financial institution that can help you tailor your financing plan to fit your needs.
Keep in mind that the cost of property taxes and homeowner's insurance for your new home will figure into the calculations of your monthly payments. However, remember also that the tax deductions from the interest on your home loan also play a role in determining what you can afford.
Here is just one example: The monthly payment on a $90,000, 30-year mortgage that carries a 7 percent interest rate is about $600. But, for a married couple living in Kentucky that files joint tax returns and earns $50,000 per year, the savings from the mortgage-interest tax deductions lowers the effective monthly principal and interest payment to $485 and the effective interest rate to 4.7 percent.
A qualified loan advisor at any bank or mortgage company can analyze your current debt and tell you how to eliminate some of the financial obstacles you may encounter along the way.
After you've gone through all the financial options with your loan advisor, you can often be pre-approved for a loan on a home in the prize range you desire.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
The next step in your home search is to look at specific locations. You'll quickly lean that Louisville offers a wide range of neighborhoods, all within a reasonable distance from the heart of the city.
You might want to consider some practical questions as you narrow your search: If your job entails a lot of flying, check the driving time to Louisville International Airport from various neighborhoods. Will you be making frequent trips downtown? Or will you be commuting outside of the Louisville area on a regular basis?
Nothing will give you a better feel for Louisville than just driving around the metro area. Be sure to use an area map and take notes so you can eliminate areas that don't appeal to you. And remember to do a little sightseeing while you're on your quest so you'll get a more balanced view of what the different parts of Louisville have to offer.
CHOOSING A NEIGHBORHOOD
Once you've chose the area of Louisville that best suits you, it's time to start investigating the neighborhoods and subdivisions within that area.
You'll find that some subdivisions offer acres of woods, while others feature lakes or golf courses. No matter what combination of amenities you're looking for, chance are you'll be able to find something that will fit your lifestyle and budget.
As you drive through the communities that interest you, make a checklist for each neighborhood noting its proximity to shopping, public transportation, recreation, places of worship, schools, day-care centers and medical facilities. Find out what the property-tax rate is (Louisville has dozens of small cities within its boundaries, each of which sets its own property-tax rates), and who provides police and fire protection for the area. You'll also want to inquire about he availability of garbage collection services, city water and sewer hookups.
FINDING YOUR DREAM HOME
Now that you've successfully negotiated three of the six steps, you're halfway home (so to speak).
This is the time to sit down and make a list of your needs, wants and dreams for your new home.
Touring newer homes is a great way to get ideas for your own custom-built home, so take the time to walk through several homes which can give you some great ideas for features you might want to incorporate in your home.
STAKING A CLAIM
Once you've found a financing plan, a community and the type of home that fits you, it's time to put some stakes in the ground. This is the time to do some walking around the properties that most attract you.
Observe the natural setting of your potential home site. Pay attention to the direction the sun rises and sets on the horizon. Do you want a large back yard or more space in the front? Do you prefer a wooded home site or would you rather have a view of the 10th green on a golf course?
If you're looking at an undeveloped lot, keep in mind that the home probably will sit higher than the current ground level because of backfill and topsoil that goes in before your new home is finished.
Whether you're building a new home, buying an existing new home or buying an older home, you'll want to do business with someone you can trust. But how do you determine that?
Fortunately, there are a number of local resources you can consult. If you're going to build or buy a new home, take time to talk to the builders. Ask about their company's business philosophy, see if they've won any awards or special commendations for their work. Try to talk to other people who have done business with them.
For information about builders or remodelers, the Home Builders Association of Louisville is one of the most valuable resources you can consult. Many members of the association are Registered Builders, a designation that is granted only to builders who meet specific qualifications. Only full-time professionals who derive their principal income from construction or related real-estate activities are eligible to become Registered Builders.
They must meet other qualifications as well. Their recent work must be inspected by the Home Builders Association of Louisville, they must have an acceptable credit history and they must agree to adhere to the Home Builders Association of Louisville's Code of Ethics and to sue a conciliation process in the event of an unresolved complaint from a customer.
YOUR REAL-ESTATE PROFESSIONAL
If you decide to buy an existing home that's being sold by a previous owner, the best way to assure a smooth and professional transaction is to work with a local REALTOR®.
REALTORS® are members of local, state and national associations whose members abide by a strict code of ethics. They have the expertise, resources and dedication to guide you through a real estate transaction and they understand contracts, finances and the laws that apply to sales and purchases.
If you buy an existing home, you may want to make a few improvements to it. As when buying a home, check first with your bank or lending institution to see what financing options are available for homeowners who want to remodel. Usually you'll find that much of the cost of remodeling can be recovered if you decide to sell your home in the future.
One of the best steps to take when remodeling is, once again, to consult the Home Builders Association of Louisville, whose Registered Remodelor program is one of a handful of such programs nationwide.
The HBAL's Registered Remodelors, like its Registered Builders, must adhere to rigorous professional standards.
Whoever you choose, make sure that your remodeler:
Maintains a permanent address, phone number, and/or a pager or answering system.
Has a trustworthy reputation among customers and peers.
Carries insurance that protects you from claims arising from damage to personal property or job-related injuries.
Belongs to a trade association, such as the Home Builders Association of Louisville
Here's a checklist that might come in handy as you search for your Louisville-area home:
FIRST VISIT TO FINANCIAL ADVISOR
Income-tax returns for the last two years
Record of any current debt such as car payments, credit-card balances, alimony, etc.
Records of employment
SECOND VISIT TO FINANCIAL ADVISOR
Copy of signed contract
Proof of homeowner's insurance
Proof of home inspection
Proof of pest inspection
QUESTIONS TO ASK A BUILDER OR SELLER
Is the builder a member of the Home Builders Association of Louisville?
Does the builder or seller offer a warranty?
Does the attic have adequate ventilation?
What is the home's foundation-wall thickness and is there adequate drainage around the foundation?
What is the R-value of the home's insulation?
What is the water heater's capacity?
What is the capacity of the home's air-conditioning unit(s)?
Are the appliance of high quality and in good condition?