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3 Tips for First-Time Virginia Homebuyers

Beach vacation homes

Homeowners enjoy several financial benefits over renters, including tax breaks for mortgages, closing costs and property taxes. Buying a home specifically in Virginia can offer even more advantages for your family, since as of 2012 Virginia ranked #4 nationally for K through 12 schooling. That same year, the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that Virginia is the healthiest state for children in the South Atlantic region.

But whether you’re looking at beach vacation homes along the famed Virginia coastline or completely relocating, these are three things you should know before you start looking at new home listings.

  1. The Language of Real Estate

    Do you know what a balloon mortgage is? What about a due-on-sale provision, or a cash-out refinance? Before you actually start looking at homes to buy, browse some online dictionaries to acquaint yourself with real estate terms. If you’re not sure where to start, read through some articles or online listings, looking up terms that appear frequently.

    When you are ready to buy, make sure you’re working with a real estate agent who can explain everything to you clearly and jargon-free. A home is likely to be the biggest investment you ever make, so if you don’t understand something, be sure to ask right away. Also be sure to work with an agent who’s familiar with the area you want to buy in, looking for realtors in Virginia Beach, for example, if that’s where you’d like to end up. An experienced local realtor can help you assess the value of the homes you’re looking at compared to neighborhood averages.

  2. Your Total Cost of Living

    Take the advice of MSN: Calculate your total current cost of living before you ever look at houses, and then adjust that number for each neighborhood you explore. If you don’t keep a detailed budget, you may not be aware of exactly how much you can afford to spend on housing each month. Also remember that you’ll be paying taxes and insurance you’re not used to if you’ve been renting.

    It’s tempting to look at “dream” houses in your area, browsing new home listings and attending showings regardless of price. But take your personality into account, making sure you don’t fall in love with something just out of your price range and end up stretching yourself too thin in an effort to live beyond your means. It’s just way too easy to find a beach house for sale and get swept off your feet without doing the math.

  3. City Cultures

    Virginia’s diverse environment means that homebuyers can choose anything from the forests to the beach that catches their fancy. The state also has cities in a variety of sizes so you can get the exact feel that you want.

    But know that different areas do have distinctive cultures, and you should pick a few to look at before buying. Norfolk, for example, has a large military population—unsurprisingly, since it’s the site of the largest naval base in the world—and offers a number of suburban neighborhoods perfect for families. Hampton offers beaches particularly popular with windsurfers. Talking with a real estate agent or doing a little judicious research online can get you pointed in the right direction.

What advice do you have for first-time buyers browsing the new home listings? Share in the comments.

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