If you are an aggressive home buyer, especially a “first-timer” who doesn’t follow a herd mentality, “The Fearless Home Buyer” by Elizabeth Razzi is an excellent “thinking person’s” home purchase guide. The author, former real estate editor for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, plays no favorites as she reveals the pros and cons of doing business with Realtors, mortgage lenders, do-it-yourself for-sale-by-owners, and other realty groups.
This is a book first-time and repeat home buyers should read in advance before starting the quest to buy a first or second home. It is not the type of book that you can skip the first chapters and go right to the later chapters. The reason is the book builds on the earlier chapters, which lays the foundation, such as reasons when buying a home makes sense and when it doesn’t.
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Starting with the fundamentals in the “Why Buy?” chapter, Razzi sets the stage by explaining the pros and cons of home ownership, introducing the key players such as realty agents, appraisers, mortgage sources, escrow or closing settlement persons, and title insurers.
A handy feature at the end of each chapter is “Razzi’s Rules to Live By,” which is a summary of the key points. For example, at the end of the first chapter, the author says, “Six months’ inventory is key” (to determine if the local home market is balanced, or pro-seller or pro-buyer); “Take advantage of leverage” (don’t pay all cash for your home); and “The government wants you to own” (explaining tax breaks for homeowners).
Although Razzi favors home buying over renting, she emphasizes there are no longer any fixed rules for home buyers. To illustrate, she says, “There is an old rule of thumb that says to find the amount you can afford to spend on a home, you simply multiply your gross yearly income by 2.5. Like most rules of thumb, this one’s too crude to be of much use,” she adds.
Then she suggests several Web sites for readers to calculate approximately how much home they can afford to buy. The appendixes contain additional valuable Web sites, sample home sales contracts and disclosure forms, a glossary of terms, and state real estate commission contacts.
The author’s viewpoint, as an expert independent reporter observing the home sales industry, takes no sides. Razzi is an “equal opportunity critic” of real estate sales agents, home sellers, mortgage lenders, appraisers, and sales closing personnel. She plays no favorites, explaining the possible benefits and drawbacks, plus what home buyers (and sellers) need to anticipate.
For example, when Razzi explains the pros and cons of buying a home with the help of a buyer’s agent, she doesn’t hesitate to explain some buyer’s agents are less than ethical, as they might reveal confidences to the other party, such as the highest price the buyer is willing to pay. The author cautions buyers not to reveal anything — even to their buyer’s agent — that they wouldn’t want the seller or seller’s listing agent to know.
The book’s next to last chapter, “Home at Last,” emphasizes sales closing pitfalls home buyers might encounter. The author recommends against obtaining mortgage life insurance and biweekly mortgage plans. She also explains why buyers should change the locks after obtaining title and why there is nothing a borrower can do if the lender sells the mortgage and a new loan servicer suddenly appears.
Chapter topics include, “Getting Ready to Make Your Move”; “Putting Together a Down Payment”; “Mortgages Explained”; “Special Challenges for the Move-up Buyer”; “Home Styles”; “How to Size Up a Neighborhood”; “Buying Out of Town”; “Get an Agent in Your Corner”; “For Sale by Owner”; “How to Tour a Home”; “Making an Offer”; “Negotiating Your Way to a Deal”; “Special Tips for Surviving a Cutthroat Seller’s Market”; and “How to Wrap Up the Deal.” A handy appendix feature is a summary of all “Razzi’s Rules” from each chapter.
This is one of the best “how to buy a home” books. It is different because Razzi doesn’t hesitate to challenge the established players, especially realty agents and mortgage lenders, by explaining their tricks and techniques, which buyers should anticipate and avoid. On my scale of one to 10, this outstanding book rates a solid 10.
“The Fearless Home Buyer,” by Elizabeth Razzi (STC Paperbacks, Stewart, Tabori and Chang, New York), 2006, $16.95, 292 pages; available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries, and www.amazon.com.
(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center).
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