How to choose a property in the United States.
How do you find the right property, and what should you pay attention to when checking and choosing properties?
First, pick your desired area(s) and check the following:
- Infrastructure Assessment: how far/close are the shops, highway access (examine the pros and cons), transportation, schools (this is important to consider since under U.S. law, children are assigned to schools based on their home address), parks with playgrounds, etc.
- Neighborhood Analyses: demographics, culture, criminal rates.
- Negative factors: power lines, cemeteries, etc.
- The year the property was built
It is widely believed that newer is better, since after 1978 certain hazardous building materials (such as asbestos and lead-based paint) were forbidden from use, leading to safer living conditions in newer constructions. However, there are some exceptions. Old is not always bad, and new is not always good. A house built in the early 1900’s from sturdy materials can often be deemed more valuable in comparison to a newly built home.
In America, 31% of the properties are over 55 years old, with another 30% being close to 50 years old. Given this, older options should not be entirely dismissed – after all, by filtering a property search by its “year built”, you may miss charming old houses with ancient streets and century aged trees.
Apartments are measured in square feet (1 meter is approximately equal to 11 feet). It is important to get accurate measurements, since some can include a terrace area or balcony in the overall sq footage.
Number of floors:
Consider the height of the apartment you are looking to invest in, as higher floors will typically provide a better view and less street noise. It’s important to acknowledge that prices will also raise accordingly, depending on the how high the property is.
Since housing in America rarely has a lot of foundation walls (open plans), you can make alterations to almost any property. However, sections containing pipes for gas and plumbing are restricted from modification.
Associations and their considerations:
There is a monthly maintenance fee that the Home Owners Association (HOA) spends on the apartment complex. Usually, it covers swimming pool maintenance, garden and lawn upkeep, garbage disposal and building painting. For major repairs, such as roof replacement or elevators maintenance, the association may get funds from the HOA, and charge the residents separately. The monthly fee can range from $200 to $2,000. These fees are unavoidable when buying an apartment or townhouse and will apply to every resident. Some properties also have strict rules, like no pets, rental restrictions (such as only letting close relatives live in the property), no window or door modifications, and require for you to acquire a permit to renovate your property.
Each property owner pays taxes. The amount depends on the assessed value of the property (which can be petitioned for review each year). Taxes depend on the area where the property is located. Certain categories of citizens (pensioners and the owners who live at their property) may receive tax exemptions.
If you have picked a property where taxes seem extremely low, make sure to ask why – as they might have homestead improvement exemption.
When completing a walk through, you should pay attention to the following:
- plumbing (fittings and pipework)
- heating and cooling system (air conditioning) – a comfortable temperature during the showing is usually a good sign
- windows, floors and wall conditions
- check for any signs of mold
- check existing equipment (stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, washer and dryer – if these are available at the showing, the property is most likely sold with them)
All construction work (like plumbing and electrical) is relatively expensive, so make sure you objectively assess any renovation work or repairs that are needed.
If you buy a renovated house, make sure all the required permits have been obtained.
You can do a home inspection (and this is strongly recommended), where a surveyor comes to check the property and creates a report of their findings. This report will help you make up your mind regarding the purchase, and can even be a basis to negotiate with the seller. These inspections range from $200- $500.
Additionally, you should carefully read the disclosure document that the seller will require you to sign at the deal. This document points out all the known property defects. There could be HOA payment delay, fees, utilities, or developer loans. Your agent and attorney will need to verify all of these things, so it’s important to work with qualified and recommended professionals.
Now that you have basic knowledge of property investment, we wish you luck and we hope you find the right deal! And now that you are acquainted with Miami, well, welcome home…