Thursday, February 19, 2015

Five Survival Strategies When Buying on HHI or in Bluffton

You're ready to buy a home--but what do you really need to know? Here's a few of my top tips for buyers in the Hilton Head and Bluffton area.  

#1: Be Aware of the HHI Transfer Fees

One of the things buyers on Hilton Head Island should know about is the standard 0.0025% (or 1/4 of 1%) sales price transfer fee for purchasers, which is used for land acquisition.  In addition to this fee, many plantations and gated communities also have a transfer fee that can range from a couple of hundred dollars to several thousands.  These expenses are normally the buyer’s responsibility, but can be negotiated in the contract.

#2: Shop Around for the Right Insurance

Every buyer should carefully shop to find the best rates on homeowners insurance.  The costs and coverages can vary greatly depending on the carrier, so this should be a priority for buyers. One hot topic related to insurance is flood insurance. You should always know whether the home that you are considering is in a flood hazard zone--if so, you will be required to carry separate flood insurance. However, I always recommend this coverage because we live in the LOWcountry.  Rising water due to storms or floods is not covered by traditional homeowner's insurance, so you can be left with no help if you don't have this coverage.

I recommend chatting with an expert to assess your options, and one that I highly recommend is Missy Guardino at McKenzie Insurance Services in Hardeeville. You can contact her via phone at (843) 784-2311 or via email at mguardino at hargray dot com.

#3: Look for a Home Warranty

One of the expenses that most sellers and buyers don’t think much about is HVAC, or air conditioning, repairs. To try to avoid this, I always recommend that my sellers provide a one year home warranty for buyers.  This warranty not only covers buyers for a year after closing, but also can cover the seller during the listing period. This coverage is especially beneficial when the home is under contract and a home inspection is done. When the terms of the contract require that the HVAC be in good working order, a home warranty can save the seller costly repairs.

#4: Don't Be Afraid to Finance--and Get Pre-Approved!

Buyers actually CAN still get 100% financing in today’s market.  One of the most common options in the Bluffton area is USDA or Rural Development.  This loan is a conventional loan, with no monthly mortgage insurance, but some income and local restrictions apply. Most realtors won't work with a buyer who hasn't already been pre-approved for a mortgage, because that information is essential when you are choosing homes to consider.  I also recommend that you sit down and consider what monthly payment you can manage.  Often, buyers get preapproved for amounts that are more than they expect--knowing your bottom line price point will make sure that you do not become house poor. 

I highly recommend Doreen Haughton-James with Movement Mortgage.  She can be reached at (843) 683-1096 and can help you through the pre-approval process. 

#5: Trust Your Agent

Many neighborhoods in the Bluffton and Hilton Head Island area support particular lifestyles—boaters, golfers, tennis players, beach lovers, community-minded, private, a carefully managed neighborhood with restrictions, no restrictions on any homeowner, etc.  Because of this, I always sit down with my buyers and find out what they are looking for in a lifestyle and narrow the search area from there.  I do the same with the homes that I am selling—finding out what a homeowner loved about their home and neighborhood helps me target the same type of buyer to help find the right fit more quickly.

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