HOUGHTON - It's easy for prospective home buyers to fall in love with a house.
But what Barbara LaFex Lewis suggests they do before diving into a purchase agreement, is to get a feel for the environment around the home first.
"We're going to walk all the way around that block to find out what you're going to hear," she said. "You need to go out and look at a property two times during the day - mid-morning and late, late afternoon, between 6 and 9 p.m."
A Remax Douglass Real Estate sign shows a ranch-style home for sale on Dodge Street in Houghton.
LaFex Lewis, Realtor and associate broker at Remax Douglass Real Estate in Houghton, has been serving clients' real estate needs since 1973.
Purchasing a home, she said, is usually the most expensive thing people will buy in their lifetime and that's why it's important to consider a number of factors beforehand.
"I do a free counseling session with every new buyer," LaFex Lewis said. "What we'll do is we'll sit down and figure out what you can afford."
A purchase agreement form is also given to the buyer during the session, she said, so they can take it home and review it.
Once a buyer determines what payments he or she can afford, then they must factor in how much they'll be paying in taxes.
"Then you have to have insurance, and insurance is complicated because it's based so much on your credit report," she said. "Then I'll ask, where are you going for financing?"
Part of LaFex Lewis' job involves introducing clients to as many financial avenues as possible, for example looking at U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development or Federal Housing Administration programs.
"Veterans have a mortgage they can get with nothing down," she said. "That is a benefit that veterans have as long as they've been honorably discharged."
After a lending institution has been selected, LaFex Lewis said she asks the buyer for a pre-qualified letter, to prove to both her and the seller that they qualify. At that point, an appointment is made with the seller and the buyer can go into the home for a showing.
"So they go out and they look and they compare; most of the time it's more than one showing," she said. "If they say this is the property they want, then we can write up a purchase agreement."
If the purchase agreement is accepted, the next step would involve a professional home inspection, to determine the condition of the home; followed by an appraisal.
LaFex Lewis recommends people keep their eyes open for buyers' seminars, which are offered locally, and to also to ask a lot of questions.
"Real estate people are knowledgeable; in our office we have people who have been here since the early 80s," she said. "They've got a good education behind them, both formal and also real estate education."
When looking for a realtor, she added, make sure it's someone who is knowledgeable in the area you're looking at.
"If you have a good buyer's rep, they're going to point out to you the things you may not think about," she said. "Take time with your realtor. They're willing to sit down and talk with you."
For more information, visit keweenawrealestate.com.