Set the Stage Advice for home buying at life’s milestones.


No matter where you are in life, buying a home is never a simple task. But it doesn’t have to be, say three area Realtors, who offer their advice for buying a first home, a family home and the empty nest.

First Home
A first home is “all about the location,” says Paige Kenney, with Cummings & Co. Realtors.

“You want to make sure you’re buying in a location that’s going to hold its value,” she says. “On top of that, you want to find something (that has) potential for some sort of equity.”

New buyers should be aware of grant programs for people moving into Baltimore City, says Barbara Cox, with O’Conor, Mooney & Fitzgerald.

“A lot of first-time home buyers are at an income that would qualify for those programs,” she says. “There are all sorts of things that can give people free money and loans that don’t expire for five years. If you’re buying in the city, there are
various sources for help with your closing cost.”

What else should new homebuyers do? Get out and really look around; that is always time well spent, says Karen Hubble Bisbee, principal Realtor of the Hubble Bisbee Group and associate broker for Long & Foster Real Estate and Christie’s International Real Estate.

“In terms of determining location, the best thing you can do is get in your car, drive around and walk around,” she says. “Really learn the tone and tenor of  the different communities that you’re considering. Going to open houses is a wonderful way to learn about houses. Open houses give you the chance to meet a lot of real estate professionals. That professional will not only coordinate your search, but also help you interpret the sale of a property so you can make the most competitive bid you can.”

Family Home
When it’s time to move into a bigger house, Cox says it’s important to look for a place that will be easier to sell in the long run.

“Do you want a big yard? Do you want to have walkability? You’re probably looking for a place that won’t have any issues with selling,” Cox says. “Places that are in good school districts are easier to sell.”

Kenney agrees, adding that buyers at this stage may want to look for a home that can be “grown into.”

“Go for that extra bedroom or finished basement,” she says. “People say this house is usually going to be the 20-to-30-year house, but it ends up being a 10-to-15-year house.”

Bisbee warns of certain factors affecting the Baltimore housing market at the

“This is a complicated market right now. Our market in Baltimore is up 6 percent (from a year ago), but we have a terrible crunch in inventory,” she says. “Our supply is woefully off. Our inventory is off 18 percent in the middle market. You have an incredible compression of buyers with a diminished supply, so people are bidding aggressively to secure these houses.”

The Empty Nest
After the kids have grown and left, homeowners may decide they don’t want to stay in that once-full house. For these buyers, there are other factors to consider when looking for their next home.

Kenney says that empty nesters should consider their favorite activities and live near locales that feature what they enjoy.

“The church, the country club, wherever people are going to be spending their retirement time,” Kenney says. “You want to make sure you’re convenient to those spots.”

Cox notes that a lot of empty nesters are looking for “low maintenance.”

“A lot of times, that means a condo,” she says. “Often, they are looking for a first-floor master — not necessarily a rancher, but something that if they later need it, they have the option of a bedroom on the first floor. It’s not always a smaller home, but it’s often a smaller home with less maintenance.”

One big trend: “A lot of empty nesters are now going into walkable communities,” Bisbee says. “On a Sunday morning, they can walk to a local breakfast place or go to the Harbor Walk. Baby boomers want to be a couple blocks away from where the action is. They want to be able to walk to it when they want it.”

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