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After Buying a House, It Can Be Wise to Delay Big Projects

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By Alan J. Heavens

new_house_young_couple(MCT)—Although many buyers these days avoid properties that require major renovation, that doesn’t mean they’re shunning first-year projects designed primarily to make the houses they do purchase their own.

Even during the real-estate boom, when buyers often had some money left over after down-payment and closing costs, wisdom dictated that you didn’t embark right away on anything too extensive. That wisdom still prevails.

If you’ve owned a house before, you have a sense of how to proceed. If you’re a newbie, Jean Wolf, who recently downsized to a 16-year-old rancher in Gibbsboro, N.J., after 50 years in a large house, offered this advice:

“Let your thoughts simmer a little and live in the house for a while. Your ideas will probably change.”

“Our first major project was removing all window treatments, except for Venetian blinds, since some windows were covered with four layers,” she says. A new refrigerator and stove, more comfortable flooring and a patio were among other undertakings.

Jeff Block, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach in Philadelphia, says that “if a home is in move-in condition, buyers prefer to wait a year or two, so they better understand how they use the space.”

“Of course,” he noted, “the danger here is one to two years plus procrastination, as well as being busy, often turns into five-plus years or never.”

A priority, suggested Noelle Barbone, office manager at Weichert Realtors’ Media, Pa., office, should be changing the locks “on all exterior doors (and) access codes to security systems and garage-door opener panels.”

Sellers are, of course, supposed to surrender keys at closing, but there’s always one that might have been provided to a neighbor for “when I’m away” situations that may have been forgotten.

Rich McIlhenny, of RE/MAX Services in Blue Bell, Pa., says he reminds his buyers to consult their accountant “about deducting interest, points, real estate taxes and possibly moving expenses from their returns for that year.”

To help that along, Barbone recommended placing a copy of the settlement sheet in your files, so that everything you need at tax time is in one place.

The best thing buyers can do right away? Start paying down the mortgage, says Martin Millner, an agent with Coldwell Banker Hearthside in Yardley, Pa.

“Making extra payments at the outset is a good habit to get into, and will pay dividends in terms of chopping time off the mortgage,” Millner says.

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