Important Factors in Buying a Home: An Interview with Karen Saena-Vanilau, of Jack White Real Estate


In Alaska, a good real estate licensee can help a buyer’s purchase a great experience or one that leaves much to be desired. There are many elements that demand consideration; and the advantages to working with a licensee that has lived in the community their entire life can provide a buyer with the information needed to get the most out of their investment.

Real Estate Licensee, Karen Saena-Vanilau has worked for Jack White Real Estate for over 10 years, a real estate brokerage located in Anchorage, Alaska. Karen has lived in Alaska her entire life.

Benjamin Briggs: What are the most important things a buyer should look for in a potential property when considering purchasing?

Karen Saena-Vanilau: Location must be carefully considered. You can change mostly anything in a home after purchase; flooring, cabinets, counters, but location is not one them. Another factor to consider is resale potential and market value effects. What will your market be in the future when you’re ready to sell? Do you see potential positive or negative developments that may effect your property value in the future? These are a few items I’d recommend considering.

Benjamin Briggs: What should I look for in a good licensee?

Karen Saena-Vanilau: A good licensee is very involved communicatively and is able to educate their clients on all-around-options in purchasing or selling a home. They are available to assist their clients needs and can give their clients the service they would expect for themselves.

Benjamin Briggs: Is Alaska’s real estate outlook different than in any other state concerning a shortage of housing?

Karen Saena-Vanilau: Alaska does have a shortage of housing but it also has the greatest land mass with rich resources compared to other parts of the country. I do believe there will be a purchase boom in the future because of Alaska’s developmental potential.

Benjamin Briggs: Is an older home as good a purchase as a newer home?

Karen Saena-Vanilau: Generally speaking a newer home is of more value compared to an older home. Newer homes are a lot more energy efficient and meet current building standards to protect home owners.

Benjamin Briggs: What are closing costs and how will I know, as a buyer, if they are fair?

Karen Saena-Vanilau: Closing costs are costs associated to purchasing a home or even selling a home. I would recommend when purchasing a home that prior to making an offer that the buyer request to view a cost sheet. Cost sheets are provided by their lender and gives an estimate of what the buyers can expect to pay in closing costs.

Benjamin Briggs: What is the minimum credit score do I need as a new buyer?

Karen Saena-Vanilau: It depends on what loan program you qualify for. Generally speaking for a first time home buyer a FICO score of 640 is decent. I would recommend that if you’re buying a home that you shop around for lenders. Not all lenders offer the same rates, fees, and programs. Also ask all the questions you can and want, there is no dumb questions when it comes to investment. The more educated a buyer is the better off they’d be.

Benjamin Briggs: What is the best advice that you have for a new buyer?

Karen Saena-Vanilau: Get educated by learning the market. If possible, hire someone who can represent you who is not afraid to tell you that you the truth. Whether it is negative options weighing against you and gives you all of the options so that you will be able to make an informed decision. It is very important that you do this because buying a home is the biggest purchase most people will make in their lives.

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Benjamin Briggs

Benjamin Briggs is the owner and COO of Gold Grizzly Publications, Independent Alaskan Publishing house. Mr. Briggs has written 5 novels and is an Amazon bestselling author and contributes to major media news outlets.