Ten Tips for Buying a Home
April 17, 2013
Greetings everyone, this article is long overdue! I promised Matt would return after the Ten Tips for Selling Your Home post from last year to discuss the opposite side of a real estate transaction, purchasing a home. Matt is an experienced real estate broker and appraiser and as a bonus, I’ve also included tips from Dino, a long time real estate agent in the Bay Area. Together these guys have almost four decades of experience in representing buyers and sellers in the real estate market so they’re smart, savvy, and full of helpful information. Today they’re sharing ten tips for buying a home:
“In the home purchasing market, being a buyer is different than being a seller. A buyer wants to find the best home for the best price, the seller on the other hand wants the most money for it. Buyers should be prepared for many twists and turns in their quest to purchase a home. Know that there are many different real estate markets and laws across the country, so these tips are meant to be helpful guidelines.
1) Find the Right Agent. Look for someone with experience in the area, someone who is easy to reach and responds to phone calls or emails, and one you have an easy time talking to about your wants and needs. Ask them how many times they have represented a buyer since it’s a good idea to find an agent who has worked with many buyers. Learn how much experience they have and ask them if they have the time to find you a home. You’d be surprised how some agents are stretched too thin and as a result won’t go the extra mile.
If an agent has ten or more active escrows, that person may not necessarily be right for you. It’s possible they’re more concerned about closing deals and getting commissions and may not have the time to be your best advocate. Most importantly, find an agent who has the time to serve your needs.
You might also look at agents that work on a team. These days, clients are often better served by having more than one person do it all. Ask whether the agent works with a team of assistants – it doesn’t cost extra, and you may get better attention to your needs. As a buyer, you want to be treated as though you are important, so the one of the most important things to know is how many clients they have at that time and whether they may have colleagues to assist in your search for a home.
2) Learn the Market. When you getting ready to buy a home, take the time to learn the market on your own. This research can take six months, but if you are in a hurry, it can be done in a few weeks. Ask your agent for every listing in your price range in your neighborhood. Be specific, learn as much as you can about where you want to live and figure out how much you can afford.
You can also search many of the listings online for free without burdening your agent. Redfin is an excellent site and give its readers access to all the current listings on the market. There are also other sites to review, Zillow, Realtor, Trulia, to name a few. Some of these sites work with agents who will rebate part of their fee if you work directly with them, but expect that you may get what you pay for. An agent hired for a full fee may give greater attention and work harder for their client.
Part of learning the market is seeing many homes and judging their quality, condition, location, size, and amenities. Many factors can play a role in you decision: schools districts, crime rates, appreciation rates, and proximity to services. Learning the market includes viewing as many homes as you can to educate yourself on what styles you prefer, and also to learn about value.
If you trust that your agent knows what you’re looking for, have them preview homes for you, that’s their job. After they see the property, they can contact you right away and schedule a time for you to see the home.
Technology is a huge part of the arsenal of today’s tech-savvy agents. You often see them driving around searching homes using iPads and mobile phones. Now you can easily and efficiently research the home’s facts online and without the paper flyers from the past. Agents who use this technology have access to real-time data and can provide you with the quickest service to help get you the home you want.
3) Finding the Perfect Home. Once you have learned the market and you’re ready to consider making an offer, narrow your selections to five to ten homes. The first rule of thumb is “if you don’t love it, don’t buy it.” But there are some exceptions. At the present time that you’re ready to buy, there may not be a “perfect” home in your price range, or your agent may be showing you a bank owned or short sale property. Often these homes are in need of some or much repair, so they can be sold under market and can be a good buy if you’re willing to make cosmetic repairs or do some remodeling.
Remember a good buy can be a stepping stone to your next home, which may be one down the road that ends up being the “perfect” home. Try not to be deterred by things like the color of the carpet or a dated bathroom, these things can be changed with a few home improvement projects or by hiring professionals to help.
4) Making the Offer. An informed buyer should have a good idea of what the home they are about to buy is worth. Offering price depends on many factors, supply, demand, and timing to name a few. Together with your agent, offer the price you think it is worth, less 1 to 5 percent in a stable market. Why should you offer less than the home is worth? Because more often than not you are going to get a counter offer so leave some room for negotiation. If it is a buyer’s market and the home has been sitting on the market for several months, offer what you think it’s worth less 10 percent. The only exception is when the listing price is fair and there are other buyers competing heavily for that house. That’s a seller’s market, and then you offer full price.
Know that there are other terms in an offer besides price to consider, the move out date, any problems with the home, and the negotiations that settle who will pay for them. Remember that some details or costs of repairs can be left for future negotiations beyond the initial offer. More on that next.
5) Maximize Your Knowledge. Once your offer is accepted, you are now in escrow. The escrow period is when you will have a time to review disclosures and to get inspections of the property you are buying. It is also during this time you must learn everything you can about the specific home you are buying: whether the home is located in a flood or earthquake zone; if parts of the home were constructed without permits; whether there are easements with responsibilities; whether the homeowners association is involved in litigation and has a proper budget for repairs; the list goes on. Don’t forget to research the home’s school district, even if you don’t have kids this is very, very important factor in a home’s value.
Once you learn more about the property you are required to remove what are called “contingencies” meaning you approve or disapprove of certain disclosures and inspections. Its really important to realize that you also have the right to renegotiate the agreement for items that were unknown to you, even if the original contract agreement was “as-is.” (Your agent should know the state law for real estate contractual negotiations like these).
Let’s say during an inspection it turns out the roof needs replacement and it will cost $10,000 to do it. You can then ask the seller to pay for all of half of this cost. The seller can always say no and not pay for a thing but then he or she risks that you will walk away from the deal. Just because you negotiated the price in the beginning and your offer was accepted does not necessarily mean that negotiations are over.
6) Obtaining a Loan. In addition to a good real estate agent, find a good loan agent to work with that has a variety of loan products available and ones that best fit your needs. The current market that is rebounding in many areas, so well prepared or “approved” buyers (those with loan approval up to a certain amount) have a distinct advantage. Many buyers make an offer but have not been preapproved with a lender and that can be a serious disadvantage. It’s best to be prepared and have your paperwork in order with a financial institution who will be loaning you part of the money to purchase a home.
Ask your real estate agent who she or he recommends as a loan agent, or get referrals from anyone you can. Work with your lender and real estate agent together to schedule the funding of your loan and the signing of loan papers at the end of escrow. Make sure your lender is easy to communicate with and promptly gives you a “truth in lending” disclosure.
7) Moving In and Out. Plan at least one and preferably two weeks to move. Some people can do it in a weekend, but it’s better to take time so you can lay out your new home as you wish and make sure the power and internet and cable companies can get you up and running. Also you may want to have a moving sale to pare down and start fresh in your new home, so a weekend in between moving dates is a smart choice.
8) Minimize Stress. We’ve seen it so we know this to be true: moving is one of the most stressful time in peoples lives, and if affects individuals more than they bargain for. When you have a “closing date” mark it on the calendar, take time off work, round up some friends or movers and cleaners to help you transition from one home to another, and spend as much time as you can afford doing it so you’re not in a panic or over anxious.
9) Enjoy the Process. As hard as it may sound especially to the novice, take the time to learn all you can and enjoy the process. It’s an educational and interesting experience and ultimately satisfying becoming a homeowner. Learn the terms of art (from buying to construction), learn how your home works, what your responsibilities are as a property owner (taxes, etc.) and when the dust settles you will look back with a great sense of satisfaction.
10) Make your New House a Home. In all likelihood (unless you’re buying a brand new home) you’ve just moved into a home where strangers have made all the paint and surface choices, and there’s a good chance you want to change a lot of it to suit your style. A few coats of paint works wonders so that’s a good place to start. Next turn to more permanent changes like flooring, carpet, or tile. Over time, you’ll transition that new house into a place you call home. And maybe you’ll want to blog about that remodeling journey too, like Kate.”
Thank you so much Matt and Dino for sharing your words of wisdom and experience today. If you’re looking for an agent in the Bay Area (north of San Francisco) contact Dino Wilson here.
If you have any additional tips or advice to offer on buying a home, feel free to share them in the comments!