Know your priorities. Be honest about them. Don’t let friends and family push you into the market before you’re committed. Renting is okay if it lets you focus on the things that really matter to you now. Maybe buying a home isn’t one of them. Home buying is a marathon, and you’ll never finish unless it’s a top priority.
Have you ever said, “You have to be crazy to pay these prices”? Have you been saying that since the day you got here? High prices make buying in this area the ultimate commitment to it. You won’t be willing to pay those prices if you think the grass might be greener somewhere else.
Get pre-approved by a good local lender, someone you can talk to face-to-face. That’s the only way you’ll know how much home you can buy. Some buyers find out they can’t afford as much home as they thought. Wouldn’t now be a good time to know that—not after looking for six months?
The perfect house doesn’t exist. Focus on the big picture. Are the homes in your price range dated or small? You can fix that. Worry about what you can’t fix: bad location, poor schools, a small lot. Or embrace those defects. That house on a busy street may be the only way you can afford the schools you want. Or look at the alternatives: a townhouse within the same school district, or a district that’s almost as good.
You’ll be getting lots of input from family and friends. All of it will be well-intentioned. Some of it will be good, some irrelevant. Will you know the difference?
“But they just bought a house.” Would you listen to an agent who’s sold just one house?
“But I always depend on my friends for advice.” They’re your support group. But think of all the experience and specialized knowledge you need to do your own job. Real estate is like that too. Buying and selling real estate isn’t something that your friends have done often enough to really understand its nuances. Right now you’re the real estate expert in your group. Don’t be intimidated.
Looking for value? Great. Looking for a bargain? Not so great.
To “steal” a house you have to 1) find a seller who thinks his or her house is worth less than it really is, and 2) be the only buyer to know about it.
This scenario has several problems. First, Mr. Seller usually thinks his house is worth more than it is. Second, when the house hits the Multiple Listing Service it’s exposed to thousands of agents and, through the ‘net, to hundreds of potential buyers. Now the secret is out. And third, if the house is actually under-priced, competing buyers will drive up the price to where it belongs.
Yes, some houses are priced less than you’d expect. Be very careful of them. Either something is seriously wrong with the house and not fixable, like a location next to a four-lane expressway. Or the house is under-priced to attract multiple offers. Neither is a bargain.
Pick your agent carefully.
Many buyers are attracted to agents who make them feel good. That’s understandable, given the emotional nature of buying and selling. But you may end up working with an agent who’s great at making people feel good, and not so great at helping them buy the right house for the right price and the right terms.
Some buyers don’t choose an agent until they see a house they like, then use whoever’s handy. That would work if all agents were equally competent, but they’re not, just like not all the people in your own profession are equally competent. The other problem is that often the agent at the open house is the seller’s agent. Seller’s agent, as in “agent who has a pre-existing relationship with the seller”. Maybe the seller is a friend of that agent or a repeat client. Or the seller is a referral from a friend, client or relative of that agent. You’re the latecomer in any of these scenarios. Will the seller’s agent go up against the seller and fight for you?
So how should you choose an agent? Referrals are one way, although you and your friends may not have the same taste in agents. Open houses can sometimes be good, as long as you’re not using the listing agent to make an offer on his or her listing.
But the best way to find an agent is to interview and ask for references. Then take him or her out for an extended test drive. Look at houses together. Don’t wait until the last minute to pick your guide. Buying a house is too important for that.
Interested in buying a home? Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
copyright © John Fyten 2004-2013.