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As a Buyer, What to Expect During Your Home Search

Searching for your dream home can be an exciting process but can also be challenging to navigate. 

In my opinion, the key to a successful journey is finding the right agent to represent you. Find an agent who is not focused on the commission but on you. You can smell commission breath. 

I always have said that if you do the right thing, the money will follow. Some deals culminate into a sale, and some do not, but it's about the relationship.

The commission is only the cherry on top. So, spend the time to find an agent you feel comfortable with.

The following is a short guide to ensure the process is smooth and comfortable.

The Homebuying Process

The basics you'll need to take in your homebuying journey:

  • Know what you can afford. If you are paying cash, that's easy; if you need a loan, you MUST meet with a lender first to find out what you qualify for. Then YOU decide how much of that qualification amount you want to reach for.: 

  • The Initial Search: Once you've decided you're financially ready to buy a home, it's time to start searching.

  • This can be done on Zillow.com, Redfin, and a thousand other sites with multiple listing services. Some name-brand sites mentioned are not always accurate insofar as in escrow or sales, but they are improving. You should find your agent, then go to the sites they recommend to search. They can also set you up on a daily notification of new things that hit the market over the past 24 hours.

  • Keep this in mind. Pictures lie. Nor really, but I cannot tell you how many thousands of times you get to the property, and your client (or you) says, this doesn't look like the pictures. Lenses and other modifications can skew reality.

  • Finding the right one: Choosing the home of your dreams will depend on several variables, including location, cost, type of house, and whatever else is most important to you. I'd recommend even going a bit outside your perimeters. So many clients buy homes with nothing they said they had to have initially, so be flexible when doing your searches.

  • Putting in an Offer: The US seems to be in a "hot market." I see so many people lose the homes they wanted because they have 'analysis paralysis," and then it's gone. Or, they think they can lowball it and convince the seller they are the only game in town, and they need to take their offer. If you have a good agent, I recommend listening to your agent's advice. Get an offer in ASAP — especially in a "hot market." There will always be overpriced junk on the market, but the good things at the right price don't last. It is ALWAYS about price.

  • Negotiations: The seller may accept your offer outright, or they may wish to negotiate. You can also negotiate on price, repairs, amenities, or terms in your initial request.

  • Securing Finances: With your offer accepted, it's your responsibility to secure the finances you require to buy the home. Have your agent send the purchase agreement immediately to your lender.

Ensure you get a calendar from escrow or your agent so you know the important dates. We could write a whole book on that alone! Don't miss a date! That goes back to an agent that is on top of things.

  • Closing the Deal: If everything has gone well when you sign the papers, your lender will fund the loan, and you will be in your new home! 

  • Finding & Working with the right Agent for YOU

  • Make sure they possess the following: 

  • Expertise in the area you're looking to buy in

  • Reputable contacts and vendors throughout the process (such as home inspectors)

  • Explain and take the time to explain the complicated paperwork if you are not already experienced in this arena.

  • Access to far more listings than you'd find on your own

  • They need to be full-time agents. Would you go to your doctor who worked at home depot part of the time and as a Dr. part of the time? There is no substitute for experience. Some agents don't know what they don't know, and you don't know that they don't know. 

Finding the right agent isn't always that easy.

It's essential to spend time looking for the right fit. Specifically, you can look at reviews online or ask friends and family for references to draw up a shortlist. Then, narrow it down by asking a few essential questions: Caviet: Don't hire your friend's son, daughter, niece, or neighbor. It's like pulling a poisonous needle out of a haystack. Do your due diligence yourself and interview more than one.

  1. Do you work part-time or full-time? Full-time agents are more likely to devote more time to you, take it more seriously, and know what you don't know you need to know.

  2. How many clients do you have at the moment? Too many or too few can be a red flag.

  3. How long have you been an agent? Experienced agents are generally preferable. Independent agents can offer fewer fees, or as a buyer, maybe help contribute to some closing costs. It's allowable IF approved by everyone involved, including the lender (in most places, at least).

  4. Do you work with buyers and sellers? Some agents specialize in one or the other, but working with someone who knows both sides of the story can be useful.

  5. Do you have any experience in the area I'm interested in? Local knowledge is clearly an advantage.

  6. Not to say a brand new agent isn't a good one. If they have a seasoned Broker they work with training them, they may be more thorough and accurate than an agent that's been putting together deals for many years (sometimes they can have bad habits and take shortcuts they think unimportant). I find Senior high-dollar ranking agents don't have the time for you, won't answer calls from other agents, or are just too busy for you. So I don't always recommend being the "top dog" to represent you.

 

The search can begin once you've found an agent who fits your needs. Be sure to discuss your criteria — such as budget, location, and amenities — so they know where to start.

 

Searching Online on Your Own

 

You know what your dream property looks like, BUT keep an open mind. More often than not, the ONE's thing they had to have goes by the wayside over something else they like better. Look a bit outside your perimeters.

Considerations:

  • Location

  • Price

  • Property type

  • Number of bedrooms

  • Number of bathrooms

  • The lot and house size

  • Year built

  • Specific keywords; pool (no pool) views, how many stories, condition, other amenities like shops/garages, waterfront, streams, rivers, water sources, septic vs. sewer, roads, weather access, HOA's and history of the HOA and HOA fees and CC&R's. Look up flood zones right away. You may not be able to get insurance if you find out a month and a lot of time and inspections later. Is the internet important? Find that out upfront. Don't rely on the seller's information about these items; check yourself.

  • Remember, photos can lie.

This makes it easier than ever to browse homes for sale. Then, after you've found something you like, share it with your agent.

Looking for that Mortgage & Getting Pre-Approved

I don't get involved with a buyer's finances. I let them speak directly to a lender about their situations. I would recommend they compare lenders as they should agents representing them. It's worth talking to several lenders to see who can give you the best deal.

Once you've applied, the lender will do a thorough credit check and, based on their findings, will either accept or reject your pre-approval request. If they approve it, you can approach sellers with homes in the right price bracket with proof that you have the means to purchase the house.

You almost ALWAYS have to have this letter in hand when making an offer to be given and precedence in your offer. Many sellers will not consider your offer unless it's cash through a pre-qualification or approval letter. Don't use (XYZ); you know whom they are online lenders. Sellers and agents don't take them seriously because too much can be missing, and generally, their proximity to the property is a big one.

Using an internet lender in NY for a property in Hawaii. I promise you; it will fall apart (speaking from experience).

 

Open Houses & Tours

 

Drive around open houses and get a feel for the areas you like and areas you don't like—proximity to work or schools etc. Get a feel for prices (live and in person, noting lot sizes). Make sure you tell the agent representing the open house that you are already working with Susan Smith with ABC Realty so that you don't become a victim of continually being contacted by the agent or builder. Perhaps you like and want them to represent them; that's OK. Think, too, based on your homework and intuition about the agent at the open house. Please don't just go from agent to agent, though. Have some respect for their time, experience, and energy.

If you find a home you like, contact your agent immediately to find out all the details you would like to know about the property that perhaps the open house agent doesn't know. Brand new agents often hold open houses to fish for clients and appease the sellers they are "marketing" their homes. Most open houses are for the benefit of the agents. I have only sold one open house in 40 years. Not to say it doesn't happen more often—just my personal experience.

Also, feel free to take a tape measure, notepad and pen, camera, and your real estate agent. Just remember that when you visit, it's likely that people are still living in the home. So, don't open cupboards, wardrobes, or fridges, and avoid using the bathroom.

 

Making an Offer & Negotiating

 

Once you've found a home that ticks all the right boxes, it's time to make an offer. Although you might be tempted to rush in (especially in a hot market), it's important to consult with your agent about the type of offer to make. For example, should you offer the asking price? Higher? Lower? All options can be on the table. Refer to the above-aforementioned comments about analysis paralysis and or lowballing. You'll lose that house if it is appropriately priced. I'd bet you a hot dog.

You might also choose to negotiate. Perhaps you feel the price is a little too high, but you'll pay it as long as the appliances are included. Anything goes when making an offer. The best advice is to make a reasonable offer (depending on how badly you want the property) conditional offer and wait for the counteroffer. At least you know where you stand. If you've lowballed it the first time, they may reject your offer entirely and not counter it. You're kind of dead in the water at this point. And, even after negotiations begin, you may go back and forth a few times until everyone is satisfied. It can be stressful and taken personally, so take heart. It's just business.

 

A good agent can usually offer advice along the way regarding what they would consider a fair offer and other things to sweeten the deal and make it more attractive.

 

Steps in the process: Home Inspections

 

OK, you've got an accepted offer. You want to do inspections (called your due diligence period). You would for sure want a home inspection. By a licensed home inspector, not your dad or brother, who is a handyman.

You may want a termite inspection (recommended), mold air test, radon, perhaps roof, well, septic, and fireplace (depending on where you live geographically). These will generally be at the buyer's own expense. For buying land, you would want a septic perc test; where are utilities located, and in both cases, are there flood zones on the property? In either case, a survey or have the seller find the pins.

With this knowledge, you can either go ahead with the deal if you're happy, walk away, or renegotiate to complete the repairs or reduce the price.

This is HUGE. If you have an offer contingent upon inspection, KNOW the drop dead dates in the purchase agreement. If you miss asking for repairs by that date, you, in essence, waive your right to do so. Therefore you can either back out (perhaps losing your deposit) or take the property as is. Know this date. It's one of the most critical dates in the contract. I always get the seller's agent our response a day or two SOONER than required to make sure there are no hiccups or misunderstandings about that drop dead date. Depending on circumstances, you can sometimes get an extension to that due diligence date, but it must be mutually agreed upon and signed before the drop dead date. For example, you're buying land and can't get a soil engineer for six weeks to do the perc test. You have the valid right to "ask" for an extension until they can do the inspections. If it's just, we need another ten days because that usually doesn't fly. Remember, the seller has, in essence, taken their home off the market for this period of time. There may be other serious buys in the wings….

 

Appraisal

 

If you are securing the property with a loan, the bank will require a licensed appraiser to appraise the property. The bank orders the appraiser, and the buyer/seller has nothing to do with it or who does it. This sometimes works well when paying cash. You get an appraisal (you, the buyer, will pay for it) to make sure you are not overpaying for the property if comps are hard to come by. If it doesn't appraise, you can walk, renegotiate, or they can walk (the seller).

 

Offer Accepted & Securing Financing

Closing Costs

Before you can seal the deal, you'll need to take care of the typical closing costs associated with buying a home. Again, it's essential to budget for these in advance as they will build up. Generally speaking, here are some of the fees you can expect the closing costs to encompass:

  • Legal fees

  • Loan application fees

  • Escrow fee

  • Property taxes

  • Pre-paid insurance

  • Possibly Mortgage Insurance

  • Title search fee

  • Your title company should be able to give you an estimated closing cost statement upfront (it may not have the lender's fees, you would have to ask your lender separately for those). If cash, then what the tile company provides suffices. There could be other fees, depending on the type of loan you're getting and or other items to consider.

 

Signing the Sales Contract & Getting the Keys

 

Finally, with all the financing completed and all the reams of paperwork in order, you can sign the final closing documents. This will typically occur in the presence of both real estate agents (yours and the seller's) and the title company. Usually takes place at the title company's offices. It can be done remotely as well.

Once you've signed the dotted line, your down payment, and other fees into the escrow account will be released to the seller, and your lender will pay the remainder. And you'll receive the keys and can live happily ever after.

When you move again in three to seven years, if your agent has stayed in touch with you, ask them to serve you again. Why redo all the work?

Many agents don't stay in touch, so it's your call.

 

As always, you can call me any time if you have questions or would like referrals to lenders or other experts in the industry. Serving Bradly, McMinn, Rhea, Meigs, and surrounding areas. Serving awesome clients like you for over 40 years. For the LOVE OF IT!

Contact

I'm always looking for new and exciting opportunities. Let's connect.

123-456-7890 

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