Smooth Sailing When Buying a Home

October 9, 2012 | by Brooke Willmes

Thinking about entering the pool of home buyers but you’re a little afraid of the waters? Do you have friends that have had horrible experiences buying a house?

As an experienced buyer’s agent, I have found tips over the years that will make your home purchase go smoothly, regardless of where you’re buying and what price point:

1) Get one or several referrals to agents that your circle of friends/family have used professionally.  Working with a friend who isn’t very professional and treats you more casually than other clients is a recipe for disaster.

2) Meet with that agent before deciding to use them.  That agent should have a wealth of information for you so you can become more educated in the marketplace and the process, as well as have a game plan for your purchase.  A good agent will also be a good listener.  Make sure you know that your agent knows exactly what you’re looking for and is supportive.  It’s one thing if what you’re looking for isn’t realistic for your price point but it’s a different thing if your agent keeps suggesting homes in the burbs when you’ve indicated you want to be in the City.

3) Get preapproved through a local bank that your agent recommends.  Usually the more experience an agent has, the better his or her relationship with a lender.  That lender should take much more time with you than the lender at your bank or an online lender because that lender relies on business that your agent sends to him or her.  Your agent and that lender can directly communicate through the process with ease and your agent can step in if anything starts to look funny.  Don’t bother shopping interest rates right now–you can’t lock into an interest rate until your offer is accepted.  Your agent should be able to recommend several other lenders you can talk to later to compare rates.

4) Attend your home inspection…and pay attention!  If you don’t understand something, ask questions.  An inspector is your expert on your side–you should be able to leave that house on inspection day knowing the most you can about the house.  Ask the inspector if you’ll get an estimate for a recommended repair on or off the record.  Sometimes home inspectors don’t like to be bound by estimates so they won’t include them on a report but off the record, may provide a ballpark figure.

5) Be reasonable on home inspection negotiation.  Keep your requests to material items–items that had you known about them when you put in the offer, you wouldn’t have agreed to pay what you did for the house.  You expect you’ll have a functioning water heater…but a cracked pane on a window wouldn’t most likely make the average buyer pay less for a house.  Be reasonable and the seller is more likely to work with you.  Buyers who set their minds on buying a house with no flaws won’t ever find a home.  Keep in mind, when you go to sell the house, that inspector will find the flaws you have neglected as well, regardless of how much upkeep you do!

6) Try not to think about the seller as an enemy.  This is a biggie.  You want to buy the house.  The seller wants to sell the house.  You have a mutual goal.  Too often buyers form a mental image in their heads of an evil seller muttering muhahahahahaha as they negotiate and it adds lots of stress to the situation as a buyer.  Then, upon arrival to settlement, they realize the sellers are most times very nice and warm people.  Don’t assume the worst.  Just assume they want the most for their house and you want to pay the least.

7) Get your documents–every single one they ask for–to your lender on time.  I know it’s a seemingly endless demand of documents but they need every single one.  They won’t take less than they ask for and you’ll eventually have to fork them over so gather quickly and scan them at your earliest convenience.  Procrastinating can cause all sorts of problems.

8) Transfer money into your brick and mortar bank account well ahead of time.  You’ll need a bank certified check or wire at settlement and the sooner you move the money, the less stress you’ll have to worry about when you’ve forgotten ING takes 3 days, your brokerage account takes more time to clear, etc.

9) Give yourself at least a week inbetween when you settle on your new home and when you have to move out of your apartment.  In case you’re reading this in New York State or Illinois or the other places where settlement is a suggestion to aim for rather than a definite, ask your agent for guidance.  Nonetheless, the concept is the same…banks run behind, underwriters can request more documentation or contractor approvals…you arrive at the walkthrough to find the seller hasn’t moved out yet…there can be delays.  You don’t want to push yourself up against a deadline where you are homeless!

10) Ask your agent for a short list of recommended service providers–movers, electricians, carpenters, etc.  We usually have a great list of people that are reliable…if they do wrong by us, we cut off their business referrals!

Does anyone else have suggestions based upon your experiences?

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