10 homebuying tips from real-estate pros
December Buying Advice: Here are words of wisdom on finding and buying a home that you'll love.
One of the best gifts you can receive, at any time of the year, is good advice. In the spirit of holiday giving, we asked real-estate professionals of all types to give us their best tips for buyers, from finding and financing a home to feeling satisfied after move-in.
In this year-end installment of Buying Advice, we'll also check in with the latest housing statistics and answer a reader's question about private mortgage insurance (PMI): how to avoid it and ways to kick it to the curb for good.
Our top 10 list for buyers
We received a flood of answers to our request for advice. Here are the tips that real-estate pros thought were most important to buyers navigating today's market.
1. Get the right agent. A good agent can relieve some of the stress of house hunting. Get recommendations from friends and co-workers in your area. Don't just let the listing agent on a house represent you both, as his fiduciary responsibility is to the seller. Interview a couple of agents to find the right chemistry and look over their record of sales in the past year. Once you have found somebody you like, make sure she is willing to communicate with you in the form you want (email, phone, text, etc.) and as often as you want.
2. Get preapproved for a loan. "A preapproval letter — or lack of one – can mean snagging or missing the perfect home," says agent Carol Dellynn Schimschat on MSN Real Estate's Facebook page. It helps you stay realistic about price, puts you more at ease during the process and gives you an edge over other bidders.
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3. Don't look at too many homes. It's easy to get overwhelmed and confused if you look at too many homes or seek too many opinions from friends and relatives. Make a "must have" list with your immediate family for the features that are non-negotiable, versus just "wants" or "wishes," says Jessica Edwards with Seas Coast Realty in North Carolina. Have your agent help narrow down the field. There's a lot of inventory out there, and you can't or shouldn't see it all.
4. Keep an open mind. More times than they can count, agents say, buyers will start a search looking for that perfect Craftsman bungalow only to find that the features and amenities they crave are in a sprawling midcentury ranch house. Be open to suggestions from your real-estate agent, who might show you something you didn't know you would love.
5. When you find a home you like, learn about the neighborhood. A large part of your satisfaction with daily life revolves around the amenities, schools and neighbors where you live. "Once you find a home, go back to the street and neighborhood at different times of the day and on the weekend," says Tony Geraci, broker/owner of Century 21 Homestar in Cleveland. "Try to meet some of the neighbors."
6. Never buy without a home inspection. As many agents pointed out, you can't rely on what you see in a walk-through. Problems hide under carpeting and inside walls and attics. Always get that home you're buying checked over by a certified home inspector and follow through on any additional inspections he recommends.You'll be glad you did.
7. If you don't understand something, speak up. Ideally, your agent will have run through the homebuying process and what to expect at the outset of your search. But if you don't understand any part of the paperwork, process or terminology, ask, says Denver real-estate agent David Simonson. So many people whiz through paperwork without understanding what they are signing. That can come back to haunt you.
8. Submit your highest and best offer upfront. In markets that are doing relatively well, prime properties often receive multiple offers. "There's no time to haggle," says Maria Pena Morales of Re/Max Ranch & Beach in San Diego. Make sure it's a realistic offer and submit it with a list of comparable sales to support it.
9. Be prepared to compromise. To come up with a winning bid, you might have to tailor it to a seller's needs, such as a longer or shorter close. Don't expect sellers to consent to repairs that amount to upgrades or remodels, says San Diego agent Gabrielle Benjamin. And don't lose a house you love over something small like carpet, appliances or countertops. It's not these things that will make or break your experience in a house, it's the big things such as layout, size and location, says Don Tepper, an agent in Fairfax, Va.
- MSN Money: Annoying homebuying fees to avoid
10. Don't get emotional. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement and tension of bidding. But you shouldn't move past your predetermined price range, no matter how much you love the house. "Be realistic with your price range, don't overextend yourself, and be comfortable with everyone in your transaction," replied jlibman_MTGNews to @MSNRealEstate's Twitter feed. And consider choosing a backup house that you like almost as much, says Todd Hetherington of Century 21 New Millennium in Washington, D.C. It might take some of the pressure out of negotiations.
Here's another tip: look for a home with an assumable mortgage. Mortgage assumption enables a home buyer to take over a seller's existing loan terms including the unpaid balance, payment amount, remaining number of payments and most import, their interest rate. The buyer takes the seller's existing interest rate even if rates have risen significantly from when the seller purchased the house or last refinanced. You might be able to save hundreds of dollars off your monthly payments or thousands over the remaining life of the loan. Closing costs and mortgage insurance are also significantly reduced with an assumption.
My expensive, well respected Inspection company missed, Extensive Mold, previous flood, bad exposed dangerous wiring (easily visible), the fact that there were walls that were ruined by wallpapering over 70s original paneling without drywall behind and with drywall behind, and the list goes on. A clue I find out now is that they recognized a potential problem with a broken pressure regulator. That should have been the clue to look for hidden signs of flooding. They also missed very bad installation of granite, mold growing obviously in the granite, and bad calking.
They want to give me my $590 back Ha. How about the costly repairs I could have negotiated to have paid for
MY HOUSE IS WITHIN 1200 FEET OF A CELL TOWER WILL THAT REDUCE MY VALUE
@ don’t give me that
I would like to know what you do for a living so I could pretend to be an expert in your field and offer my opinion on how you should be doing your job. I would also like to know if you provide any goods or services to the public and how negotiable your income is in relation to the clients you serve. You did get a few things right in your post but unfortunately you got just as many wrong. Allow me to address them one at a time.
1. True – The internet is a great place to start. With the cost of fuel, traffic, busy schedules, etc. driving around looking at 20 or 30 houses just does not make sense anymore. The internet can help you narrow your search to a handful of homes to look at.
2. False – A ridiculous offer 99.9% of the time will get you nowhere. If you are bidding on a bank owned property, they will simply reject your offer. If you are bidding on a privately owned property, you stand a very good chance of offending the owned and shutting down the process all together. The key is, do your research and know the local market. This is where your Realtor goes to work for you. Ask your Realtor for comparable home sales data, time on market, original list price etc. Do your homework and make a good informed offer.
3. False – It is true Realtors are sales people and we do have an interest in making a sale. That is after all how we make a living and feed our families. We also have a vested interest in helping out clients make good decisions based on solid information. My clients live and work in the same community as I do. We shop at the same stores, eat at the same restaurants, send our children to the same schools, attend the same churches, etc. I think you get the idea. I cannot afford to have unhappy clients spreading bad news in my neighborhood. It just doesn’t make for good business. I do not get my marching orders from management or the NAR. I meet with my manager every morning as I comb my hair and prepare to go to work and decide what the agenda for the day is. As for advising a client NOT to buy a home …. In 05~08, you didn’t need to. Homes were selling so fast, if you wanted it you bought it. It was your decision and still is today. The difference is, today, buyers are being better stewards of their own finances and doing more due diligence before taking a leap of faith. It is much harder to tell a client in today’s market NOT to buy a home. By the way, … I have done that twice in the past year.
4. True – Do your research. Make good decisions based on good reliable information. Just because you read it on the internet, does not mean it’s true.
5. True … sort of – I would suggest you leave the emotions out of the picture. As a Realtor, I love to work with buyers that are excited about their new home. Believe me, there is a BIG difference between emotional and excited. If you are making good decisions based on good reliable information, you will make the right choice for you. The market will determine the price of a home. This is another area where your Realtor will guide you with information on comparables and advice.
6. False – While it is true, there are bad real estate agents out there, there are bad doctors, lawyers, stock traders, athletes, coaches, and the list goes on and on. The truth of the matter is MOST agents will work with YOUR best interest at heart. After all is said and done, we will be living and working in the same community. I want to look you in the eye and be a friend in the community AFTER the sale. I want you to refer your friends, neighbors and co-workers to me when the time comes and I want you to come back to me the next time you have a real estate need.
With the internet you can search for properties, and, maybe find some that are still on the market, since many websites will keep properties listed after they are pending. But what about the Short Sales and REOs (bank owned reposessed properties). How would Joe Public navigate the process. It is complicated, lengthy, and constantly changing. As a certified short sales and foreclosure resource, working with a company that has offices world wide, we are lucky to have constant training in this area. 65% of sales now are short sales, and a realtor is needed for these transactions. A lot of people are loosing their home, and, hopefully they can find an accredited realtor who can support them theough this ardous journey. By the way, commission is approved by the bank. This is how I make my living and pay for my business expenses. But my primary goal is to promote and protect the interests of my clients. I am a professional, who cares. There are still many of us around.
I have been a realtor for 15 years and I am proud of my commitment to the clients I serve. The people I have been fortunate enough to have worked with over the past 15 years, in many cases, are friends of mine and all are among those I can look straight in the eye, and they back at me, with respect.
Never have I attempted to state fact with a client where prediction, opinion and belief were my only guide. I have always sought the very best, quality information which was both current and relevant to the decision task at hand so my clients were informed. I have never claimed to be a prophet, nor have I ever been shy to tell a client " I don't know" when asked to predict future market conditions. My goal has always been to provide the highest quality information so informed decisions can be arrived at by my clients. I believe the vast majority of realtors would rightfully attest to same. There exist excellent, good, fair and below par individuals in every profession or field of service. I think the statements of some in this commentary chain are degrading to the realtor profession. Yes, there are self serving realtors, but for the most part, I think your realtor wants to perform a fantastic service for you. The agent who is after the fast buck is in for a brief career. The agent who puts their clients best interest first, realizes that integrity is the guide to pride & longevity. Just like people love to talk about a nasty meal they had at a restaurant, they also yearn to tell others of a positive experience they had with someone they feel took a special effort to guide them through a complex transaction in real estate.
In short, my advice is: trust your realtor--not just any realtor--the realtor you have taken the time to get to know, trust & qualify--the same way you would a doctor who specializes in a procedure your child is in need of.
I have no opinion on the concept of dual agency (realtor representing seller AND buyer).
Do yourself a favor when buying or selling real estate. Get a trusted recommendation on a realtor. Tell that realtor the truth about where your goals are, and WORK as a TEAM toward the finish line.
The college graduate realtor
ALWAYS remember you live in the house but you BUY the neighborhood....The worst house in a great neighborhood will turn out better than buying the best house in a bad neighborhood.
Use your agent as a last resort, do your homework, find your house, let the agent get you in.
DO NOT let them take you to their listings....You will be getting jammed. Let them negoitiate
for you they may even act professional... Greg in San Jose has good advise too....