I love working with first-time home buyers. Helping you find your first home, learn the home buying process, and guiding you from house-hunting to move-in day gives me the warm fuzzies. Here are three things you should know before you start looking.
- Work with one real estate agent. It’s best to have one agent who is helping you with your search. Your agent will be dedicated to finding you the right property, and then negotiating on all the terms of your transaction on your behalf. You want that person to get to know you and your family’s needs and preferences, rather than starting over with someone new each time you go look at a house. Keep in mind that the agent who shows you a home is, ethically, the one who should continue the transaction. Also, when you call an agent from a yard sign or advertisement, you are dealing with the seller’s agent. While most real estate professionals are adept at handling both sides of a transaction professionally, it makes more sense to deal with someone you have already taken time to get to know and who has your best interests at heart as the buyer. You aren’t paying your agent; unless otherwise stated, he or she is paid by the seller upon closing. Still, you are hiring someone to work for you, so feel free to interview multiple agents and pick the one that you feel fits you best.
- You need to be pre-approved for financing. Unless you are paying cash for your home, you do need to talk to a lender before you start looking at houses. One reason is that it helps you set an accurate price range for house hunting. Looking at homes that you can’t afford to make an offer on just leads to frustration. A mortgage lender will not only tell you what amount you can borrow, but also your projected monthly payment, your closing costs, and what you should or shouldn’t do with your finances to maintain your eligibility throughout the lending process. Another reason for having an up-to-date pre-approval in hand is so you don’t lose out to another buyer. If you find the perfect house, you will want to get an offer in before someone else gets it, and that pre-approval letter must accompany your offer. I would be happy to provide you with names of mortgage lenders in our area who have provided excellent service to my clients.
- There are some up-front costs. When you find the right house, and you and the seller have agreed on the price and terms and have signed the contract, you will first need to make your escrow, or “good faith” deposit. This is money you are risking if you back out of the deal for reasons not protected in the contract. Usually it is between 1% and 5% of the sales price but can be more or less depending on what you and the seller agree to in the contract. Your agent will help you with this during negotiations. The escrow deposit counts towards the sales price.
Next, you should have an inspection of the property done by a certified home inspector. This cost varies depending on the size, condition, age, and features of the home, but is usually a few hundred dollars. You will need to pay this at the time of service. You may elect to pay for other inspections based on the results of the initial inspection. For example, if the inspector notes an issue with the HVAC system, you may need to pay a service fee for an HVAC contractor to look at the system. You want to get as much information during your inspection period as you need to confidently move forward with the purchase.
An appraisal and a survey of the property will be ordered, but these are usually added to your closing costs and not expected to be paid in advance. However, you may be asked to provide a credit card number to be charged in the event that the closing does not take place. I will guide through all of these steps throughout your home buying journey. Ready to get started? Give me a call!
If you are planning to sell your home in the near future, you may be considering selling “By Owner.” The idea of saving the money you might spend on broker’s commissions is attractive. After all, who wouldn’t want to have a few thousand more dollars to spend on their new home? However, selling your home by yourself is more time consuming and stressful than most people realize. One of the scenarios we agents see all too often is the homeowner that puts their house up for sale without planning realistically for the whole process. Then, after weeks or months of frustration, they call on a real estate agent to bail them out and get the job done quickly. So, before you put that FSBO sign in the yard, give some thought to these points from your local real estate experts:
- You’ll need a fair market value on your home. You may think you know what your home should sell for, but often homeowners overprice their home, which will lead to more time on the market. Real estate agents have many tools available to evaluate the market in your area and give you an accurate sales price.
- Buyers will lowball you on offers. Knowing you aren’t paying broker’s commissions, buyers will offer you well below your asking price, so you may not save as much as you hope. Research shows homes listed with a broker sell for more money and less time on the market than those sold by owner. Having an agent who is experienced in negotiating price and terms is well worth the cost.
- You will need to coordinate your own showings and open houses. Do you have the flexibility to field calls and schedule showings at all hours of the day and night? Agents are used to working 24/7 and juggling ever-changing showing schedules. You may not be prepared for shifting your family’s schedule around daily so that someone can be home to show the house. How will you respond to strangers roaming through your home, closets and cabinets? It’s well known that homes show better when the seller is not home and the buyer can look freely, under the supervision of a real estate agent.
- You’ll need to advertise your home. When you list with an agent, your home goes into the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), where it is available to every agent in your area, and it will appear on Zillow.com, Realtor.com and other national sites. Additionally, your agent will market your home within their network of agents, on social media, in print media, mass mailings, local signage, open houses, or other sources. There are flat fee listing services that will put your home in the MLS system, but they don’t offer you the support and personalized services a dedicated agent can give you.
- The process is just starting when the contract is signed. Getting under contract is the first step of many in the process, and things can, and often do, go wrong along the way. The escrow deposit, home inspection period, home appraisal, buyer’s financing approval, obtaining a clear title, and the buyer’s final walk-through are all hurdles that must be cleared. Each step requires a clear and legal paper trail that an agent knows how to properly execute to protect your rights as a seller. An agent can guide you through any complications that might arise and will be able to speak effectively on your behalf to the other parties working on your transaction.
- We’re here for the long haul. As your real estate agent, we want to build a lasting relationship with you. We’ll be here after closing day to help you with any additional needs. Even if you are moving to another city, you can call on us to give you referrals for professionals in your new area.
Thinking of selling your home this year? Maybe you are ready to upsize or downsize, move to a new neighborhood, or take advantage of a sellers’ market. In any case, there are some smart moves you can make before you list to ease the process of selling your home.
- Bring in a handyman. Have repairs made to leaky faucets, torn screens, broken door or window locks and handles, faulty electrical outlets, drywall damage, missing grout or caulking, broken sprinkler heads, rotten wood and anything else that would give a buyer reason to wonder, “What else is wrong with this house?”
- Clean out storage spaces. Closet by closet, cabinet by cabinet, and drawer by drawer, get rid of items you no longer use. Your goal should be to show that the home has plenty of storage space, not spaces bursting with clutter.
- Put away excess décor. Go for a minimalist look so that buyers can see the bones of the house and not have to move or look around decorative items to see the home.
- Ditto on the Family Photographs. Humans are naturally drawn to people’s faces. If your home has family photos on every wall and shelf, buyers will be distracted by all the pretty faces.
- Have the exterior pressure-cleaned. Make sure to include the roof, patios, porches, driveway and walkways.
- Spruce up the landscaping. First impressions are everything. You want buyers to want to come inside and not drive on by. Increase your curb appeal by trimming shrubbery and trees, putting down fresh mulch and planting some annuals.
- Perform a deep cleaning. Consider hiring professional cleaners to tackle everything from the ceiling fans to the baseboards, including cleaning inside and behind kitchen appliances, the dryer vent, and inside cabinets and drawers.
- Put on a fresh coat of paint. At least touch up scuff marks, but if your home is painted in bold or dark colors, consider repainting to neutral shades.
- Check for smells. We become immune to smells we are around every day. Consider having someone come in to check for odors from pets, mildew, mold or smoke.
- Have a WDO inspection performed. This is usually a part of the buyer’s inspection process, but if you can identify and past or present termite activity and have it corrected ahead of time, you can breathe easier come inspection time.
- Ditto for mold testing. If you have any reason to believe there may be mold or water damage lurking behind walls, under flooring or in the attic, go ahead and address it now.
- Consider staging. If you have a rooms that are sparsely furnished or were used for a purpose other than what they were built for, consider refurnishing or staging to show how furniture lays out in the room.
- Contact me! For more information on selling your home, please request my Home Seller’s Guide. I would love the opportunity to talk with you about your plans.
Every home buyer hopes to find the perfect house. The one that, as soon as you walk through the front door, you know it is the one for you.
It happens, and when it does, I am really happy for my buyers. I always want my buyers to fall in love with the perfect house and live happily ever after.
Just like in relationships, however, emotions often come into play during the home buying journey…Emotions that may result in some not-so-loving feelings.
While I’m not a therapist, I can help you talk through your emotions about the homes we visit and help you identify if you are making decisions with your heart and not your head.
There are six basic emotions; let’s look at how they can affect your decision-making skills.
Fear: We have all learned that fear triggers a “fight or flight” response. In terms of making decisions, fear may cause you to “flee” from making any decision at all, which could make your home buying experience exhausting. If you are afraid you will run out of time, or that if you pass on a house you won’t find another one, you may “fight” by making a rash decision too quickly.
Sadness: Feeling sad can cause you to lower your expectations and settle for less than you truly want. You may decide you don’t need certain features that you previously wanted. Or you may settle for one of the first homes you see instead of persevering with the search.
Disgust: Disgust can cause you to eliminate choices that otherwise might have been in the running. You might find the perfect floorplan, style, or location, but if the home has a bad odor, a filthy floor, or some other off-putting defect, you might not be able to stomach it, even if it is a completely reversible problem.
Surprise: Surprise is an emotion that is fleeting– it happens quickly and then subsides. Surprises can be pleasant, like if you go to see a home you were not expecting to like and find it is much nicer than you expected. But if you are touring the home and a rat runs out of the pantry, you get a negative surprise. While surprise doesn’t last, the memory does, and it can influence how you feel about the event.
Happiness: We all want to feel happy when buying a home but be careful that your excitement doesn’t cause you to make bad decisions. When you are happy or excited, you tend to underestimate risks, assuming everything will work out. People also tend to spend more money than they planned when super excited.
Anger: Anger can also cause you to take bigger risks. Research shows angry people are more likely to make impulsive decisions. Anger can sometimes be helpful. If handled properly, anger can help you to identify your needs and outline action steps to get the information you need to act responsibly.
There’s nothing like moving into a home that is truly new, with no smells, smudges or dust left behind by a previous owner. Even better is when you get to make your own custom selections. But buying from a builder is a different ball game and it’s important you know how to play. Consider these questions if you are considering new construction.
Should you use a real estate agent? I think so! The builder may have sales agents or an assistant that helps buyer’s through the process, but those people work for the builder. It’s always a good idea to have a professional advocating for you, and most builders will pay agents a commission for bringing the buyer. It’s important that your agent accompany you to the first visit to the model center or builders’ office so that representation is established.
Does the builder have a good reputation? We’ve all heard stories of builders who fail to deliver on their promises, using lower grade materials than quoted, or even disappearing before the work was completed. Check out your builder before signing anything. Find out if there are any complaints registered against them and ask for references from other homeowners. Find out if you can tour a model or a recently completed home, and bring someone who can judge the quality of the workmanship.
Should you use the builders’ lender? Many builders work with a preferred lender that offers attractive discounts on closing costs when you finance through them. It’s important to know if the lender is working as a referral or if the mortgage company is owned by the same company that is building your home. If your lender and builder both work for the same company, it’s a good idea to have an attorney review your contracts as an independent set of eyes.
What are the deed restrictions and is there an HOA? Developers usually file a subdivision’s restrictive covenants when applying for approval to build the development. Any persons buying property in the development are bound to abide by these restrictions. You can get a copy of the deed restrictions from the builder. Also ask if there is, or will be, a homeowner’s association, what the HOA fees will be and what they cover.
Can the builder charge extra for unexpected cost increases? Look over the builder’s contract carefully, or have an attorney do so, and note if there is an escalation clause that would allow the builder to pass cost increases onto you in the event that materials or labor costs increase during construction.
What warranties are provided? Normally a builder offers a warranty lasting from six month to two years, possibly longer for some items. You should know what is covered under the builder’s warranty and for how long. All the major structural items and mechanical systems are usually covered. Appliances are not, but they should come with a manufacturer’s warranty. Damage from weather, shrinkage or expansion of the home or foundation, and anything resulting from the homeowner’s failure to provide maintenance or from work done on the home after construction is not covered.
What is the timeline for completion? This will depend on whether the build is a production home, meaning the builder is building select models throughout a development, or if you have hired the builder to build a custom home. Production homes can be completed in three to four months, where custom homes usually take a minimum of six months. Regardless, the builder should be able to give you a timeline outlining each phase of construction. Factors affecting the timeline include weather, delays receiving building supplies, or the number of changes you make along the way.
Can you choose different finishes or colors? Again, it depends on the type of build. Certainly, if you are building a custom home, you can make as many changes as you are willing to pay for. But if the home is part of a development and the builder has color palettes and finishes chosen, there may be a limit to how much you can change. Often the builder will allow you to change paint colors, flooring, fixtures, tile or appliances, as long as what you choose is in line with the budget he set, and those items have not already been ordered.
Can you get a credit if you buy your own appliances? If you already own your own appliances or prefer to choose something different from the builder’s choice, ask if you can be credited back the amount he had budgeted to pay for those items.
Is landscaping included? It’s no fun to get to the end of construction and find out there is no budget for landscaping. Find out what the builder plans to put in in terms of grass, trees and shrubbery. You may want to make additions or changes to his landscape plan.