Home Buyer’s Guide (Part 2)

Their Experience Will Make Your Dreams Come True

Like most people who are seeking a new home, you have probably already started looking at listings, finding a few hopefuls, and visited a few open houses or viewings. And like many others house hunting, you may have hit an impasse and feel stuck.

So, what should you try next? Do you put forward your proposal, or visit a real estate agent for some help and information? The answer to this is going to come down to the kind of home that you are looking to purchase. You may even find yourself talking to a few different agents before you’re able to find the one who is able to meet your needs. Especially if you are paying them a commission after finishing your home buying process, you need to make sure that you are comfortable with working with them for the long term.

How can you tell early on if they are a good fit? In your early days with working with them, pay attention to the following. How friendly or receiving are they when you are on the phone or in person? Are they clear when they answer your questions? Are they well informed for the houses (and communities) that they are showing you? Does it feel like they are there to help you or themselves more? A pushy agent might not care if the house fits your needs, or might miss an important detail, as they fixate their gaze on the prize of the close. Watch for the warning signs.

Choosing a Real Estate Agent

 Here are a few good suggestions on ways to get started when it comes to finding an agent:

  • Consider asking friends and family for a referral.
  • You can do a search online for agents with high reviews.
  • Attend local open houses to meet prospective agents personally.
  • You can also visit a few local real estate offices
  • Pay attention to ‘for sale’ signs for agents that work in the neighbourhoods you are interested in.

It is important to ask plenty of specific questions when you are looking for houses through a real estate agent. It might start to feel tedious as you go through multiple houses, but this one of those decisions that you need the answers in front of you before you commit thirty years to the house. Start asking questions that are important to you before you even go to look at the house. And when you are meeting your agent for the first time, it is important to also include questions that will help you to get to know them as a person, what to expect with working with them, and to get a sense of what working like them will be like for the long haul.

There are five questions that you need to ask when meeting a new real estate agent:

  1. Are they certified?
  2. How long have they worked in the real estate business?
  3. Are they personally familiar with the areas that you are most interested in looking for a home?
  4. How many homes do they have available that matches your requirements and needs?
  5. What is their usual commission on homes in your price range?

Once you have the answers to these questions, pay attention to if you feel they are answering honestly, that they are answering your questions completely, they communicate well, and are honest with what kinds of homes they have available at your price range. This isn’t the time for typical ‘salesman’ answers. You need the facts on the table to make the right decision and you need to make sure that your agent has them for you.

Watch out for if at any point you feel uncomfortable or feel that they are not being straightforward, or are otherwise trying too hard to push you to make decisions that might not benefit you as much as they are advertising. Keep in mind that you are under no obligation to continue working with a bad agent. They are only supposed to be there to connect you to prospective properties that match you.

Know that a real, the good ones, will refer you to another member of their group before they try to pressure you into a property that doesn’t fit your specifications. This is a good sign that usually demonstrates the group’s dedication to the satisfying of you and your family’s needs.

Other important factors to pay attention to can include:

  • Does your real estate agent actually pay attention to what you are looking for?
  • How current are they with their understanding of today’s real estate laws?
  • Do they seem to have a lot of clients, or just a few?
  • How they appear to communicate well with their own co-workers?
  • How easy is it to get them to communicate with you over your preferred channels?

When it comes down to it, the decision on which best fits you is yours to make. Keep a written record of the things that stand out to you about the real estate agents you encounter, both good and bad. It will come in handy later when you need to narrow down and can hardly recall which was which anymore.

If a real estate agent is worth their salt (or branding), then they will know what they are talking about, have the experience in the markets you are looking in, will be willing to take the time to communicate and listen to your needs, and can find up to date information quickly.

It is important to feel confident in your real estate agent as they sometimes will have you sign an agreement which will state that you will work exclusively with that agent for the full duration of your house hunting. They are not going to want to seriously invest their time and resources into helping a client who just signs with someone else. So long as the agent is doing what they are needing to do in order to help you find your dream home, then there is no real reason to not work exclusively with someone.

However, this is why it is highly recommended you speak to an agent thoroughly before signing this paperwork. You are under no obligation to sign anything, especially if you do not feel comfortable with the agent or otherwise feel pressured into a contract you’re not ready for. You can be straightforward with them as to why you feel the way you do or what you need to see before you sign any dotted line.

Even after you sign these agreements, they are not totally binding. Even still, they are a pesky nuisance for the process down the road, so don’t get tied up with an agency that doesn’t fit you completely.

You will find that there are different kinds of agents that will want to work with you. Some of these will be an ace in the game, others will eventually send you back to square one like a cue ball in the side pocket.

A few of these can include:

  • Experienced agents
  • New agents
  • Pushy agents
  • Absentee agents
  • Hard working agents

While everyone will have their own personality, it is still important to find the kind of personality that will make your home buying experience enjoyable and as easy as possible. Here is a bit of a breakdown of the different types, and how they compare, so you can better identify them as you go.

Experienced Agents vs. New Agents

There is a common debate on whether or not you should go with a new agent or one who has more experience. Both will have advantages and disadvantages. For instance, while an experienced agent has definitely sold more homes, a new agent may be willing to work harder for you in order to gain the experience they need.

Knowing the limits of a real estate agent’s experience and background is something that should be considered. What is their rate of success? Do they have review online? Have people been happy with the agent, or could there be some valuable details lurking on the internet that you should have for your own decision-making equation?

When it comes to training, both new and experienced agents will have a pretty similar foundation, so it’s really going to come down to the agent’s personality and style. You will find some experienced agents out there who may be more inclined to drag their feet because they are too full of confidence and are not as engaged with their roles as they once might have been.

Keep in mind, however, that there is a balance between as many cons as there are pros. An experienced agent may have a lot more personal experience when it comes to working with certain areas or neighbourhoods. They may have a better understanding of how the prices of homes have gone up and down over the years, as well as a number of other important trends that can affect your decision. But don’t let inexperience deter you either. A new agent might just be willing to go above and beyond to give you not only solid leads, but a positive experience as well.

Pushy Agents

Pushy agents are one of the very reasons why you will want to give yourself time to shop around for the right real estate agent. These agents are going to be more interested in sealing the deal on properties that are harder to sell or to earn a larger commission.

These agents may use tactics such as presenting only houses that they want to sell you, instead of the houses that you want to be looking at. They may consistently get details wrong, like presenting you only with ranch homes after you specifically state you don’t want a ranch style home. A pushy agent may also try to persuade you on why you need a bigger home (even when you really don’t).

Or they may try to present homes with premium or luxury features, like all granite counter tops. If you have your heart set on these kinds of extras then great, but they can sometimes add thousands to a home’s value, sticking you with a higher mortgage than necessary, and lining their pockets with more rolls of cash.

When it comes to buying a home, you are going to have to stay firm on what is important to you, what it is you are actually looking for, and the budget you have available. The last thing you are going to want to do is to waste your time looking at homes that are way out of your price range. If there are options to lower the price into your range, then it could be a time investment well spent, but otherwise stick to looking at ONLY the homes you can afford.

Looking for a new home is exciting, but you don’t want to run into buyer’s fatigue because all your time is being almost intentionally wasted on a bad agent’s hopes that you will eventually get tired of it and pick one. If you feel you are getting this kind of run around, find a new agent immediately.

Absentee Agents

You’ll know an absentee real estate agent if you ever encounter one. They are likely to show you a few homes, be active and engaged for those weeks, and then disappear for a few weeks. This will become such a pattern that it will be difficult to get anything done.

The distractions may be legitimate, whether it is simply having too many clients or not being able to find homes in your price range. There are a number of other variables that could lead to an agent being absent, but whatever the reasons, it is still unprofessional behaviour and will affect your home buying experience. When you are ready to go and they are nowhere to be found you will be stuck waiting and frustrated, especially if time is of the essence for your situation.

If an agent is having trouble finding you a home within your price range or with the specific features you are looking for then that agent should refer you to another agent in their group. Good agencies will not want to lose their customers, so if an agent doing this consider it a red flag and find a new one. And if you don’t hear from an agent after a week, especially if you have tried to reach out yourself already, don’t waste your time and just find a new agent.

Hard Working Agents

These agents are the sweet spot that you are going to want to look for. If you find a hard-working agent, keep them! These agents will be proactive to not only follow ever lead they find, but also go above and beyond to find you the home you really want. These agents will pay close attention when you talk to them and will be on the ball when it comes to keeping you in the loop with their findings. And if they can’t help you, a hard-working agent will not only refer you to someone else, but will often actively look around themselves to find you an agent who can find you what you are looking for.

Now you can use this information to identify the different kinds of agents and to find the one who will do what it takes to find you the dream home that you will be happy in for years to come. Real estate agents are invaluable sources of important information homes, neighbourhoods, local amenities, and other answers to questions you may have along the way. They will support you in this process help you from getting overwhelmed.

Questions will be an important part of the house hunting process. Don’t feel shy when it comes to asking any questions you have regarding the home itself, past owners, the neighbourhoods, city, schools, local stores, and anything else that is important to you. One of the key responsibilities of being a real estate agent is to do the research necessary so that they can be the wellspring on knowledge you’ll need to make an educated decision.

Preparing to See Homes with Your Real Estate Agent

Create a List: Once you go through the process to find the right real estate agent for you, you will want to now make the most of the actual house hunting. Give your real estate agent a detailed list of what you are looking for, including what you don’t want. This will help considerably when it comes to narrowing down to homes you are actually going to want to view.

Include these important considerations in your list:

  • What is your minimum and maximum price range?
  • What number of bedrooms do you need?
  • How many bathrooms will your family need?
  • What is the size and layout for the property you are looking for?
  • Do you want a basement? Does it need to be finished or can it be unfinished?
  • Consider if you want a patio, porch, or balcony.
  • What are your central heat and air conditioning preferences?
  • Do you need a garage or other storage space?
  • What is the neighbourhood and local areas like?
  • And are there any other amenities you would like?

Having your list as ready to go as possible will help you significantly in saving the valuable time that you have with your agent. You should be grading the items on your list from greatest to least important. And while you come armed with a list, also let your real estate agent know where you are flexible. What are you willing to compromise on and is there a reasonable alternative?

Viewing Homes: With your list, also come prepared with your questions. It is important to put some thought into what you want to ask before you meet them face to face. Like your list, write your most important questions down with some room to write in the answers. This will help you get to the point and get the process started. Even small questions are important when it means getting your dream home.

Common questions you should ask your agent are:

  • How old is the home?
  • How many owners has the home had?
  • What kinds of renovations have been done to the home?
  • How old is the plumbing?
  • How low are the sellers willing to go?
  • How old is the carpeting and flooring?
  • How old are the windows?
  • Are there any other maintenance concerns that you should know about?

Some of these questions will be answered by your agent already, but keep these in your mind in case something doesn’t get addressed. This being such a big decision, you should ask as many questions as it takes until you feel confident that you have all the cards on the table to choose from.

Also, consider the home itself. If you don’t want to have to put a lot of work into fixing up your new property, you may want to consider looking specifically at homes that are ten years old or younger. And if you don’t have the answers to your questions within a day or two, you may want to look for another one. It’s one thing to know, it’s another to not get the information quickly enough.

Taking Pictures: It’s important to keep in mind before you begin looking at houses that you are going to likely encounter a good few of them, and after four of five homes you may start feeling confused as to what you saw, liked, or didn’t like about each one. In order to help yourself keep track, take pictures of the homes you go visit. Get pictures of the outside, inside, the bedrooms, kitchen, and any other features or areas of concern (like a water spot on the ceiling). These images will guide you down the road when days or weeks has passed your initial viewing.

While pictures will be important, you need to remember to ask your agent if you have permission from the current owner. Until you sign on the dotted line, that house is still their property and you want to make sure you don’t do anything they wouldn’t want. Once you get permission, however, your pictures will make a great tool in your home buyer’s toolbox later.

Narrowing Down Your Choices

It might take a few weeks, but after you take a look at a few different homes you’ll start to get a feel for what you are looking for. You’ll have a better grasp of the kinds of layouts, features, and other highlights that have stood out to you. At this point, take a look at the homes you haven’t see yet but might still want too. If you have any new questions for your agent, ask them now before you start narrowing down between the options.

If you see a neighborhood that you really liked but weren’t so crazy about the house, it’s ok to ask your agent to see a few more houses for sale there. Your agent should then do their research and find you a list of the homes that are currently still for sale.

If you don’t feel that you are finding the homes you are looking for, consider searching in different neighborhoods or cities. You may find just what you are looking for in a city over. This might be a disappointment now, but when it comes to finding the right home, the initial disappointment might be worth it. Your real estate agent should be open to showing you homes in new neighborhoods, especially if early efforts don’t even get you in the right ball park.

Sometimes by looking in new places, you may find that you did actually like a house in an original neighborhood. That is okay! Let your agent know, and they will help you figure it out. Don’t ever be concerned about annoying your agent with making new requests, or by back tracking. They are there to help you. It is a part of their job to research markets for you.

Once you have narrowed down your options to your favourites, it’s important that you contact the seller as soon as possible with your offer. Let your agent know as soon as you have made a decision so they can get the paperwork ready for you, get in contact with the buyer, and get everything submitted before someone else can beat you to it. There is nothing like finally making up your mind but losing it because someone just got there before you.

This will also help you avoid a bidding war, which can be a lengthy and gruelling process. When you find a home, you are often prepared to pay within a certain budget, which another bidder could raise on you exponentially. The bidding process can be long and time consuming, so be prepared to still play the waiting game even after you’ve made a decision.

If you don’t have the time to endure a bidding war, or don’t have the budget, it might be a good idea to look at another house. You may run into more issues, delays, or bidders on one home than another, so the experience won’t be the same across the board. This might set you back a bit, but remember that this is about finding your dream home.

This is why it is recommended to have a couple backup homes set aside in case the ones you want first aren’t available or end up being a longer process than you are prepared for. Your agent will be able to help you with any questions or concerns with this part of the process. They are the masters of the real estate game, and are prepared to go the full distance to get you what you need.

Information Real Estate Agents Should Tell You

There is a lot of information that a real estate agent should be prepared to provide you with. And no matter what area you are hunting in, there are a few concerns that will be the same across the board.

The main things that they should be telling you include:

  • The price of the home
  • The age of the home
  • Any renovations that have been done
  • Any other Issues with the home
  • Property taxes
  • Community dues
  • Schools
  • Neighborhood crime rates
  • The median age of those who live in the neighbourhood

Normally, a real estate agent will not have everything you will need on hand, but they should be have it at their office. Good agents will get back to you quickly with any information that they needed to retrieve for you. Sometimes they can provide the information over the phone or send it via email. Real estate agents are required by law to give any information regarding the repairs, damages, and history of the property.

Legally, this includes incidents such as fire, criminal activity, prior deaths in the home, and more. You are able to do some of your own research on the home thanks to the Internet, but some records will be behind locked databases that agents have access too.

It is getting easier to find information about the home and the surrounding community. Having this history available to you can impact what home, and what community, you want to root yourself into. You may just discover something about the home’s history that causes you to look elsewhere.

Working with Seller’s and Buyer’s Agents

Some people still decide against hiring a real estate agent, but at the end of the day, as a home buyer they are your agent. They are called a buyer’s agent, and they are there to extend the effort into finding and communicating with the people involved in the process of finding you a new home.

It’s a big job, and even with the new tools of the Internet, there is nothing like having an ally in your corner to help you understand the loops and turns you are likely to encounter. Sometimes an agent may consider working with you only on specific areas of the home buying process.

This is helpful for the following:

  • When you already know what house you are interested in
  • If you need help to handle negotiations with sellers
  • Complete or correct paperwork
  • Survey neighborhoods

It really makes a difference having an agent on your side. They will definitely make the process both easier and more time efficient.

Negotiations with Sellers

Keep in mind also that home owners who are selling their home also have an agent of their own. This is known as the seller’s agent. If you feel confident enough to tackle the home buying process without an agent, this is who you will be dealing with. But this agent is going to be out for their own client’s best interests, not yours. On a rare occasion you may find that the seller and the buyer have hired the same agent. This happens more often in smaller communities, or in neighborhoods are in a sort of working district for the agent. When this happens, the agent is responsible for looking out for everyone’s interests. It is often a better case to have your own agent who will be more straight shooting when it comes to getting you the best agreement.

When it comes to the negotiation process between agents, you will want to at least give it a week or two. This will also depend on how intense the negotiations are based on how high you are willing to go or how low they will consider. And once you add in home inspectors the game only gets even more complicated.

The home inspection will give you a clear picture of what the current condition of the home is. The conclusions of these inspections could give you some negotiating wiggle room. This is when you can ask that some repairs be done before the sale of the home, or negotiate a lower price to compensate for the necessary repairs. If you don’t have an agent you will have to do all this negotiating on your own, which could put you at the losing end.

They Know the Paperwork

Be prepared for the paperwork involved in the home buying process. There is going to be a lot that you will need to get done, and get done correctly, before the closing.

This paperwork will often include:

  • Offers
  • Counteroffers
  • Home inspection reports
  • Home appraisal reports, and
  • Fixture lists (Items that come with the home and items you would like removed)

Filing the paperwork is in itself not difficult, but the process is time consuming. This is one of the areas in which a real estate agent will make a difference. They often know when to submit what paperwork in an order or timing that will streamline the whole process.

Survey Neighborhoods

One of the greatest advantages to having an agent is all the legwork you are going to save in the beginning of the home hunting and buying process. While you may have an idea of where you want to start looking, it helps to have a hand in actually finding the homes for sale as well as setting all the appointments.

This is especially beneficial if you work during the week and only find yourself with two days a week to treck an extensive area for available homes. Even online searches can lead you in enough dead ends to leave your head spinning, and your time thoroughly wasted.

More Reasons to Hire a Real Estate Agent

Here are a few more reasons why you should consider hiring a real estate agent:

  • Peace of Mind: A buyer’s agent is the best resource for finding and making offers on homes that you are actually interested in. Remember that they are there to work for you and to make the process as easy as possible.
  • You get the lowest price: If you don’t like negotiating, or don’t feel confident enough with the whole process to try and face a seller’s agent on your own, then a buyer’s agent is going to be your greatest asset. Most people feel reassured by having an ally in their corner. An agent can make the process enjoyable as well as easier.

Wealth of Knowledge

A real estate agent will be very knowledgeable in not just the areas you are looking for a home, but also the inner tricks and workings of the real estate business. They will know what to say and how to negotiate the price and terms you want. They will be your guide when it comes to knowing when to make an offer or walk away. And your agent will be there to make sure no one takes advantage of your inexperience with the complicated laws and processes of buying a home. This is why it is so important that you communicate openly with your agent and ask whatever questions you have before you buy a home.

They Can Give You Confidence in Your Decision

Also tell your agent immediately if you begin to have doubts about the home you have made an offer on. They will be able to contact the other agents involved to postpone an offer in order to re-examine it again. Don’t feel guilty about pausing to review an offer again as it is actually pretty common.

Sometimes, just talking to your agent can help you feel more confident about your purchase. Otherwise, you may just need to look at a few more options before you nail down your decision. Do what you need to do, as you want to be sure before you sign on the dotted line for good.

 

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