Buying a home can be an overwhelming experience. It’s one of the largest investments you can make, and involves many parties–not only buyers and sellers, but agents, brokers, inspectors, lenders, attorneys, appraisers, and others. For those reasons and others, it’s important to have an agent you can trust to be a sounding board and advisor during your search, and also to manage the mechanics of the transaction in a business-like way. You’re the coach making the decisions, but a good agent is the quarterback directing your team on the field.
Home Buying Classes
There’s no better way to get educated on one of the most important purchases of your life than to sit down and learn it from our group of experienced and knowledgeable professionals. We often host buyer classes, including First Time Home Buyer classes on a regular basis. These classes include an overview of the entire process, market trends, rates, and mortgage and loan information. Ultimately they are an invaluable way to learn and ask questions. We welcome you to contact us at any time for a personal overview and to discuss your needs if our schedule does not fit your needs.
How to Get Started
I’m often asked: “How Do I Get Started Working With You?” Typically, we meet with clients for about an hour, where we will:
- Go over the process. We’ll go over the high level process, but don’t worry–we have special client resource pages prepared for you to help you with each step of the process as we go.
- Get an idea of needs vs. wants (i.e., “must haves”). It’s helpful to bring listings in which you already have an interest. We’ll talk about market conditions and what’s realistic in different price ranges.
- Discuss the financing process. Before we go out to look at properties, you will need to be pre-approved by a lender. If you have already spoken with a lender, bring your Good-Faith Estimate(s) and we will go over some key points. If you would like to speak to a lender prior to us meeting to get the ball rolling, we can email you a few recommendations. (We receive absolutely no compensation if you choose to work with a lender we recommend. We recommend certain lenders because they do a good job for my clients, they are competitive and reliable, and a transaction goes more smoothly when we know we can rely on the lender.)
At our meeting, we will spend a few minutes discussing our mutual obligations and will discuss how agents are compensated. We will go over the Buyer Agency Agreement (contact us for a copy).
Searching for a Home
You are welcome to use any broker site you wish (e.g., www.redfin.com, www.weichert.com, etc.) Any of these sites will include all of the area’s listings. You may also use our MLS Search Site. This site allows you to draw a box around the areas where you’re interested in living and populates the listings onto the map. At the bottom of the page you’ll see a place where you can enter your search criteria to limit the results by price and other features. If you choose to setup an account it will allow you to bookmark favorites and receive email alerts, as well. You can also click on individual listings for more information. One advantage of using this particular site is that we can log in to see which properties you have marked as favorites, which helps us understand more quickly which properties you find appealing.
If you use a non-broker site, e.g., trulia, googlebase, etc., you may or may not have access to all of the listings. We do not recommend using CraigsList because it has a very limited number of listings.
How long will the search take?
The time it takes to find a home varies widely by person. The search process itself takes anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. We’ve had buyers make an offer after just one or two days of looking–it’s part focus, part preparation, and part luck. We find most people need to see about 10 to 12 homes in any given neighborhood to get a good feel of “what you get for the money” and be comfortable making an offer.
The time from contract to settlement (for loan processing, appraisal, home inspections, etc.) then takes an additional 30 to 60 days. You should count on at least 3 months from start to finish, and more if your requirements are very specific.
Open Houses, For Sale By Owners (FSBO)
We encourage all of my clients to go to as many open houses as possible. When you’re asked to sign in, please indicate that you are working with an agent. This will prevent any “implied agency” conflicts. Of course you’re under no obligation to go, but the more properties you see, the more educated you will be.
DO NOT CONTACT THE LISTING AGENT OR SELLER DIRECTLY FOR ANY HOME YOU WISH TO VIEW. This may unintentionally create a “dual agency” situation where the listing agent may claim to be your agent (or seller will claim you are unrepresented), and will prevent us from representing you if you make an offer on that property. If you come across a For Sale By Owner (FSBO) property you wish to see, let us make the initial contact. Most times, the owner is happy to accommodate you having a buyer’s agent.
Please check with us if you wish to visit the sales office of any new construction projects. All sales offices will require you to register, and please indicate at that time that you are working with us, or we may not be able to represent you later.
Read about the risks of buying new construction here.
Short Sales and Foreclosures (Bank-Owned)
Short sales rarely close, and if timing is an issue for you then you should seriously consider whether it’s worth your time to view any at all. Lenders often have little or no incentive to approve a short sale offer. If you’re considering short sales, discuss this with Katie. Also read this blog post on whether short sales are worth a buyer’s time.
Read about the differences between short sales and foreclosures here
Foreclosures are also fraught with risks. Read the blog post series that starts here. Timing is the most important issue with foreclosures.
To learn even more about buying foreclosures, this post is the start of a multi-part series on the risks of buying a foreclosure (aka bank-owned or REO property). Finally, be sure to read this post on whether or not short sales are worth a buyer’s time.
When you have a few properties (about six to eight) that you wish to view, we’ll set up a block of time that we can go see them. We usually need at least 24-hours notice so that we can contact the sellers to let them know we’re coming. It’s most helpful if you can provide us the MLS code–a two letter code that represents the county followed by a seven-digit numerical code (e.g., AR1234567). We typically can accommodate both weekday and weekend showings.
We find that most buyers need to see eight to ten properties (through a combination of open houses and agent tours) in a given neighborhood before they have a good idea of what they like and what they get for the money. Typically during our first few weeks working together we get you “caught up” to homes that are already on the market. Following that, it’s easy to keep up to date and see what’s new on the market via open houses and brief (one to three property) tours.
Contact us if you have any questions or want to get started with your home search!