Before starting the Hollish Hill Group, which works with both buyers and sellers, I spent 15 years working as an Exclusive Buyer’s Agent. If there is one thing I know how to do really well, it’s Help Someone Buy a Home.
When I ask first time homebuyers what they are looking for in their buyer’s agent, they generally say the same things.
1. Help understanding the process (paperwork, timing, etc.)
2. Help navigating the financing process (mortgage options, rates, negotiating)
3. Expert advice on selecting the right home,
4. Negotiating advice (writing offers, offering price, removing contingencies)
Help Understanding the Process
Whether you are a first time homebuyer, or you’re buying your first home in this city, state, country or decade, it is important to know how things work here and now. Most people who tell me they want help understanding the process are afraid of missing important steps or losing out on opportunities to get a better deal.
If you’d like to see my 10-Step Plan for Buying a Great Home, go to my Get Started Page. I spell out the 10 steps, in order. The first 8 steps get you to settlement.
Help Navigating the Financing Process
As with anything related to money and finance, the more you understand, the more opportunities you will discover. Your buyer’s agent should have a list of her favorite loan officers who can help you understand the options that are available to you.
You will need to have a preliminary discussion with a lender in order to get a realistic price range for your search. Once you identify a property that you like enough that you’d like to write an offer, you will benefit from a more specific discussion that takes the details of the home into consideration.
For example, if you are interested in a house that may need an immediate repair, you will want to make sure that you have enough cash available when that time comes. You may choose to put a little less money down, or to request that the seller pay some of your closing costs.
Expert Advice on Finding the Right Home
There is no better resource than a brutally honest buyer’s agent. I try to ask my clients three basic questions about each home. I ask them to comment on Location, Lot and House.
First – Location
Does this location work for you? Is it convenient for you? How is the commute? How do you like the neighborhood? Do the schools meet your criteria? Is it near mass transit? Is it walkable? Do you feel safe? At night? Is it near family or friends?
Again, Does this location work for you? If no, this is not the house. Stop considering this home.
Second – Lot
Does this lot work for you?
For houses and townhomes – How is this home situated within the community? Is it near the front of a development or does it take several turns to get to this home? What borders the property? Other similar homes? Rentals? Commercial Property? A school or house of worship? A playground? Is it an end unit? Is the lot usable? Level? Sloping? Private? Landscaped? High maintenance? Low maintenance? How is parking? Does the neighborhood offer amenities that are important to you? What are the HOA fees and what do they include? Do you feel safe walking from where you would park to your home? Does it look like water has a place to go other than into the home?
For condos – How is the unit situated in the building? Main floor, top floor, in between? Is it a walk-up or does it have an elevator? How far is the unit from the elevator, trash, stairwell? What borders the property? Other similar homes? Rentals? Commercial Property? A school of house of worship? A playground? Is there outdoor space – balcony, roof-top access, garden or sport areas? How is parking? Does the development offer amenities that are important to you? What are tthe condo fees and what do they include? Do the amenities offered allow you to stop paying fees elsewhere, for example gym fees.
Does this lot work for you? If no, this is not the one. Stop considering this home.
Third – House
Seriously, if you answered “No” to either of the above factors, this is not your house. Stop considering it. It will just be a distraction – a kind of “white noise” in your search because it will not be the one.
However, if you like the location and the lot, the two things you can’t really change, great! You can now consider the house or condo unit. When you visit the home you should ask yourself:
Is the exterior well maintained? How about the driveway? the roof? Do you walk in and get a good feeling? Does the layout work for you and your family? Are the kitchen and bathrooms well maintained/updated? How about the systems in the home? How old are they, or rather how many years left until the end of their useful life? Is it bright and cheerful? Do you see yourself using this home the way they are showing it or in a different way? Will it work for you and your family now and into the future? Do you really want to live in this home?
Now this is where you need an agent who loves numbers. There are several schools of thought when it comes to negotiating. This is how I break it down.
Gather Information – First you need to gather information on the home, the sellers, and the market. If the home is owned by a bank, the negotiation will primarily revolve around the price. If you have a seller who has clearly loved their home and lived there for a long time, price may not be the primary factor. It is a good idea to find out all that you can about the reason the seller is selling.
Checking Comparable Sales – Evaluating the recent sales nearby and comparing the home to these past sales is one way to think about pricing. It’s also important to evaluate the current inventory how long it takes for properties to sell in order to determine whether you are in a buyer’s, seller’s or balanced market.
Developing a Strategy – Once you have a good idea what you think the final price for the home should be, it’s important to develop a pricing strategy and understand the likely responses from the seller. For example, if you decide to offer a price close to the listing price, you will get a more favorable response. If you decide to lowball, be prepared for a more negative response or a rejection. Be prepared to counter or accept their response. Understand that your strategic choices have consequences. Remember that for some properties, the negotiation continues with the home inspection.
If you are looking for an agent to guide you through the home buying process, connect you with top notch mortgage professionals for financing advice, help you evaluate and select the best property for you, and skillfully negotiate your offer through acceptance and settlement, give me a call to Get Started.