I've Been In Your Shoes.....
One of the things that I am eternally grateful for is the fact that I actually brought my house before I became a realtor.
For all of us who have the same experience, that can only translate into being the best possible resource for potential buyers. Why? Outside of the "inside" information that we now have as realtors on how the housing market works, and the contacts that we have developed, we bring a unique perspective to the process for the customers and clients that we serve.
We can explain in detail what to prepare for in looking for a home, what pitfalls to avoid, what checklists to follow, the list can go on and on. Simply because we've been in their shoes.
Here's my story: at the end of September 2005, I found myself and my family without a home due to the failure of the landlord for our new apartment to have the place ready for our move-in. My wife decided that we were not going to give them any more chances to have the place ready (I had been calling and stopping by for a month to check on it), but we had already given our former landlord the required 30 day notice.
A call to one of my church members' daughter who happened to be an agent got us started on the path to buying a home. First thing I discovered, my credit was fairly shot due to some errors (my father's over-due child support for me and my sisters being the major problem), so I got to work on fixing that up.
In the meantime, we were looking at houses and condos to buy, but the next obstacle was not so easy to overcome: my wife and I had not had an earnest conversation about what we wanted -location, type of house, etc. We went about three months in that state looking at places, only for me to hear " I don't like it".
I got fed up. Most of the places that we looked at were in fairly decent shape, were in decent, respectable neighborhoods, and would not have cost us too much. At that point we were "separated" -she was staying with the kids at her father's house, and I was staying at my grandmother's (trust me, there was no room for me at her father's place). After a very heated discussion in early December that year, we finally narrowed our search to three main considerations: neighborhood, a sizeable yard, and space.
We found our new home in less than a month.
I have shared my experience with all of my buyer clients and it has helped them immensely. Of course, I don't give them all of the gory details; but what I do is I give them these practical tips:
1. Get a copy of your credit report and find out what your credit score is before you do anything else. It is a waste of your time to go looking for a house if you can't qualify for a mortgage (more true now than ever). I usually direct them to annualcreditreport.com, which not only gives them free access to their report once a year, but also allows them to make challenges to any errors on their reports online (which I strongly encourage, of course).
2. Get a realtor who will provide you with excellent service - from giving you lists of lawyers and inspectors to choose from, to sending you updated listing searches via e-mail, to getting you set up with a mortgage specialist, if you don't already have one. Just because you know them personally does not necessarily mean that they are top notch service providers, even though there is the comfort level to consider.
3. Know exactly what you want before you start looking. Especially for married couples, that is a must. Husbands and wives need to sit down and write out a list of the things that they want and don't want in a house (yes, both) - it will help to eliminate scores of potential houses that would get the dreaded "I just don't like it" from the other party (Believe me, it is not just wives who come up with that refrain - I have a client whose husband used that - no, I take that back. He just refused to discuss with her his objections to buying a particular property, so it amounts to the same thing). Don't leave any stone unturned - from the number of bathrooms to the size of the closets, to the style of lighting fixtures - well, maybe I'm getting carried away a little bit, but you get my point.
4. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. Once you do that, you can plan your budget accordingly and narrow your list of potential homes to look at to those that will not break your budget. If you are pre-approved for, say $150k, you might decide to set your budget for a house that is only up to $120K. That will eliminate all of the houses that exceed your budget.
Now that you've heard all of this wonderful advice, it's time for you to go and buy a house!
Coming from one of the many realtors who can say "I've been in your shoes..."