Beginner's Guide to Buying a Home – 2013By Mary Borth, Keller Williams Realty, Bloomington - Normal, IL
1. Talk to a lender early in the process. There may be some issues on your credit report that you are not aware of. A good lender will be able to tell you what you need to do to raise your credit score. Some issues can be resolved easily but some may take several months (or years) to repair.
2. Get pre-approved and ask for a copy of your pre-approval letter. Your Realtor will ask you for a pre-approval letter before she shows you any homes. She does not want to waste your time showing you houses that you cannot afford or houses that are way below your pre-approval amount. You don’t want to fall in love with a house and find out you can’t afford it. Or worse, lose the house to another buyer while you are trying to get pre-approved.
3. Educate yourself about your local market. Real estate is local, and a national real estate forecast is about as useful as a national weather forecast. Your Realtor should be able to clearly explain the local market conditions to you and give you data specific to your neighborhood.
4. Retain the services of a Buyer’s Agent. A Buyer’s Agent works for you but is paid from the seller’s proceeds at closing. By law, a Buyer’s Agent must keep everything you say confidential and work for your best interests throughout the transaction. Whereas an agent that you meet at an open house works for the sellers, not you.
5. Be open-minded about the home search. If you have a list of 10 criteria items, expect to find 6 to 7 of those items in the home you will purchase. There is no such thing as a perfect house, but there is a house that is best for you.
6. Drive by the homes you want to see. Chances are you will initially find homes online. Once you have a list of homes you want your Realtor to show you, drive by them at different times of the day. Pictures online will not tell you what is next door to the home or what the neighborhood looks/sounds like on a Saturday night.
7. Ask your Realtor to set you up with their Buyer Instant Notification System (BINS). This feed comes directly from the local MLS and will notify you the instant a new listing comes up. The big syndicated home sites online can take up to 48 hours to update listing information. If you rely on those search systems you are looking at the leftovers.
8. Narrow your list of homes down to 6 or 7. Some you will have eliminated by driving through the neighborhood. Others you can eliminate by referring to your criteria list. If you don’t love a home online, you won’t love it in person.
9. Keep a list of your top 3. Once you are out on showing appointments with your Buyers Agent, keep a list of your Top 3 choices. If you find a 4th that you really like, you have to get rid of one of the others. This can be tough, but it will make your final decision much easier.
10. Find out what the house is worth. When you have found a house and are ready to make an offer, ask your Realtor for current market data for the home and neighborhood you have chosen. This will tell you whether the home is fairly priced and will give you the info you need to make an educated offer.
11. Make a reasonable offer. Once you know what the home is worth, you will be able to make an offer. If you make a fair and educated offer the negotiations will be quicker and more amicable. If you insist on making a low-ball offer for whatever reason, be prepared for the seller to flat out reject your offer and move on to the next buyer.
12. Know the process. Once your offer has been negotiated and accepted, make sure you understand what is going to happen in the next few weeks. A good Buyers Agent will prepare you and give you notice of each step along the way. This includes inspections, appraisals, paperwork and lots of other things. You do not want any surprises at this point.
13. Be patient and available but let your agent do their job. There is no such thing as a “real estate emergency”. Chances are, your agent has seen it all. Almost anything that comes up can be fixed for a win-win on both sides.