This has been one of the topics I've been repeating over the last few weeks with buyers. It usually starts out pleasantly enough - either on the phone or via email:
"Hi, we're interested in seeing a couple of homes in the XYZ neighborhood. Would it be possible to go see them this weekend?"
"I would be more than happy to show you some homes but I need to ask a couple of questions first. Have you spoken with a lender yet?" (The other, of course, is are you working with an agent.)
That's where it usually goes into "Well, we're just curious about them" or "We aren't ready to buy right now. We just want to get a feel of what kind of homes are out there."
Don't get me wrong - I LOVE showing homes. But, I need to show homes to people who are serious buyers.
"But I'm a serious buyer - just not right now."
That's all well and good, but, I can't be a 'professional door opener", meaning, I can't just run out and show homes to people who aren't in the buying mode. Why?
1. If the home is occupied, they need to make the house presentable for showings and, if there are kids involved, that can make it a big process. If there are dogs/pets, those need to be taken care of. And on top of it all, the homeowners need to leave the home for the showing. This takes a chunk out of their day. When they go through all of that, they are expecting the buyers to be ready to buy should the house blow their socks off.
2. This is my job - how I make my living. I have to organize my day and how my time is spent in a manner where I have a definite end result and make money. (As brash as that may sound.)
Now, here's the big thing about getting pre-qualified (and something I always say to buyers:
"Let's pretend that I take you out to see homes and you find THE ONE. Angels sing and a rainbow appears over the home. You go off to talk to a lender or 3 and only then discover that, no, sorry - you aren't qualified to purchase the home. You are about $20,000 or more off the asking price. You're disappointed and possibly disheartened at the process of buying a home. Now you've got a bad taste in your mouth and are probably mad at me for not making you speak to lenders first."
As a young agent (in experience that is), I did just that. I jumped at the first call I got. We went out, viewed homes, found THE ONE and then found out the buyers weren't qualified. I had egg on my face and upset buyers that went on to find an agent who knew what they were doing. I learned my lesson the hard way.
Please trust me when I say that getting pre qualified is the absolute first step you need to take. Talk with different lenders - find out what products they offer. Talk with your own bank or credit union. When they qualify you, you'll get a letter that you can give to me that tells me what you are qualified for. And that's when we'll start looking at homes.