Very often I hear from sellers about preparing their house for a sale, but I don’t hear enough about how buyers should prepare. Surely, it is one of your biggest investments, if not the biggest, though some people seem to buy a house by accident. To help, I’ve offered some strategies below.
Buyers or “almost buyers” start out by going to open houses, just to look after their online search turns up a few possibilities. Every once in a while, they find a “perfect” house on their first outing. They have no broker, no pre-approval and no plan. Occasionally, I will get a frantic phone call from someone’s niece at 8PM on a Sunday night asking me to write an offer that is due on Monday morning at 9AM. But this is not the way to go about a home purchase. Legally, I cannot represent a buyer if I haven’t seen the house. No one should be making an offer without a pre-approval, and unless you have unlimited financial recourses, don’t give up your inspection contingency. Rarely a buyer will get the house and go through with the sale, but most often this becomes an eye-opening first endeavor.
Right Time to Buy
I am often asked by sellers when is the right time to list a house. There is no “right time.” If a home is priced correctly it will sell on Thanksgiving! Same is true for buyers. If you find your dream home, buy it. Don’t risk losing it trying to play the housing market and interest rate game. If a buyer is willing to play this game I don’t think they found “the one”.
There Is No Perfect House
Everyone has a wish list, if you find a home that offers 80% of what you are looking for, you’re ahead of the game. A frank conversation with your partner, if you are not purchasing alone, is to combine the wish list. More importantly, combine the non-negotiables and agree up front. There is nothing worse than a husband or wife who has found his or her dream home but their spouse is miserable. If your wife cannot live with a basement laundry and a husband can’t live without a garage, please do not try to bully or bribe. Concentrate on your top priorities and let minor annoyances go.
Right House But Wrong Everything Else
Please don’t get caught up in the flawless house. A home does not exist in a vacuum, a perfect interior, yet the house is hanging over a highway and a toxic dump next door is not a good buy, ever. Always remember your quality of life.
You have found your home and now you want to buy it. Some people like to find and negotiate a home purchase but never come to an agreement on the price or terms. I realize that the bidding wars make the process truly awful but some people just throw bids out to see what happens, they will buy if they get a deal. This is not the time to prove your negotiating prowess if a home is reasonably priced and has other interest. You shouldn’t swing for the fences and throw caution to the wind but buying a home is not about winning. If you and your agent have done your homework, you will know which house to go for.
It is normal to want reassurance when you are making such a big decision, but too many opinions from too many people will confuse you. Your best friend may be slightly jealous of your home buying power, your parents from Birmingham, AL will NOT even remotely understand why you are paying a million dollars for a condo and your sister is sick of hosting Thanksgiving and she thinks your potential dining room is too small. Focus on your needs and bear in mind that your trusted advisors may have a subconscious bias.
A home is more than an investment, it is where you spend your life, seek comfort, shelter and safety. Don’t forget that it is an investment and appreciation is a major consideration but that is not the most important aspect.
Whether you are buying your first home or your fifth, in a location you know or don’t know, the process will be smoother with a plan and a Realtor. A Realtor should work only for you. A Realtor who knows the market, the other Realtors in the community, and knowledge of possible upcoming inventory is essential. Using the listing agent to write your offer to get a better deal only puts more money in the agent’s pocket, not yours or the seller. The listing agent has a fiduciary responsibility to get the highest possible price with the best terms for a seller. Does that sound like the best person to write your offer? That’s pretty much all the listing agent can legally do and only if the seller and buyer agree in writing. They cannot offer you advice, recommend inspectors or mortgage brokers or negotiate on your behalf. I’ve often wondered why a buyer would use a discount broker to “help” purchase a house. A broker cannot be an expert in 30 communities west of Boston. And saving $7,000 on a 1-million-dollar purchase? I am amazed about the number of people buying a first home in a new location and don’t use a broker because they think they are getting a better deal and besides a “broker doesn’t do anything anyway”. Usually what happens is as soon as a buyer must put money down the panic sets in and it doesn’t seem so foolish to get advice.
I believe there are buying opportunities in Newton now.