Buying a home is a process, it starts from choosing the right agent and it only ends when you settle in and really make it your own. There is a big difference between buying a home and buying a house, it’s the feeling you have once you are in it. A home would make you feel proud, make you want to show it off to your friends. While a house would just be another place to live in.
Most of the buying process is very standard, you see houses, make offers, once one is accepted you go to escrow, underwriting etc. This post is not about that. I want to focus on the starting point, where you can actually make a difference and find the right home for YOU!
One of the first things you should do in the house buying process is to complete your wish list. This means a list of what you want and need in your new home. It can be anything from a large kitchen, open space, 5 bedrooms, 20 cars garage, you name it. You can search the internet for such lists or a list of questions to consider (you can use mine here), things like the house, neighborhood, schools in the area, what your hobbies are etc. This list should help you put on paper what are the things that are important to you. your agent will use this list when looking at houses for you, so it is very important that you put a lot of thought in to it. I always tell my clients, always ask for more, we can only talk about what is on the list and nit about what is not there, so go crazy. Really put in there anything you can think of that you would like to have.
Another key step to do before you go out shopping is to figure out your price range. If you haven’t met with your bank’s mortgage officer yet, this is a good place to start. However, don’t forget that your bank is not the only place in the world that lend money. Shop around, you’ll be surprised at what you find.
By now you’ve completed your wish list and you should know how much you can afford. Now it’s time to start looking for the right agent. Finding the right agent can be a frustrating task, you have to meet with so many agents, and they all tell you the same things, over and over again. So how do you know which one is the one?
The key here is not in what the agents will say, but more at what they will do. A good agent will first and foremost listen to what you have to say. How can someone know what you really want if they won’t really listen to what you have to say… The right agent should spend very little time talking about how great he or she is and focus the conversation on what are your wants and needs. Now, that doesn’t mean you should do all the talking, it just means that your agent should be attentive to you and know how to answer any question you throw at him or her and be able to tailor the answers to your needs.
A part from listening, your agent should also be knowledgeable and creative. After a short introduction you should start talking about your budget and wish list. A good agent should be able to tell you just how realistically are you, and work with you to get into your budget. The fact that you are tight on budget should not immediately mean that you have to remove things from your wish list. A creative agent can direct you in the direction that will get you as close as possible to your wish list (and there are many things you can do). This is a great way to qualify an agent in just one meeting…
If you put efforts in the first parts of the process, which means having a great wish list which highlight what YOU are looking in a home, and finding the right agent, you are in a great position. Just remember, you have to trust your agent. You are going to spend a lot of time with him or her.
After your agent align with you on the wish list and understand your needs it is time to go shopping. If you want to find a home and not just a house, you should be an active participant in the search. Yes, your agent should find you great potential homes, but there are many resources you can use to find one yourself. remember, in the end it’s your home. Show whatever you find to your agent and ask him or her to give you more information about it. The more houses you see the higher the chances you will find the one.
When you go to see houses, always try to vision how you would arrange the house you visit and how will you and your family would live there. Is the kitchen large enough? Does it have all your needs and most of your wants? Ask your agent what did he or she love about this place and why did he or she chose to show it to you. List the things you like and dis-like about each house you see, and always compare it to your wish list. When you walk through the house TAKE YOUR TIME and try to think of what bothers you now and if it is fixable or can you live with it in the long run. Another great tip is to take pictures while you walk the house, it will help you later when you sit down to make your decision.
After seeing all the houses on your list, sit down alone (no agents here) in a quiet place and try to minimize the list to 2 or 3 houses. It’s important that you do this process on your own and alone since you are the only one qualified to make that decision. Any outside intervention could potentially steer you away from your perfect home. Now don’t just choose one house, you have to chose at least three and prioritize them according to your likes. The reason why you have to do this is because while you may put a great offer for the house, reality shows us that you might not get your offer accepted. By the way, creative offering is another important skill you should look for in an agent, it’s a great way to qualify the right agent, but you have to do it when you interview, at the offering stage it’s already too late…
After the above the rest of the process is pretty standard, escrow, title etc… The important thing is that you get the house you wanted, and the only way to do this is to do your homework first and fine tune your wish list, get the right agent for you and be active.
I wish you all the best, and if you need a great agent you know where to find me (just being modest here).
Avinoam Kaminski Neto