Top 10 Buyer Tips

  1. Don’t let the bank determine what you can afford. Just because the bank pre-qualifies you for $350,000 doesn’t mean you should purchase a home for $350,000. Crunch your own numbers and decide what you’re comfortable with and what makes sense for your situation. Lenders issue loans to make money, their interests aren’t necessarily aligned with yours.
  2. Understand the process. Purchasing a home isn’t a quick and simple process. There are a number of steps that can affect whether the deal goes through, the price and terms, and when you move in to your new home. Knowing what to expect can help you avoid some of the more common pitfalls buyers experience. Your agent should walk you through the process.
  3. Understand the true cost to close. Buyers often go into the home buying process with a set budget and are then upset at closing when they realize they need to bring an extra $5,000-$10,000 to the table. There are a number of costs associated with purchasing a house: home inspection, survey, appraisal, pest inspection, city & county taxes, deed recording fees, attorney fees, title inspection fees, title insurance fees, pest inspections, and others. Before you begin looking at houses ask your agent to run down the typical closing costs for the services required in your area. While it may be possible for you to negotiate that the seller pay closing costs this is dependent on the market.
  4. Don’t forget about the neighborhood. A lot of times buyers focus on what they want in a house while ignoring the neighborhood. Remember location is just as important in the real estate game. Your dream home may quickly turn into a nightmare if you neglect to investigate the neighborhood. Look at the condition of the neighborhood and school ratings (even if you don’t have kids). Take time to drive through the area at different times during the week and weekend to ensure you don’t have a chameleon on your hands.
  5. Shop around for financing. Not all lenders are created equal. You’re going to spend a considerable amount of time shopping for a house so it only makes sense to spend some time shopping for financing. The right financing could save you thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.
  6. Be present during the home inspection. Its one thing to read the home inspection report (you are going to actually read the report, right?) but its quite another to see it for yourself. Being present during the inspection will allow you to ask the inspector questions that he may not be able to answer later without making a trip out to the property. You can also ask his opinion on the severity of an issue and how much it would cost to correct said issue (things inspectors are reticent to place into writing).
  7. Check out the homeowners association restrictive covenants. Pay special attention to the limitations the HOA places on restricting modification of the property or activities that can or cannot be performed on the property. HOA’s are also known to place restrictions on pets. While you may be able to fight them on some of these, the odds are not in your favor. Better to avoid the issues in the first place.
  8. Find multiple winners. One of the best negotiating strategies is walking away when the price or terms aren’t to your liking. This can be difficult if you’re emotionally invested in the property. Find two or three properties you are willing to call home so you aren’t emotionally tied to any single property-you’ll be more effective at the negotiating table.
  9. Take time to read what you’re signing. You’re probably only going to buy a few homes in your life time. Its definitely worth taking the time to read what you’re signing (even if it takes an hour or two). People created all those documents and people are known to make mistakes (even bankers, lawyers, and real estate agents).
  10. Stay flexible. Things don’t always go according to plan. Financing falls through, closings get pushed, inspections come back with bad news. Plan ahead for contingencies and have a fall back position. If everything still falls apart, breathe and realize its not the end of the world. There are more houses out there (and better ones too).