- Know what aspects of a home are most important to you. Location, schools, yard, transit, hardwood floors?
- Know your motivation. Are you moving to be closer to work or family? Perhaps this is an investment. Is a fixer OK? Knowing your motivations is key to focusing on the right property.
- List your Top 5 Must-Haves and 'Bottom' 5 Don't-Wants. If you find a home with 4 of the 5, buy it!
- Meet with a mortgage broker as soon as possible. Get a (free) preapproval, so you know how much a lender will lend you, and therefore how much house you can afford.
- Dedicate time to looking at properties. If you want a home quickly, devoting
your Sundays to open houses is a given. You might even want to get a jump on the market by taking
a day off work to go on weekday broker tours, or to plan a tour with your agent.
- Be patient and don't get heartbroken if you don't get your first offer accepted.
- Read all of the disclosures thoroughly.
- Plan your finances. The main dollar amount that people plan for is the down payment, and in today's
market you need 20 percent or more to compete for the most desirable properties. Of course, FHA 3.5 percent down-payment financing is also a possibility, depending on what type of home you want. Don't
forget that you will also need money for closing costs, inspections, and moving day! Estimate approximately 2 percent of the purchase price.
- Ask your agent for a list of property inspectors and/or contractors who will help with the inspections.
- Be prepared to negotiate with the seller, through your agent. You may have to give some things to get other things you want.
- Each home has three attributes that concern you: Cost, location and quality -- pick two. E.g., if you want low cost and good location, you won't get quality. If you want quality and good location, prepare to pay.
- Create a list of all the improvements you have done to the property since you owned it. If possible, gather receipts and reports. Even if it is something small, like having a new ceiling fan installed, put it on the list.
- Make a list of any past or potential problems with the property. This will be very helpful with creating
the disclosure packet. List any leaks, no matter how small. Are there any noise issues in the neighborhood?
Have there been any insurance claims? The list should include anything and everything you can think of that could affect the house's value to a buyer. If you wonder if you should mention it, mention it. If you still have the disclosure packet from when you bought the home, that will be helpful.
- Plan time and money for necessary repairs and inspections. Investing time and money to make your house shine
will help your home sell faster, and getting inspections done will show the market that you have taken care
of your home. Consider putting money in the budget for landscaping and staging -- they are items that have a big return on investment.
- Know your primary motivation for selling. Perhaps your family is expanding (or shrinking). Maybe you would
like a better commute. Is your company relocating you? Finally, you just might be in to make a profit.
Knowing your motivation helps pinpoint the emotions that can affect your decisions in the home selling process.
- Gather your financial information so that we can do a 'net' worksheet, to figure out the amount for which you
need to sell your home. Remember to budget for real estate agency fees and closing costs.
- Try not to compare your home sale to the one down the street last year or last month. The real estate market
is constantly fluctuating and every house is different (at least here in the East Bay). This market
requires more patience than the boom times of the previous few years.
CHOOSING A REAL ESTATE AGENT
This article, titled "Choosing a Real Estate Agent - Top Producer or Hungry Rookie?", is from www.mortgagenewsdaily.com
Forget those alphabetic designations or the total sales achieved last year. Who you are as a person and a consumer,
and what you know or don't know about real estate are the keys to picking the right agent. Therefore, the most
important interview is one you should conduct with yourself before you start questioning prospective agents.
Is this your first venture into real estate?
If you are a veteran, you don't need an expert agent. It is better to choose a hard worker who will facilitate
the transaction rather than one who will try to educate you or boss you around. In fact, if you have strong
opinions about the process, you may find yourself opposing suggestions and demands from a real pro. Prolific
agents tend to be strong willed and formula driven. They always do it that way, in fact insist on doing it
that way, whatever that way may be. If you are similarly insistent on your way, there will be problems.
On the other hand, if you know little about the process, you should not hire a rookie. While some managers
keep a close eye on the newly hatched and even assign a seasoned mentor to coach agents through their first
few deals, this is not the case in every office and somebody should know what they are doing.
Will you be a high-maintenance customer?
Do you want to hear from your agent every day? Do you want feedback on every showing or to hear
immediately about each new listing even if it is out of your price range or without the features
you desire? Are you so afraid of losing out that you will literally expect an agent to leave
guests at the Thanksgiving table to show you a home?
If so, a top producer may not be the best choice. The real heavy hitters are, at any given time,
juggling dozens of listings and at least that many buyers. Calls may not be returned for days and
you might have to remind the agent who you are and what you are looking for when you do talk. An
agent who has many customers will be a lot less patient with your demands than one who is focused on only a few.
Many top producers employ an assistant, or even several assistants. You may be assigned to a
helper and have little or no contact with 'your' agent. If you are selling your house you will
have the star's name on the yard sign, for whatever that is worth, but if you are a buyer
there is little advantage to working with a top producer if you must do so through a layer
of underlings. The whole arrangement can really break down if assistants have no authority
vested in their role.
How much input into the process do you want?
If you want to sign off on each ad, pick snacks for the agents' open house, and weigh in on every
marketing decision, you probably want a less experienced agent. Top producers do not have, nor
will they make the time to consult you on day-to-day decisions. They need to get the ad in the
paper, place the catering order and get on to the next listing.
If you expect to be consulted on every aspect of the sale, you may want to pick a new or less
busy agent, one who has the time to listen to a customer's ideas and maybe have a dozen ideas
of his own he is eager to try. Remember, enthusiasm can equal a ton of experience.
Do you want a personal connection to your agent?
You will be spending a lot of time with the agent you hire to find or sell your home. If you
can put up with someone who has a speech pattern that drives you crazy ('like, you know') as
long as they do the deal; if you don't mind spending hours in a car with a person who is basically
nasty and unpleasant or one who drives like a maniac, then pick your representative solely on
the basis of production and experience. If, however, you want house buying or selling to be
enjoyable, the agent's personality, congeniality, and approach to people should be a factor
in the hiring decision.
CHOOSING A MORTGAGE BROKER
When you are getting ready to buy a home, one of the toughest decisions is choosing a mortgage broker to work
with. This is especially true in today's rocky mortgage market. These
are confusing times, so you need to make sure that you are working with a mortgage broker you can rely on.
There are two main types of brokers to consider:
- First, there are mortgage officers associated with specific lenders, like Bank of America or WaMu/Chase or
Wells Fargo. They will work with you to find the best deal from their company, and if you are already a
customer with them, they will want to keep you as a happy customer.
- Second, there are independent mortgage brokers. They are able to run your borrowing profile with a wide variety
of lenders to find you the best deal. They are not beholden to any one lender and will want to create a
lasting business relationship with you.
Both type of mortgage brokers are fine, but I recommend getting a personal referral from a friend, family
member, colleague, or even better, your agent. If someone has had a successful experience with a mortgage broker, there is a better
chance that you will too. (I believe that referrals are the way to go for many personal decisions, from
mortgage brokers to dentists to doctors.)
It is also wise to work with someone in your local area, as they will know about special incentives and programs
offered by local governments, such as first-time homebuyer programs or special rates for certain professions like teachers.
Be careful using any mortgage contact you might get from the Internet. While they might offer enticing
introductory rates, they could be anywhere in the country and will most likely be more interested in
getting you into a mortgage rather than finding the best mortgage for you. The personal connection is
not there and you probably cannot rely on them.
A bank-owed home (as opposed to a short sale or standard resale) is its own animal. Once a lender forecloses on a property, they want to get it off their books as quickly as possible. They are lenders, not property owners, after all. In order to do so, they may do minimal improvements to a home, such as paint or new carpet -- or they may do nothing at all. The lender's legal requirement to provide the typical California disclosures is limited, primarily because the lender never lived there!
It is possible to get a "good deal" on an REO purchase, but don't expect to get something for nothing. You may be competing with all-cash investors, or simply other buyers who also want a good deal. Be prepared to act quickly when you and your agent identify an REO home you like: Have your loan preapproval 100 percent ready, your inspectors lined up, and don't expect to see the home on the Sunday open home list.
Expect a longer-than-usual response timeframe from the REO seller. Decisions are often made by more than one person, so you may not hear back on an offer for several days, or in rare occasions, weeks. Be patient if the house is worth it. Once you get a response, the lender will often present you with a counteroffer addendum that modifies the offer contract to suit their needs. They may ask you to use a specific escrow company, agree to a daily late charge if you don't close on time, or other items. Your agent will guide you through this, so work with someone who is familiar with REOs.