When meeting with your potential Realtor before you go on your first showing when buying a home… Wait let me back it up a step. If you are buying a home, I highly recommend having a meeting first. I suggest meeting with your agent at their office. This is something I now require of most of my buyers. This is most likely the largest purchase you will ever make in your life. It deserves thirty minutes to an hour of your time before you start. Even if you have bought a home in the past five years, this meeting is still important. A lot has changed in the world of real estate lately, the paperwork and financial disclosures are different, along with the market conditions. Also, you need to interview the agent!
So now, where were we. Ah, yes, what you should know after your meeting with your Realtor. This list is tailored to South Carolina where I am a Realtor and may contain a few items that are not relevant to other states. However, much of the content should be the same across the country. So let’s see what you should come away with after that first meeting.
- Your agent should, at the very least, do a quick overview of the agreement you need to sign with them and the current contract for sale that you will be using. In Greenville, SC these have both gotten more complicated recently. There has been a lot of “legalese” added and they are longer and more complicated. You want to be familiar with what you are signing when it comes time to make an offer. If you are in situation where a quick offer is a necessity, you don’t want to be learning all the possible contingency options while someone is getting their offer in before you. You definitely don’t want to be surprised after the offer has been accepted. You should receive a copy of all the documents you will need to sign so you can read through them again on your own time.
- Current market conditions not just for the general area you are in, but for the specific neighborhoods you are interested in. A few miles can make a big difference in how much competition you will be facing. Do you have a specific neighborhood that you want to be in? Chances are you are not the only one. Do houses on your side of town go under contract in 24 – 48 hours for list price or do they typically stay on the market for 2 – 3 months and have some room to negotiate. When your Realtor puts your criteria into the system, do you have 20 choices or 2? You need to embrace the reality of your situation and be prepared for what you will face.
- Now that you know what you’re up against, you can form a game plan. What is your preferred way to communicate? I have clients who almost exclusively text me. Some can’t stand to text. Some are not able to text or talk during the work day but can email at any time. How urgent is your move? Do you need to be able to run out and look at a home on your lunch break, do you need to plan on seeing at least one home a night until you find something, or are you in a position to wait and line up 3 showings on the weekend?
- It’s usually Win – Win or Lose – Lose and nothing in between. I have had people request the same thing in different ways from me. Sometimes they want a “bulldog” or maybe a “shark” when it comes to negotiations. From my personal experience, this rarely turns out well. If a seller feels like you are trying to take advantage of them or extract every last painful penny you can, it normally doesn’t turn out well. You may win that first battle of getting the home a little cheaper but you normally lose in the long run whether it be during repair negotiations, final walk through, or some other way that they figure out they can “get you back”. In the end, you have to remember that they have a home they want to sell and you want to buy. If you are firm but understanding in your negotiations, there is normally a way to make things work out well for everyone. I have seen offers that were not as high as others be chosen because of the reputation of the Realtor who is representing the buyers.
- What is the process after you have a home under contract? Many people don’t believe me when I tell them that finding the home (even in our current crazy market) is the easy part of my job. Will you need recommendations on home inspectors, pest inspections, a closing attorney? Your agent should have a list of vendors to handle anything you will need. Are you in a market where sellers are offering to do cosmetic repairs or are homes being sold as – is outside of major problems? How long is your inspection period, when will the appraisal happen, when will the title search be done, and when will I know for sure that the sale will go through? You also need a thorough understanding on earnest money, when does it leave your account, who holds it, what situations warrant you getting your money back if the deal falls through, when will you forfeit it? What cost will there be if the deal doesn’t go through even if you get your earnest money back?
- Most importantly you need to know that you are working with a Realtor that you trust to protect you and get the job done. There are so many variables when buying a home that it would be impossible to put them all in one blog post. Make sure you are comfortable that you have the best representation. This does not always come down to how many years they have been doing business or how many transactions they have closed. Sometimes the Realtor who has been in business for 18 months and closed 12 transactions has the passion and fire that another agent who has been in business 15 years and closed 12 transactions last month has lost. Whoever you choose to be on your side, that choice could turn out to be the most important one you make in the whole process.
Happy house hunting!