Who Finds the House, Anyway?

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P: Realtor.com

When I first meet with buyers they ask, “Why do I need a real estate agent if I find the house?” They also show me the various apps they are using to search – Realtor.com, Zillow, etc. This is a good question, and one that many in the industry ponder. You enter your criteria on these websites, wait all day for your phone to ping, ring, or buzz, and then you contact your agent for a showing. Sounds easy, right?

After about three of these pop up showings, buyers tend to get discouraged. “But it looked so much better in photos,” and “I didn’t know that the neighbor had pit bulls until we drove up to the house,” are just some of the disappointments that befall the buyer.

libn.com

P: libn.com

And, to add to more stress and discouragement, some houses that pop up on your phone are not actually available to see as they may already be under contract with another, more fortunate buyer. Or, so the buyers think.

These scenarios occur when a buyer is “chasing the market.” You need to get ahead of the market by working with an experienced, professional real estate agent that knows the local market inside and out.

In fact, the house you are looking for is most likely going to be brought to your attention by your agent.

Since real estate expertise is something accumulated over years of going in and out of houses, townhouses, condos, and neighborhoods on a daily basis, it’s safe to say that an experienced agent will be able to find you a house that meets your needs.

Property MapOnce I know what you are looking for, I can “edit” the list of potential homes and hone in quickly on prime candidates. After we see a few houses together I will be able to figure out what will be ideal. What does that mean to you? It means you can relax. Don’t jump every time Zillow sends a notification. While it may meet your Zillow criteria, it may not meet your other wants and needs.

I only take on a few buyers at a time to give exceptional service and “house finding” expertise. Is the perfect house on the internet? Maybe, but an experienced agent will keep you “ahead” of the market, which is preferable to “chasing” the houses.

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Why It Does Not Make Sense To Buy Direct From The Homeowner

P: terencetait.ca

P: terencetait.ca

When searching for a home you are going to come across For Sale By Owner properties, either while looking online or driving through a neighborhood you’d like to live in. You may think that buying direct from a seller should be much simpler than involving real estate agents, but FSBOs offer their own set of challenges.

Before you take the plunge into purchasing direct from the Homeowner there are a few factors to consider:

  1. The Homeowner is not required to disclose any information that is not in their best interest. They may have immediate answers to all of your questions but they do not need to be held accountable for any misinformation or “fluffing” of the facts.
  1. Homeowners who are selling on their own have lots of time on their hands. They are in no rush to sell and will hold out for the highest price possible, even if it means waiting two or three years.
  1. The Homeowners typically overprice their property. They are not saving you any money. They are saving themselves a fee for service that Realtors charge for selling the house and adding it to their side of the transaction. Many buyers fall in love with the “by owner” and are willing to overpay for the property.
  1. You will feel pressured not to give the Homeowner accurate feedback about the property. Homeowners will try to convince you that their house is the best ever. They will take you through every nook and cranny to show the value of their house. It just isn’t human nature to give a truthful opinion to a Homeowner.
  1. You never know if the Homeowner is really interested in accepting your offer. Many will tell you they have “another interested party” or an “out-of-state buyer” that is chomping at the bit to buy their property.
  1. The best properties are listed with a Realtor who has taken the time to make sure all of the proper Seller Property Disclosures and inspections are in order.

With so many drawbacks to buying direct from a homeowner, it makes sense for buyers to focus on homes sold by agents. As a buyer it only benefits you to have a Buyer’s Agent (read our previous post on Why Do I Need A Buyer’s Agent) who will walk you through the entire purchase process from putting in an offer to closing – and make sure that you are getting the best value for your money.

Pre-Qualification Vs. Pre-Approval – What Gives?

mortgageYou’ve been looking at homes online for a while, when all of a sudden your dream home appears! You call your Realtor and they ask if you have been pre-qualified for a loan with a mortgage loan officer.

“What? All I want to do is look at a house.”

The mortgage loan officer will give you a price range that fits with your current income so that you know what you can afford. You don’t want to walk into your dream home and walk out not being able to make an offer.

Our friend and Senior Loan Officer with PrimeLending, Heather Torre tackles a common question amongst buyers – what’s the difference between getting pre-qualified or pre-approved:

I get asked this question numerous times a week: “What is the difference between a pre-qualification and a pre-approval?”  Over the years, my answer has changed.  Here’s the history…

When I first started lending back in 2002, I counseled buyers and Realtors alike to be sure they were getting a “pre-approval” before they got in the car and went looking at homes.  Back then, a pre-qualification was nothing more than an educated guess given by a Loan Officer taking basic information, punching numbers on a calculator and giving a hopeful client a number to go shopping with.  A pre-approval went a few steps further… the Loan Officer gathered pay stubs, tax returns, W2s, bank statements and pulled credit reports.  They then used factual data to produce the number thier buyers eagerly awaited – and could count on.

Today, with mortgage regulation changes, we have shifted the terminology a bit.  A pre-qualification now requires all of the same work and documentation that a pre-approval used to.  The term “pre-approval” has virtually disappeared as it now represents a loan commitment – basically a conditional commitment issued by an underwriter after review of the same documents a Loan Officer would have looked at, but they can go a step further and review any potential issues, as well.  In some cases, we do offer these – when there is something we just cannot approve on our own upfront, or feel that it warrants having the person who will do the ultimate approval review up-front.

Bottom line – regardless of the terminology, if your Loan Officer has not asked you for any documents nor have they pulled your credit, ask them to – or find someone who will go the “extra” mile (it’s their job!) and make sure that you can confidently go find the home of your dreams!

It’s All About Location

100_3644It’s all about location and lifestyle. Do you see yourself living in this house? When you walk into a house for the first time you will have an immediate reaction, “Yes! This is what I’m looking for” or “Ick! Who picks that color for a countertop?” Many objections relate to cosmetic issues. Appliances, countertops, vanities, toilets, floor plans, lights, even floor plans can be changed.

As fans of all HGTV and FYI network shows, The Weaver Team at KW Vermont stays up-to-date on trends all over the country. We are especially attracted to shows that feature “fixing up.” From Love It or List It to Flipping Boston the theme of the shows is to increase the value of the house through renovations. Love It or List It, though, also focuses on whether or not the current homeowners will stay in their current house (post renovation) or sell their current house. These Canadian homeowners are trudging through the snow to see if they can be persuaded to list and move. More often than not the homeowners “Love It” rather than “List It” due to the main factor of location.

Before kitchen remodelThe homeowners love their neighborhood. They love the proximity to amenities. They feel comfortable where they live. They enjoy their lifestyle. What they don’t “love” is the outdated floor plans and lack of updated decorating. Not to sound cliché, but in real estate location is everything. After kitchen remodelWhen looking at houses it is important to look beyond the items that need updating, changing, or fixing to accommodate your needs. As evident in these “fixer” programs, you can change just about anything to suit your tastes, however, you cannot “fix” the location. Depending on your priorities, say, Green Mountain views for here in Vermont, you are limited to the number of houses that meet that criteria.

When you find a house that meets your criteria such as views, schools, size, price, access to amenities, etc. then you need to think like the “Love It” part of the show. If the house is in your desired location and meets your requirements in almost all categories then you should purchase it and focus on changes that you will make to suit your taste and lifestyle. So, look at that house that doesn’t quite meet your living needs, decorating taste or ideal floor plan, then imagine the possibilities.

Why Do I Need A Buyer’s Agent?

P: Chicago Agent Magazine

P: Chicago Agent Magazine

You’ve been searching for homes online for months, browsing through hundreds of photos, reading about features and amenities, and narrowing down your favorites. So why do you need a buyer’s agent? An agent is no longer the keeper of the listings, but rather your guide through the home buying process, master negotiator, and voice of reason. While you may be able Google anything you’d like to know about buying a home, there is no substitute for the experience and knowledge that a licensed agent offers.

Here’s a shocker – not all of the info you find on the Internet is true or accurate! Especially when it comes to home estimates, the most popular being real estate site Zillow’s Zestimates. A recent LA Times article stated that “nationwide Zestimates have a “median error rate” of about 8%.” An experienced agent will know the local real estate market and will be able to determine the market value of a home for you.

Just as you can’t believe everything you read, don’t believe everything you see. Online listing photos are taken in a way to paint the property in the best light, which is why it’s beneficial to go and look at homes with a buyer’s agent who has your best interest in mind. When you tour a home with your agent, he/she can point out features that are upgrades or are not common in the price range. Your agent can also compare the house you are viewing to homes that he/she has personally toured or sold in the area. You will gain insight into how one house compares to other houses in the same price range and neighborhood or county.

Do you know how much paperwork is involved in the purchase of a property? A lot. Luckily your buyer’s agent will handle it all for you – he/she will write up an offer to include all the necessary contingencies and will deal with the seller’s agent directly so you don’t have to.

P: iStock

P: iStock

Once an offer is accepted, your agent will keep you on track to make sure you hit all necessary deadlines. If there are any issues found in the inspection, your agent will advise you on what requests are reasonable and will negotiate the problems with the seller. In addition, if any problems arise with the appraisal or financing, your agent will be able to give objective, professional advice to resolve issues and move the transaction to closing.

Buying a home is a major life event and is most likely the biggest financial transaction you will ever have to navigate. Having a buyer’s agent to guide you through the process will not only save you time, but will give you much needed piece of mind. And with the seller paying the agents’ commissions, what’s there to lose on your end?

The Best Apps To Help With Your House Hunt

In today’s increasingly mobile world, there’s usually an app for that – and house hunting is no exception! Want to see homes for sale nearby? Find out what you can actually afford? Keep track of the pros and cons of the homes you’ve seen? Here are our top picks of apps to simplify the home buying process:

Buyer AppsBankrate Mortgage App: Lusting over million dollar properties? Perhaps it’s time to get realistic and see what that new home will cost you. This app is great for calculating monthly mortgage payments with easy-to-use sliders to adjust the loan amount, term, and interest rate. It also provides a pie-chart to see how your total monthly payment is broken down. If you are seriously looking to purchase a home, you should see about getting pre-approved to know exactly what your budget is.

Doorsteps Swipe: It’s like the Tinder of the real estate world – swipe to “like” and the listings will be saved to your account. The app provides stats on the homes you’ve saved so you can see what your type really is and what is most important to you in a new home.

House Hunter: This app allows you to keep track of and compare all of the homes you’ve seen. Start by scoring home features on a scale of 0-10 by importance to you, then the app will give each home a score based on your criteria. You can also add your own photos and notes.

Buyer AppsKeller Williams App: Okay, so we may be a bit biased since this is our app, but it is super handy!  If you’re driving around checking out new neighborhoods to see where you may like to live, open the app and you can see all the homes for sale nearby. See something you like? Contact your agent right from the app.

AroundMe: It’s all about location! Use this app to find the closest necessities like banks, grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants.

Your agent is also a wealth of local knowledge, so if you have any questions – ask!