For most people, buying a home doesn’t happen very often. By definition, first-time buyers don’t have ANY experience! Even seasoned homeowners easily forget the details, many of which may have changed since they last purchased a home.
Buyer’s agents get it. They completely understand that buyers have lots of questions and need lots of assistance. That’s what they do.
There are, however, a few things buyer’s agents wish you DID already know…their “secret” wish list for helping you work together, as a team, to find the perfect home.
1. Be Ready to Buy a House
Window shopping is fine. It will help you determine what you like and what you don’t like in a house. Attend open houses, tour neighborhoods, dream and dream big! But when you secure the services of a buyer’s agent, please be ready to make decisions.
2. Get Preapproved
You may be ready to buy, but your savings account and your credit history may tell a different story. A buyer’s agent can point you toward lenders and credit repair specialists who can help, but getting your financial house in order is an essential first step. Be sure you are preapproved for a loan before enlisting the services of a buyer’s agent.
3. Your Budget
Gaining approval for a $160,000 loan doesn’t mean you want to spend that much on a house. You don’t want to cut yourself so close that you can’t comfortably make ends meet.
Make sure you have considered all the expenses that don’t show up in your preapproval process—including the additional costs of owning a home and the cost of maintaining your current lifestyle (travel, entertainment, dining, etc.)—and subtract these expenses from the mortgage amount to determine what you can really afford, without compromising your quality of life.
4. Hush, Hush on Home Tours
With the increasing prevalence of home security systems, baby monitors, and the like, anything you say is vulnerable to reaching the seller’s ears. Or, the owner or their listing agent may be there in person and overhear you.
It’s a two-pronged risk: critical comments about the owner’s sense of style or personal possessions can make them less enthusiastic about negotiating with you; likewise, divulging how much you LOVE certain aspects of a property tells the owner they have additional negotiating power.
It’s fine to discuss facts about a home’s features, but wait until you’ve left the property to share any opinions and conclusions.
5. Some Topics Are Off Limits
Please don’t ask or expect your buyer’s rep to provide advice on legal or tax matters. They can’t give it. Buyer’s agents are REAL ESTATE specialists. They can, however, suggest other professional experts.
Similarly, Fair Housing laws prohibit agents from engaging in discriminatory practices, which includes discussing certain topics, such as the racial composition of a community, or whether an area is safe.
6. Reduce Distractions
When touring homes, it’s best to leave your children (especially the younger set) with a trusted sitter or family member. You’ll be more focused on the job at hand (evaluating homes). Also, when you’ve scheduled an afternoon to inspect several houses, it’s unfair to ask your agent to wait while you change diapers, feed a hungry baby, or fiddle with car seats. Please respect their time as much as they respect yours.
7. Talking to the Listing Agent
You hired a buyer’s agent to represent you. The listing agent isn’t an enemy, but they are responsible for getting the most money for their client—the seller.
Even seemingly innocent “social” chatter may give away information that will hurt your negotiations. (Like: “Joe just got a new job at XYZ and starts on the 25th.”) It may seem like a small thing, but that statement tells the seller’s agent that you are probably a motivated buyer under a stringent timetable, which lessens your agent’s ability to secure a better price.
8. The Delicate Art of Negotiating
Yes, the purchase price is a big deal, but other contingencies also play an important role. If you dig your heels in on too many terms and conditions (such as the moving date, or whether the washer/dryer and the swing set are included) you may be pushing too far.
The seller may opt to accept a different buyer’s offer, simply because they appear more flexible and willing to work together to make the sale, even if the price is a little lower.
9. Finding the Right Home Takes Time
Unless you plan on paying cash and already know exactly what you want and where to find it, it’s probably going to take a little time. With your agent’s help, you’ll be prioritizing your needs and wants, and comparing this to your desired location and current market conditions.
Sometimes things fall into place quickly, but more often, it requires a little patience to find the right house, at the right price, and to finalize the transaction.
10. You Are Entering a Relationship
When you secure the services of a buyer’s agent, they are agreeing to invest time and effort into helping you find a great house. It’s a relationship based on mutual loyalty.
To clarify expectations, your agent may ask you to sign a buyer representation agreement. This is a common practice in many states and helps ensure you are receiving the highest level of representation in your transaction.
However, don’t hesitate to ask questions before signing any legal document! Your buyer’s rep would much rather talk through any points of concern, immediately. It’s the best way to cement your relationship as a team, working together to help you achieve your dreams of owning a home.