Buying a home is a unique experience, with equally unique pitfalls and potential issues. To help you navigate these uncertain waters, we consulted two of our stellar Realtors®, Trudy Schoenborn and Carol Garcia, to give us a list of 10 dos and don'ts to follow when you're searching for a new home.
1. Do make a list of all your "must-haves" and "deal breakers" before you go see homes. If you are buying a home with a partner, be sure to compare notes and come up with one agreed-upon list of your top two "must-haves" and, likewise, top two "deal breakers". It is important to go into the home search with a clear understanding of what will make all parties happy. This will also help narrow down the list of potential homes for your Realtor®.
2. Don't assume you will get everything on your wish list. A wish list should be just that, a list of amenities and features that would be great to have, but are not necessarily mandatory to your final home selection. If an amenity is critical, it should go on your "must-haves" or "deal breakers" list. While it would be fantastic to get everything you want in a home, it may not be feasible. Variables such as price point and market availability will determine how much of your wish list is achievable. You can still find a home that you love, even if you don't get that Jacuzzi tub on your list.
3. Do get pre-approved by a lender before you start seeing homes. "It's important to have this in hand for multiple reasons." explains Trudy Schoenborn, Realtor®, "One, the buyer will know exactly how much home they should be able to afford. This prevents attachment to properties that are above their purchase price range. Two, it is still very much a seller's market, especially in certain price points. If buyers see a home they like, they need to be ready to make an offer, and a pre-approval letter is a requirement for most listings." Having a pre-approval letter will ensure you have the most effective home search experience.
4. Don't procrastinate on getting any requested documents to your lender. To those outside the mortgage industry, some requests can seem trivial or unnecessary, but, until your lender gets all the required and requested documents, they will not be able to approve or finalize your loan. You won't get your new home until you get them what they need. So, keep your eye on the end goal, don't rail against the system, and get those requested documents to your lender as soon as possible.
5. Do search for homes with the help of your Realtor®, rather than going it alone. In our age of information, there are a myriad of different sites at your fingertips that allow you to search for homes. But, not all of these update regularly. You may spend hours scouring the internet, only to discover that all of your selected properties are no longer on the market. Instead, sit down with your Realtor® to discuss those aforementioned "must haves" and "deal breakers", as well as your price range, lifestyle, and "wish list". If you've already looked for homes online (and let's face it, who hasn't?) mention those as well. Your Realtor® will then take that information and use the industry tools at their disposal to compile an accurate and up to date list of available properties that match your criteria. You can look at homes online but do so with the understanding that what you're seeing may not be accurate. It's a much safer bet to trust your Realtor® and lean on their extensive industry knowledge to see you through this process.
6. Don't talk to a builder or contact a listing agent to view a home without your Realtor®. You hired your Realtor® to be your advocate throughout the transaction, so don't leave them out of any step in the process. Builders can be negotiable, but you have to know the right steps to take in order to get the most bang for your buck. The people you meet in model homes will be the builder's representatives, so they will not have the same incentive to go to bat for you as your Realtor will. Along the same line, a selling agent is there to represent the seller, not you, as the buyer. They will have their own client's best interest in mind. Also, it is considered rude to ask a selling agent to show you a home when your own agent is already representing you. Call your Realtor® first to ensure you will be represented well and will have access to the best possible negotiations on your behalf.
7. Do be on time for showings. Showings are scheduled around seller availability as well as other scheduled showings. By showing up on time, you guarantee you will have the full amount of time to view the entire home, without being rushed. Past a specific time frame, a home may not be available for a showing, so you would then potentially have to reschedule your viewing for another day. This could lead to loss of opportunity as there is no guarantee one of the showings before you will not put an offer in before you have a chance to see it. To avoid this, make sure you are on time for any showings your schedule with your Realtor®.
8. Don't bring pets along to showings. Most people today consider their pets a member of the family. While we understand and admire that sentiment, bringing animals into a home that is not yours is fraught with potential issues. The current occupants may have severe pet allergies or have pets of their own in the house. Bringing strange animals into that scenario could lead to bad blood between yourself and the homeowners, which would render any possible future negotiations difficult, if not impossible. Your best plan of action is to leave your four-legged friends at home and keep their best interests in mind when viewing houses.
9. Do listen to your Realtor®. You don't have to agree with everything they say, but when advice is offered, listen to it and at least mull it over. Realtor®s go through rigorous training, have years of experience in all parts of the real estate transaction, and continuously increase their knowledge through yearly education updates. They are on your side, and their goal is to see you successfully into the home of your dreams. Neglecting to heed warnings about potential issues they spot could end up costing you in the long run. There is a lot of information out there, in all forms of media, to help new homeowners find the best home. But, your Realtor® is the most valuable tool in your arsenal. Be sure to listen to what they say, and you won't be steered wrong.
10. Don't bring an entourage to showings. Buying a home is the single most expensive purchase in most people's lives. It is understandably intimidating, and it can be tempting to bring along trusted advisors to help you make the final decision. But, having that many other opinions in the same space can muddle the experience for you and take away from your feelings on the home. Such an oversaturation of ideas can lead to loss of the house entirely. "I have had deals that die because family had too many opinions," says Carol Garica, Realtor®. "Buyers instead, should just go with their feeling." The problem lies with both the enormity of the decision and the intense feelings most people have about their homes and what is necessary. It may be important to your mom to have a large kitchen because she loves to cook, but your priorities will be different. Go with your gut, and you're sure to find the right property.
Buying a home can be stressful and intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. With the right Realtor® by your side and some basic information on how to navigate the system with aplomb, you can successfully achieve your goal of homeownership. Lean on your Realtor®, and they will get you through each step of the process. If you do not have a Realtor yet, we have many seasoned agents who would love to assist you.
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Trudy Schoenborn is a Realtor® with our New Braunfels office