Francy’s note: I have tried several times to shorten this post. It appears I have a lot more to say than I initially thought (no Jay, that doesn’t mean I’ll be posting more often, it just means this may have to be a multi-post series).
Identify a property. The internet can be a great asset to your search for single family homes– especially if you’re not sure of the area where you want to be. There are some terrific tools available to search crime statistics by zip code, check out schools and even see what the neighborhood looks like – all from the comfort of your home. A good on-line search not only will allow you to see what is available in your price range, but can answer many of the questions you may have about a specific property such as if there is a homeowners association fee, property taxes, school information, etc. Some searches have information about the area a property is in, give you the ability to save your searches, download the listing or can even send you updates. If you feel overwhelmed a Realtor with a membership to the multiple listing service (MLS) will have the ability to set up an automatic search for you using your needs, wants, area you want to live, your price range and other criteria.
We are often asked where the “good neighborhoods” or “good schools” are. Real Estate Agents cannot legally give you their opinion of an area. Giving their opinion could be considered a form of discrimination called “steering”.
This is usually the point where I like to mention to my clients about going to an open house, or talking to a custom homes builder, without your Realtor being present. It’s really not a good idea to preview homes by yourself. As mentioned in Part 1 of this series — “Once you have been shown a home by an agent, that agent is considered to be working with you for that particular property”. So if you go to opens, including new model homes, you will find yourself being represented by an agent who has the sellers best interest in mind, not yours.
If you live near the city/area where you are planning to look for a property, I highly recommend trying to narrow down your search to roughly 5 or 6 properties before your first showing appointment. Many buyers find that they will need to make adjustments to their needs/wants after viewing about five homes. This brings up a point that differs from agent to agent, “How many properties should you view before you buy?” I believe this number to be different for each individual buyer. I have had a buyer who purchased the first home he saw (to be sure it was the right one we viewed 10 additional properties before he made an offer). I have had clients who looked at more than 80 properties before they found what they were looking for.
Buyers who are relocating from out of town may not have the luxury of viewing a small number of properties and making adjustments. Many of our relocation clients are given a mere two days to find a home. For those of you in this situation I caution that viewing a large number of properties in one day can be mentally and physically exhausting be prepared! I dare not share my record of homes shown in a day for fear that I will be asked to repeat it!
Once you’re ready to begin viewing properties in person you will want to contact your agent for an appointment. A common misconception is that Realtors are always available. A good agent is often working with several different clients at a time. Even in a slow market an agent may have appointments set up days (and sometimes even weeks) in advance. If you are coming in from out of town you should make an appointment with your agent as soon as possible to be sure they will be available. It can be very frustrating to drive 300 miles, call your agent from in front of the first home you want to see and find that they have appointments with other clients for every day you are in town.
Coming soon, more info on the remaining steps!
Write and negotiate an offer
This has the making of a great series. I've bought 2 homes and am still learning. I never really thought about the steering thing. Seems crazy that you can't give your thoughts on a neighborhood, but with the law suit happy world we live in, I see the point.