4 Tips for Home Buyers

Everyone has their opinions on how to go about buying a home. Industry professionals, agents, lenders, inspectors, buyers and sellers will all give varied responses, with valid reasons behind their opinions.  There are also many different variables that go into “buying a house,” including types of financing, location, supply and demand.  Sadly, the challenges posed by these variables- and varied opinions- can be enough to deter many people from the home buying process entirely.

Understanding who to listen to and what is important when buying a home can make the process infinitely easier. Owning a home is a piece of the American Dream that many want to be a part of, and being a homeowner can provide security and peace of mind that can be everlasting.

Top tips when thinking about buying a home:

Tip #1: Find a Trusted Realtor

It may seem obvious, but the most important tip is to find a realtor that you can trust to have your best interest at heart.  Buying a home is hard; and since the buyer isn’t responsible for paying the realtor fees in Florida, it’s a no-brainer to have a realtor help guide you.  The realtor should walk you through the entire process, not just parts, and should never just hand you off to someone without following up to make sure you got what you needed.

A skilled and knowledgeable realtor will also give you the confidence you deserve.  There’s no worse feeling than making a monumental financial decision without knowing the accurate and current value of your investment. Much of the angst in buying a home can be calmed by finding a trusted realtor who has a thorough understanding of the market and can translate that knowledge into helping you make a good financial decision for you and your family.

You may have a trusted realtor in your set of friends or family members, but don’t feel like you have to use them because they’re somewhere in your family tree.  Selection of this person is important and they should be knowledgeable in all aspects of the transaction including financing, lending, contracts, negotiation, inspections and surveys, but most importantly they should be knowledgeable in the local market.

Tip #2: Don’t Rely on Searching the Internet

Most Home buyers use the internet as a starting point in their home search, and with good reason- it’s a powerful tool that can help you easily narrow the field! But as they say, with great power comes great responsibility because it also has the ability to show us all the things we didn’t even know we wanted.

While internet home browsing has created a much more informed homebuyer, being able to point and click your way along the home search can also have unintended consequences. For example, sometimes pictures may not do the house justice.  I can’t tell you how many times I have looked at a house online and not liked it, only to have and been completely blown away by the house in person.

This is where the realtor really earns their keep as a professional as it is imperative that you take the time to look at the homes you’ve been touring virtually. I’m not saying you should look at every house; save yourself the time and gas by using the internet to refine your search, but try to keep an open mind.  You will know the style and design you’re looking for and the pictures will help in that aspect. Pro-tip within a pro-tip: if there’s only one photo, there’s probably a reason- trust me. With all that being said, not all houses are listed the same and not all agents use professional photographers, so while it’s a great starting point, keep in mind that searching online will not give you the space, depth and character details of the home the same way a tour of the house will.

Tip #3: Have Lending in Place

While it is not contractually necessary to have financing in order before you decide to make an offer, it is the smart choice.  The realtor and lender have the same goal of helping you to buy a home, but their roles are quite different.  Your trust in the lender is just as important as your trust in your realtor.  The lender’s role should be to provide you the best possible rates and discounts on borrowing, but the invisible force that they also give you as a purchaser is Power.

Going into the transaction with financing in place gives you a distinct advantage over other home buyers that you may be competing against. Oh- and did I mention that there may be another person- or persons- interested in the same house as you?  Technically you have 5 days upon submission of a contract to secure financing, but submitting an offer with solid lending in place looks much better to a seller- and their realtor- than one without.

Tip #4: Be Prepared For Unexpected Costs

Be prepared for expenses outside of the home’s purchase price. There are many items that will appear on the final list of expenses and fees that you will sign off on just a few days before closing called a Closing Disclosure.  Knowing your costs up-front is vital as a home buyer, and if you are a first time home buyer, you need to ensure you are not going into the process blind.

Your realtor should provide you with a Net Sheet at the initial stages of the search to help you understand your expenses and costs.  The Net Sheet should be in simple terms to make the financial breakdown easily understandable. The purpose is not to provide you with a detailed breakdown of the final costs at closing, but rather to give a general idea of what it’s going to cost to buy a home.

Some of the items to be on the lookout for are the document stamps and taxes, insurance, and various fees, which can vary from home to home.  It’s also not uncommon for the realtor’s Net Sheet to be off from the final Closing Disclosure provided by the title company a few days before closing.

At the end of the transaction both the buyer and seller should be happy.

While it is not uncommon for you to go through a wide range of emotions during the process (excitement of finding the right house, panic that your offer isn’t good enough, frustration if you have to keep looking at multiple houses, and relief once you finally get your keys), having your trusted realtor and lender to guide you during each step of the process is invaluable to making everything easier for you along the way.  I hope you find these tips helpful for you as you prepare to purchase a home and keep looking back for updates along the way!