Five Things to do before Shopping for a House
By Lisa Baez, The New Home Spot
The Pain Reduction Checklist
Years before I became a real estate professional, I’d already been on both sides of the transaction table. I know how deeply troubling, how deeply immersive and how deeply frustrating this process is for most home buyers. The facts are that it is usually the biggest purchase of your life and the most used product you will ever buy. The immense amount of papers will weigh you down if you think about it! You want to get it right!
I’ve prepared five items that if you can sit down and do before you begin your search, that will make the process just a little less painful.
- Know and like your REALTOR® – This may seem like a “Duh, Lisa!” statement but it’s not always obvious. When I had decided to try and sell my home in North Los Angeles County and not renew my lease on a mountain cabin, I hoped to find something that combined the best of both those worlds. I made a list of my must-haves and started interviewing. What I found was that the Realtors were often too busy to really listen, and many didn’t respond timely. But one lady called me back consistently and even had the “buyer’s specialist” on her card. She assured me that she would find me the perfect house. As we searched, we would find choices that were close but not close enough. I felt that she was trying to persuade me to give up some of the more critical things on my list. Ultimately, I felt she was trying to down sell me when I was finally in a position to buy what I really wanted. So, we persevered at my insistence and eventually found a home whose only real compromise was that it was not in a cul de sac but was a corner lot. It was one of my favorite purchases! Takeaway – your realtor should be someone you’d invite to a party at your house because you like them, not out of obligation.
- Know your Whys – As simple as it seems, knowing why you are looking for particular features in a home and a neighborhood are really paramount. And as much detail as you can put into making your list of features, and also understanding what feeling that you believe they will bring you is also key. In the mentioned transaction, I had wanted to be in a cul-de-sac because of the privacy factor. What made the corner lot an acceptable compromise was that the previous owner had put up an 8 foot fence around the property which sloped up a hill and I could sit at my pool without people looking in. What I wanted was a feeling of freedom in my back yard. If this fence weren’t in place, it would have been a deal breaker.
- Know what’s negotiable for you – There are always the final things on your list that are the features that you would really like to have but heck, you’ll live if you don’t have them. An example might be that you want modern kitchen appliances with a double oven. But if you find the house that has everything, including modern kitchen appliances but the oven is not double, you could probably live with that. How often will you really need two ovens? On Thanksgiving? This is negotiable.
- Know how much house you can afford – This may seem self-serving from a Realtor’s perspective – the advice to get a preapproval on a loan. To some extent, that is true. Our job is to negotiate on your behalf and this is a very strong bargaining tool, especially in a seller’s market, where there are more people wanting to buy than there are houses to sell. An offer of the same price from two separate buyers would be accepted with the preapproval of the loan over one with not. Help us help you! But what this also does is gets you to get real with yourself. Don’t be out running around looking at million dollar homes when you can only afford $250K. You’ll find yourself disappointed and downtrodden. Instead, know the truth and find the best value and features and neighborhood that you can comfortably afford!
- Know your game plan for moving day – The purchase process is painful enough, but common wisdom states that moving is at the top of the list of life's stressors. Plan adequate time to pack and decide if you'll hoof it yourself or hire a moving company. When you’ve done the work, and found the best house, you want to be able to get in and enjoy your new prized possession. Knowing in advance the timeline, dates, money, will let you sleep a little better during those final days of closing.
So there you have it, five things you can do to make buying a house a little less painful. Do not be misled, it's a daunting process and not for the faint of heart. If you can sit down and get prepared, it will help minimize (not eliminate!) the pain.