House hunting can be the most exciting and enjoyable activity of the year – or it can be the most frustrating. Your level of preparation directly impacts where on the Fun/Frustration spectrum your experience will fall. So here are some tips to be sure you are heavily weighted toward the Fun side!
- Get Pre-Approved For A Mortgage. We discussed this in last month’s Blog post on the home buying process, but it’s worth mentioning again. If you don’t know precisely how much home you can afford, you’re not ready to be out touring homes other than those hosting Open Houses. If a Seller grants you a private appointment to view her home, both she and her Realtor assume you are in a financial position to purchase that home. Be sure you are confident of your pre-approval status before requesting any private showings.
- Select a Buyer’s Agent. We discussed this at length in a previous post as well. Be sure you are working with an experienced Realtor who is representing YOU as you shop for a home. Most Realtors do not charge buyers for their services and the benefits are many.
- Know Your “Must Haves”. If you have a list of features that you absolutely must have, be sure your Realtor knows about them. There are thousands of homes for sale on the Cape. You don’t want to look at all of them! In our Cape & Islands MLS, we have access to hundreds of data points about each and every home that will help you focus on the best homes for YOU. If a first-level Master suite is critically important to you, or you MUST have a 2-car garage, or you insist on natural gas heat over oil, we can send you ONLY homes that have these features. Your shopping experience will be far more efficient and effective if you are viewing only homes that meet your needs and wish-list.
- Register For Daily Property Alerts. Unless you do not wish to preview homes online, you should be sure you are receiving Daily Property Alerts from your Realtor that show all the new MLS listings that meet your criteria. As noted above, there are thousands of homes for sale on the Cape. Having online access to the MLS allows you to read about them, preview the pictures, look at the property on a map, and hence, narrow down your selection. To receive Daily Property Alerts from my website, please register.
- Request Your Showing Appointments. When the time comes that you are actually ready to buy, let your Realtor know the properties that interest you. He will contact the various listing agents and set up the showings for you. You should try to do this at LEAST 3 days in advance – particularly if you will be seeing numerous properties. Remember that your Realtor needs to be available, the Seller’s Realtor likely needs to be available, and the Seller must have the house ready for viewing and vacate the premises during the showing. Those conditions take coordination and it generally takes more than a day to set up all appointments successfully.
- Visit Open Houses. If a house you like is having an Open House, that’s an easy way to see it without much coordination. However, if you are working with a Realtor as your Buyer’s Agent, be sure she knows that you are going to the Open House and be sure to provide her name to the agent hosting the Open House. If there is a sign-in sheet, put your Realtor’s name next to yours on the sheet. Otherwise, if you decide to purchase that house, your Realtor may not be able to assist you as your Buyer’s Agent. This is not common but possible.
- Keep Good Notes. As you tour each home, take notes IMMEDIATELY about what you liked and didn’t like about each. You’ll be surprised how much you forget about each house by the end of the day if you do not take notes. A good Buyer’s Agent will provide you with a Property Tour Book that makes it easy for you to take quality notes at each house.
- Compare Properties. When you’re through viewing homes (which may take days or even weeks!), compare the ones you liked best to decide which is your favorite. If you like it enough to buy it, your Realtor should provide you with a report showing the sale prices of comparable homes, which will help you decide on a fair market price. She can also help you do further research to answer any outstanding questions you may have that could impact your interest and offer.
Once you and your Realtor have successfully negotiated an offer on a home, there is much to do before the Seller hands you the keys! Be sure you’re working with a knowledgeable, full-time Realtor who can help you navigate the waters ahead.