In the past I’ve blogged about sites which allow you to get an idea of what your home is worth, and a site called Redfin.com which is awesome… but only for people in San Francisco. Well, now we’ve got a site that covers the entire US which integrates the full MLS with Google Maps.
PropSmart.com is a really neat site which allows you to choose all the variables you are looking for in a home including location, price range, number of bedrooms, size, etc. and it returns a list along with a map containing push pins linked to the full listing details for each home displayed.
I found the site to be really valuable, although for me the individual property details loaded painfully slow. Hopefully they can work on that a bit.
Anyway, I’ve owned my fair share of property and I’d recommend you do the following when searching for a home:
- Make sure you are in the right financial shape before you start looking. Your debt to income ratio is the critical measure of financial fitness for homeownership.
- Go to your bank and get pre-approved for a loan. That doesn’t mean you’re going to use them to actually finance the property, but it will give you leverage when finding a good Realtor, negotiating with sellers, and also preparing to close on a home.
- Use PropSmart.com, Zillow and Realtor.com to research your area and really get to know the neighborhoods. If you live nearby also spend time driving around to see the home listings before you get a Realtor.
- Find yourself a Realtor. Ask friends and family for recommendations, or if you don’t know anyone in the area call the largest Realty firm in the area and ask for the top producer. Negotiate a discount!!! You should be able to get 1% knocked off the commissions in 90% of all cases, so don’t let that slide.
- Sign a Buyers Agent agreement with your Realtor. If you don’t they are legally responsible for representing the seller! Even if they’ve never met them. That’s like letting the fox loose in the hen house! You must have an agency agreement to ensure that your Realtor is legally representing you, not the seller.
Once you’ve identified a few potential properties:
- Don’t get emotionally attached to ANY piece of property until you’ve closed and have the keys in your hands. Otherwise you’ll get taken to the cleaners by absolutely everyone!
- Don’t even let on to your own Realtor that you are in love with a home. They are sales people and they simply won’t work as hard to negotiate on your behalf if they think you’re ready to jump at the chance to buy a home. Now, in certain markets this particular line item can be ignored. If you live in a market where properties sell immediately upon listing for asking price or more then you’ve got no option. Actually, you do… move somewhere with less demand. :-)
- Always make offers contingent on a full home inspection. You must obtain an inspection before signing for any house. You could be in financial ruin if you do not. You also must reserve the right to walk away for any reason after the inspection.
- While you are working on finding a home, you need to be getting loans lined up with at least three lenders. You can use them each to negotiate for better rates and lower closing costs with one another. But be warned… do not believe anything they tell you until you have a guarantee in writing! Morgage brokers, in my experience, have been some of the most untrustworthy sales people I’ve ever encountered. I’d put them right up there with used car sales.
- When it is time to go to closing be prepared with all of your own documentation when you go. Take your loan guaranteed rate information, take your notes of things agreed upon with the seller, and go over all of the lawyer’s paperwork with a fine toothed comb. This is not the time to be nice, it’s the time to ensure there are no mistakes. You are paying a LOT of money to everyone at the table, so it’s the biggest time in your life to be demanding.
If you encounter any difficult real estate situations that you need advice with, feel free to drop a comment below and I’ll provide whatever advice I can to help.
Good luck and happy house hunting!