Andrew Wetzel's Musings

May 27, 2017

How to be a SERIOUS buyer! Part 1 (of 7)

Filed under: Uncategorized — awetzel @ 3:01 PM

Let me start with a simple question.  When you decide to make a “significant” purchase, what type of process do you use?  Do you start looking at everything that MIGHT be what you think you are looking for?  Do you look without considering important features?  Do you look without thinking about how much you want to spend?  Do you jump into the process without considering where to look?  Hopefully the answer to each of these “basic” questions is NO!  Sure, “shopping” can be fun and everyone likes to “browse” now and then but that is NOT how to buy a house!

Obviously for low-cost, frequent purchases (meals, compact discs, books, etc.) you probably don’t need to do a lot of planning although you will probably want to make sure that you have cash or a credit card before you leave home.  However, for purchases where you will need to make a significant investment in both time and money and where you will own what you buy for a number of years, you should probably have a “plan”.  You know what they say:  if you fail to plan, you should plan to fail!

Buying a house to live in (as opposed to an investment or a commercial property) is a significant purchase that involves a lot of money, a great deal of “subjectivity” and it is a purchase you will probably own for quite awhile.  Mistakes are costly and time consuming!  There are countless books and opinions on what to do to undertake this very serious “project”.  Here is my opinion.

First, talk to a reputable lender and get “pre-qualified”.  No, this isn’t much fun but you need to know what they will loan you before you start looking at houses.  Even if you do not want to borrow the maximum amount, you MUST know a dollar amount to start an intelligent house search (many buyers “qualify” for less of a loan amount than they expect.  Forget the online “mortgage calculators!).  Most sellers will want some proof of your financial ability BEFORE responding to any purchase offer you make!  Unfortunately, many buyers talk to a lender after they find something they like only to find that they cannot obtain the necessary loan amount or, equally frustrating, they find that someone else got the house they wanted.  I have to wonder what their REALTOR was thinking!  What a waste of everyone’s time.  An agent who does not insist on your doing this before they show you houses is probably so happy to have a “live” client that they fear finding out what they probably suspect anyway.  Both of you should run away from each other as fast as you can!

Second, this is the time consuming part.  Many buyers start looking at houses and hope this part of the process will “evolve” for them.  The fact is that you need to know what type of house you want (single/ twin/ row), what features it has to have (keep the “wish list” realistic:  the more “must haves” you mention, the higher the price and the smaller the selection) and where you want to live.  Many buyers do NOT realize that REALTORS are NOT allowed to “steer” you.  We are allowed to discuss houses.  You can live anywhere you want and want any feature you like but please do not ask us for “nice neighborhoods” where you will “feel safe”.  That research is something you must do and what you feel is “nice” or “safe” may be completely different from what a REALTOR thinks those words mean.  I suggest that you focus on school districts or municipalities rather than “postal delivery codes” and try to get the list down to a few areas.  Once you see the options that you have based on price, features and location, drive into the local neighborhoods and start to really narrow the focus.  My typical buyer may actually only visit 10-12 houses while eliminating many more by driving by them or seeing them online.  Having 100 possible houses to consider really means that you don’t know what you want or are too vague on some details.

Serious buyers do not turn showing appointments into shopping tours.  A REALTOR’s time is as valuable as yours so please help us plan ahead so you will be in the best possible position to find your “dream house” before someone else does.  All REALTORS and their buyer-clients have access to the same multiple listing service information although REALTORS are no more alike than buyers are!  Aside from that, the real point of differentiation in a serious house search is in the planning!

Next time:  more on managing your “must haves” and how to get the best house for you!

Thank you for reading.

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