Buying a house is just a little more complicated than buying a pizza at Little Italy. Buying a home will require much more money, thought, and preparation. Since purchasing real estate is not something you often do, it’s understandable that you may not be fully familiar with the process.
Luckily, if you’re partnered with the right Realtor, the process should go smoothly, and maybe even be fun. That said, there are certain things you need to do. So, here’s my list of things I wish every one of my clients understood about buying a home.
1. Know what you can afford
Get preapproved for a mortgage before you start shopping. For some buyers this is a simple and easy way to demonstrate your strength as a buyer, for others this can be a hard dose of reality. Your Realtor will want to know his clients are “ready, willing and able buyers”, and home sellers will want to know that they didn’t clean the house and get their hopes up for a buyer who isn’t capable of buying.
I do quite a bit of work with Tim Taylor at Community Bank (who I highly recommend) and suggest my clients touch base with him or another lender before we begin looking at properties. Getting preapproved for a mortgage is always “Step A” on a “Step A to Z” process.
2. Zestimates are meaningless
Zillow has a lot of strengths, but valuing properties is not one of them. Zillow uses algorithms based on zip codes and square footage. It does not know if the kitchen has granite countertops, or if the basement floods whenever it rains. The same goes for County assessments. Many towns in the North Country use part time assessors, and most of them are not board certified. It is impossible for an assessor to accurately value thousands of properties in a town, when it is unlikely they have had the time to visit more than a small percentage in person. I always say that one-third of homes are over assessed, one-third under assessed, and about one-third are just about correct, mostly by accident!
Before making an offer your Realtor should provide you with a market analysis with comparative sales to ascertain value. I know that if I provide quality information, my clients will understand the value of the property with confidence.
3. Prescreen properties before scheduling a showing
Some properties can look very inviting on Trulia, but after a 40 minute drive to get there, seem just too far from town to be a contender. There are wonderful tools available to you on the internet. Make use of them. Google maps will not only show you where a property is, it will tell you how long it takes to get there. Often times you can also get a “street view”, which can give you a glimpse of the neighboring homes as well. Maybe you can do drive-bys before scheduling a showing. If there are commercial businesses nearby, visit during a work day. If the business has outdoor lighting, maybe visit after dark to see if it affects the property you’re interested in. Scope out what you can so that your time at showings is used wisely.
4. Be clear about what you want
As my wife would say, “communication is key”. Be sure your Realtor has a clear understanding about what you’re looking for. When looking at homes, tell your Realtor what you like about the house, and what you don’t like. The better I understand what my clients are looking for, the better I can I can serve them.
5. It isn’t all about money
You found the home you want, and you’re ready to make an offer. Think about the contingencies you need in your offer. Typically we would have a mortgage-financing contingency, and almost always there should be a structural inspection. But there may be other contingencies to consider. Is the property a condo? Maybe you need a contingency to have time to review the HOA bylaws. Do you plan on building a garage? Maybe a contingency that the Town will be willing to issue a building permit.
6. Never compromise, but keep an open mind.
This essentially means don't let the market scare you into giving up on those things that are important to you. You should never put down an offer on a place only because you're scared to lose out to someone else, because there will likely be another home that checks most of your boxes. Still, if a place matches your requirements list, especially the non-negotiable features, act fast. Don’t lose out on a property by waiting too long. And if your offer is accepted and there are a few tweaks you'd like made, negotiate your contract. A good broker will be able to handle that for you.
7. Don’t get discouraged.
It might seem like the right home will never show up. Or when it does, something always falls through. But here's the truth: There will always be another property. Yes, there are a ton of buyers out there, so there will be competition — and there will be properties that don't work out. But, as I always say, “there is always something new and exciting around the corner”. While you might expect an accepted offer to be a done deal, don't celebrate too early. You can't even get excited until the ink is dry.
Btw..... the beautiful home pictured in this article is on 49 acres of land in Wilmington including both sides of Beaver Brook. Feel free to reach out to me for details.
Bob Miller is an Associate Broker with 10 years of real estate experience as well as 15 years of service as a former Lake Placid School Board member, and is currently a 3-time elected Town Councilman in Lake Placid.