There are a few things people should know if they are non-professionals in the real estate market. Here’s some advice from a realtor who has worked in residential real estate for many years as an investor, property manager, and a realtor. No matter what you hear and read in the news, from your friends, realtors, lenders, and/or mortgage brokers, there is a vast amount of difference in every city and state.
Choosing a Realtor
Just because your friend, relative, or neighbor is a realtor, doesn’t mean that is the best choice for you. Most people go off the first referral they get. Choosing a realtor is as important as choosing which mortgage broker, dentist, doctor, etc. to use and which city and street you’re going to live in.
Many realtors specialize in a certain market of homes, or parts of a city. Start off by asking people you trust who they have used, then ask your potential realtors a few questions.
How long have they worked in the area and how long have they been licensed in that State? Realtors like everyone else, move on occasion. The laws and knowledge base from city to city and especially state to state can vary greatly. Even if they have had extensive success in their prior state, be cautious of a realtor who is new to the state you are purchasing from, if they are working under a reputable broker, the person who reviews each sales contract you should be fine. Ask lots of questions. With time everyone gains experience and a great network of resources. These are things you’ll need from a person who will help you make one of the largest investments of your lifetime.
Interview several agents and tell them that you will be making a decision in two weeks or whatever time you decide. Then get their business card and tell them you’ll get back to them. You don’t want to be abrupt, just be honest, send them an email thanking them for their time so that they know you have chosen to go with another realtor, they will leave you alone and not call you once you’ve made that clear. Besides, you never know, the person you decided not to go with, may not have fit you personally, but may be representing the seller of the home you intent to purchase. It’s always good to leave on an honest and upfront note.
Location, Location, Location
This is a common saying, if you’re purchasing in a city/state that you grew up in and have lived there for at least the past five years, you probably know which neighborhoods you would and wouldn’t step into. On the other hand, if you are moving to a new city/state, you have no idea what the area is like unless you do your own research.
Many cities have mixed school zones, be sure to visit the school you would like your children to attend and that the neighborhood you are looking to buy is in that school zone. There have been a number of occasions where as the neighborhoods grow the elementary and middle schools are irrationally divided. You could literally live across the street from a school and your children are not eligible to attend because of zoning issues.
Interview and Know Your (Possible) New Neighbors
Your realtor and friends will give you their impressions and quote you statistics, but you should definitely look before you buy and walk the neighborhood. Stop and interview potential neighbors, see if it’s mainly a rental area or if people have lived there for many years, ask what they like and don’t like about the area. Ask them if they had the opportunity to buy again, would they buy in the same area? If you have children or will be working a distance from your home, how is the traffic situation?
These are just a few of the questions your realtor may not know the answers to because they don’t live the day to day life of that neighborhood; don’t take their word for it. Agents will get paid for making a sale, they won’t be able to do much after you complete the sale on your home, except sell your home and find another one, if you don’t like it there and that will cost you money.
You will need to know what’s going on in the area that you’re interested in buying. If you’re newly married, do you plan on raising your children in the same area, how are the school systems? What are the taxes and expenses like for that neighborhood, not just the city or county. Often realtors cannot know all of the delicate intricacies of each subdivision and whether or not there are existing law suits to things like sink holes, complaints on construction, issues with the developer, and the projected planned community of surrounding area.
Crime In and Around Your Neighborhood
Every city has its low income, middle income, and higher end neighborhoods. You may be moving into a beautiful gated community with new schools, technology, homes, and stores. Basically this neighborhood is a community within itself. However, when you leave your secluded area you may need to drive by older neighborhoods and areas well know as high criminal activity and possibly a Weed and Seed community. These are some of the things that developers and realtors may or may not share with you. Not that the realtor would withhold that information, they may just not know.
Do Your Own Research
Of course you will most likely have due diligence given to you by the title company, but that only covers who owned the home and land prior to you. Prior owners are required to disclose information to you. However if you’re purchasing in a new subdivision, sometimes even the sales people don’t know the history of the land and what activity was conducted on the land prior to approval to build. Water systems, irrigation, pesticides that are seeped into the grounds can minimally pass approval by the city and state government; however you should educate yourself by doing your own due diligence in the areas you have concerns about.
Some of these things could take 10 or 20 years before symptoms being. Remember the movie with Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich? This isn’t to scare you, but for you to take precautions. The developers of new communities will usually give you a huge book of disclosures when you make your 30 day refundable deposit. Many people don’t read it, can’t understand it, and when they ask their sales person they usually don’t know the details and would need to seek outside assistance from an attorney or historical data on any concerns you may have.
If you don’t remember anything else, remember this – you and your family will be living in this home for several years to several decades. You may plan to retire to your next purchase. The bells and whistle are great, it’s a sales pitch. You are the most important person that needs to know and feel comfortable with every step that you make. Be confident with the professionals that you work with. If they are open to your questions, answer promptly and if they don’t know will help you find the answers – those are the professionals you will want to work with. You are your best advocate. The next thing you want to hear is, “welcome home.”