You’ve decided the time is right to stop throwing away your money on rent, and it’s time to buy a home. But what exactly can you afford? Should you consider a condo or town house? How exactly do you get started with the process of homeownership? In truth, many people start looking at listings online and get so caught up with these questions and looking at the different properties that they never actually take the steps needed to actually buy a home. And before you know it, another year has passed with another $20 or $30k paid to a landlord.
Here are 5 crucial tips we offer for home buyers in the Austin area to help make sure you get started on the path to success:
#1 – Talk to a lender very early on – ideally, before you even start looking at homes online. A good lender is going to look at your specific situation and goals and be honest with you about how much home you can afford. And if something on your credit report needs to be improved or corrected, it’s much better to know that in the early stages of this process. When a lender pulls your credit for a mortgage, it doesn’t hurt your credit score like applying for credit cards or car loans does. And having this initial conversation doesn’t lock you in to using that same lender for your actual purchase. You’d still be able to shop around if you want. So there’s really no reason NOT to call a lender and get pre-approved early on. If you would like a list of lenders our home buyers in the Austin area have had great experiences with recently, email theresa@letsmoveaustincom and she will send that to you right away.
#2 – Identify a Realtor and interview them to be sure you’re a match. The expertise your Realtor has, and your communication with that Realtor, will contribute greatly to how smooth your home buying experience is. We have created a document titled 10 Questions to Ask Your Realtor and recommend you actually to interview potential Realtors before deciding on who to use. Many buyers don’t realize that there is a big variety in Realtors’ response time to clients, ability to write offers that can give their clients a leg up, especially in multiple offer situations, and negotiate strongly for their clients throughout the transaction, not just at the point of the initial offer. You want to work with someone that understands how major this home purchase is, and who you trust to advocate for you interests.
#3 – Let all communication take place between the agents. Sometimes buyers make the mistake of visiting an open house and talking to the Realtor there about how much they like the home, or asking how much negotiating room there is on that home. Trust me when I say a good listing agent is going to try to get as much information as they can out of you during that conversation…so that they can advocate better for their client – who is the seller, not you. Your seemingly innocent conversation could possibly hurt your negotiating power.
#4 – Put it in writing. Real estate contracts must be in writing to be valid. Be certain to review all contracts carefully, and if you don’t understand ask questions. If you discussed something with your agent, such as the refrigerator staying in the house, be sure that is written into the contract. If the seller agrees to make repairs, or have the furnace serviced, or remove some items from the garage, those points will need to be specifically added to the contract. And of course any such additions will need to be signed or initialed by both the buyer and seller in order to be valid. While it’s nice to think about sealing deals on a handshake, in reality if it’s not in writing you don’t have any recourse if it doesn’t happen.
#5 – Don’t pass on a home inspection. In our hot real estate market, it’s easy for Austin area home buyers to feel somewhat dejected if they’ve made offers on properties that weren’t accepted. One strategy some agents will suggest is waiving the right to an inspection. We believe that unless you are a seasoned real estate investor/flipper, this is a mistake. There is so much information learned in a home inspection that it is foolish to waive your right to conduct one. Instead, we have a list of home inspectors that our clients have worked with successfully that can schedule inspections for our clients very quickly. So instead of skipping the inspection, we can help you get it down quickly – say in 3 days rather than 7. This serves to make our offer stand out without exposing you to more risk than is smart.
Keeping these 5 crucial tips in mind can make your home buying experience easier to navigate. Being prepared up front can make this less stressful, and prevent you from getting stuck in the mode of just looking at homes online. Please call Theresa at 512-297-3442 to discuss your real estate needs in the Austin area and see if we’d be a fit to work together.