It is still a buyer’s market, however, over the past several months, we are seeing improvements in the housing industry. Buyers are now walking through the door asking how long this buyer’s market will last and if it is still a good time to buy a home. Well, if we knew the answer to that then we must be in possession of a crystal ball. Of course, no one knows what the market will do from one year to the next. There have been times where a buyer’s market can switch to a seller’s market in a flash. No one really has that magic formula where we can accurately predict what the future holds.
The best advice we can give anyone that is seriously thinking about home ownership, is to sit down and ask him or her a few questions.
1. Why are you looking to buy a home?
Whether you are a first-time home buyer or have been through the process before, ask yourself why you want to buy? Are you downsizing? Upgrading? Job transfer? Getting married or divorced? Lifestyle change?
2. What type of home are you looking for? Neighbourhood?
We ask buyers to create a wish list of their “must-haves” and “not a deal breaker.” Planning, and having a good idea of what you want can help a real estate agent narrow down the available homes. Do you want a condo or are you looking to buy a family home? Do you want to buy in a traditional, older neighbourhood, or brand new construction? Do you want to be near shopping, entertainment, and public transportation? What about commuting to work?
What is your budget? Do you have the down payment? How’s your credit? Do you have enough to cover the closing costs as well as other expenses that will be necessary (inspection, insurance, etc.)? Do you have a pre-approval letter from your mortgage company?
Lots of questions right? Whatever your answers, the more we know about you, the more we can tell you what is available in your price range and the real estate marketplace in general. Once you have a clear idea of what you want, and you decide that owning a home is something you want to pursue, then it’s time to find a real estate agent who understands how to use your time effectively to find a home that is right for you.
When considering real estate agents, ask your agent these questions before you start looking at homes:
1. How will you search for my home?
The goal here is to go with a real estate agent that works full time and has been in the business for a while. Networking is a crucial part of an agents work. Hiring someone that doesn’t know the area or town is knew to the industry and doesn’t have the contacts, means you may not find what you are looking for.
2. How many homes will I see before I want to buy?
This of course is up to you, but if you have a clear idea what you are looking for, and your agent has a good understanding of your needs as well as the area, then finding a home often happens sooner rather than later. It’s not necessary to see every home in your price range and in fact, is hardly recommended. Buyers often get confused and houses start looking the same if the search turns into months.
3. How do you handle multiple offers?
If you make an offer on a home where the seller is entertaining multiple bids, then you need an experienced real estate agent who can negotiate on your behalf. Each situation and offer is different, but a professional, full time agent has been through many negotiations and should fight hard for your bid.
4. Do you present offers yourself?
Some agents do, while others leave it with their assistants. As a buyer, you have the right to request your preference with your real estate agent.
5. Will I be competing with other buyers?
If a home is properly priced, even listed below the market price, then there is a good chance you will be competing with other buyers. Bidding wars are not uncommon. Again, as mentioned above, hire an agent that can successfully negotiate and work on your behalf.
6. Do you have references?
If they don’t, even if they are new agents, run. Everyone has references, even if it’s from previous employers.
7. What separates you from other agents?
Here, you want to hear that an agent has an excellent reputation in the industry, they are very good at returning phone calls or emails, and also will have your best interests in mind. You don’t want an agent that will show you homes outside of your budget, or try and talk you into a house you aren’t interested in. That is a waste of valuable time. Also, make sure that your agent is organized. Will paperwork be handled in a timely manner? Do they have access to homes before they even are listed so you can have a head start before other buyers?
As you can tell, the beginning of the house hunt involves many questions. But again, as agents, it is necessary we have a good idea what you want in a home, what your budget is and how we can best assist you. An educated buyer understands that looking for a home can be a roller coaster of emotions. You will want a trusted advisor by your side.