Our Top 26 Tips for Buyers
1. Explore Your Loan Options
Lenders and financing options are not all cookie-cutter, so it is wise to talk to more than one lender and ask about the different loan products that may be available to you. Be sure you understand all of your options so that you can make an informed decision that works with your long-term financial goals.
2. Consider All Expenses
In real estate, every property is unique and comes with unique expenses. Property taxes, utilities, and insurance premiums are going to vary from property to property, along with things like the cost of commuting and maintenance. When searching for a property to purchase, consider how all expenses will align with your budget.
3. Know What You Can Afford
Nothing is more frustrating than spending all day looking at properties that turn out to be just out of reach. To avoid wasted time and disappointment, always know your budget before starting your home search. Before touring homes, be sure to have a loan pre-approval letter or proof of funds ready.
4. Get Pre-Approved Before You Start Searching
When it comes time to submit an offer on a home, being pre-approved for financing makes your offer more attractive to sellers in today’s competitive market. We want our buyers to be in the strongest position they can be in as they begin their home search, and obtaining financial pre-approval is key to getting there. Learn more about loan pre-approval at SCAgents.com/Pre-Approval
5. Keep Your Money Where It Is
Lenders want to see that your money is reliable, so hold off making large purchases, opening or closing lines of credit, or moving large sums of money around for three to six months before purchasing a home. Continue holding off until the keys to your new property are in your hand. Your lender will check up on your credit and finances before your final loan funds are disbursed, and the last thing you want while in escrow is for your financing to suddenly fall through.
6. Don’t Change Your Employment Status
The lending process can be a long and complicated one, and your lender will check on your employment and income multiple times before all is said and done. Until the keys are in your hand, don’t take any action to change your employment status. A sudden change in employment could disqualify you from your home loan.
7. Remember To Think Long Term
Before beginning your home search, first, consider how long you plan to own for. Are you looking for a forever home, or will you be upgrading or downsizing in the future? Consider how your needs might change down the line. How does this purchase fit into your long-term plans?
8. Know Your Wants Vs. Your Needs
Finding a property that has every feature you want is often difficult, if not impossible. That doesn’t mean a home for you isn’t out there. Prioritizing your wants versus your needs can take a lot of frustration out of the search process, and will leave you more satisfied with the home you do choose to purchase.
9. Stay Realistic
Once you have your budget determined, talk to your agent about the types of properties available in your price range. Savvy buyers understand that their must-haves list needs to align with their local market, not the other way around.
10. Know Where To Compromise
Compromise is an inevitable part of buying real estate. When you are faced with a choice, compromise on things that can be changed before compromising on things that can’t be. You can finish the attic, update the kitchen, and put in a patio down the line. You probably can’t move your new home closer to the beach, expand your lot size, or change school district lines.
11. Bring A Checklist
Shopping for a home can get hectic quickly. Creating a checklist to reference and take notes on during home tours is a handy tool. It will help you remember to check on all your must-haves at each home, and you’ll be grateful to have the notes when trying to compare everything you’ve looked at later on.
12. Exercise Discretion
Make sure you understand agency and who works for whom. Anytime you meet a seller’s agent, exercise discretion. Revealing things like your timeline, your budget, or the fact that you are absolutely in love with the property gives them an edge up when negotiating the terms of sale. An experienced seller’s agent can do a lot of damage with even the smallest piece of information. If you encounter a nosey agent and are unsure of how to dodge their questions, just say, “You’ll have to ask my agent, I hired them to answer these types of questions for me.”
13. Be Honest With Your Agent
When touring homes with your agent, be honest about what works for you and what doesn’t. You aren’t going to offend your agent by telling them your real opinion on a property they’ve taken you to see, so don’t stifle a criticism because you are trying to be polite. If your agent doesn’t know what you don’t like, they are going to take you to see more of the same, which is a waste of everyone’s time.
14. Scout Out The Neighborhood
Before you buy, get a good feel for the area. Drop by at different times of day to see what’s going on. Introduce yourself to neighbors and ask what they like most and least about the area. Even if you don’t have kids, research the schools, as they can affect property values. Find out how far you’ll be from grocery stores and other services. Learning as much as you can now might save you from unwelcome surprises down the line.
15. Try Out Your Commute
Before you commit to a home, make sure you are comfortable with your new commute and regular traffic conditions. You can try driving your commute at your regular time, or just keep an eye on traffic reports for a few days to see what is typical for your route.
16. Open Everything Up
When touring properties, a little bit of snooping is okay. Don’t be afraid to look inside built-in cabinets, under rugs, and behind furniture. Be respectful of the seller’s property, but make sure you get a feel for the condition of the home before making an offer.
17. Consider Cosmetic Fixers
Many buyers are scared away by things like stained carpets and outdated cabinets, even if there is nothing structurally wrong with the home. If you can look past much-needed cosmetic updates, you may find a home that meets more items on your wants-list than the move-in-ready properties in your price range. Before buying any home, get all recommended inspections to be sure there aren’t any big-ticket fixes that could blow your budget.
18. Don’t Expect A Perfect Match
Unless you have it built yourself, your perfect home does not exist. Buyers who know that they are looking for the best fit, not a perfect match, find their home faster, with less frustration, and are ultimately more satisfied with their home purchase.
19. Establish A Negotiation Strategy
Talk to your agent about how much competition there is for the type of property you are looking for and determine how competitive you want to be in your negotiations. Before looking at homes, establish a negotiation strategy with your agent that is catered to your goals and your local market.
20. Be Flexible With Your Moving Timeline
If you can be flexible with your moving timeline, you will be in a better position to negotiate other terms of sale with sellers. Create a checklist of everything you need to do in order to move and get as much done as you can now. Generally, sellers are looking for a quick closing period, so consider putting in your notice as soon as possible if you rent.
21. Be Ready To Move Fast
Talk to your agent and be sure you understand all the steps required to submit an offer, along with what to expect if it is accepted or countered by the seller. In our competitive market, well-priced properties move fast. Before going to look at properties, make sure you are in a position to submit an offer immediately. When you find the property that fits all of your needs, hesitation can cost you!
22. Remind Yourself to Keep A Level Head
Purchasing a home can be a long, emotional process. It’s easy to lose sight of your long-term goals or overlook an undesirable feature in a home you’ve become emotionally invested in. To avoid rash decisions, work with an agent that you trust and who will advise you in making well-thought-out decisions that align with your long-term goals.
23. Establish A Connection
When a seller has an emotional connection to their property, showing them you are the right buyer goes a long way. To give yourself a leg up in multiple-offer situations, include a cover letter with your offer that introduces you, your reason for buying, and why the seller’s property will be in good hands if you purchase it.
24. Know Your Walk Away Point
Before submitting an offer on a property, decide what your top dollar is. It is much easier to keep your emotions from getting in the way of negotiating when you have predetermined the price you are going to walk away at.
25. Schedule & Attend a Home Inspection
Spending a little bit on a home inspection before you buy could end up saving you thousands in the long run. Home inspections can reveal hidden issues with a property and we strongly recommend all our buyers get them done. Be sure to attend your home inspection, so the inspector can explain any issues that come up in person and answer any questions you may have.
26. Understand the Closing Process
Signing a purchase contract with a seller is just the beginning of the closing process. To avoid unwelcome surprises, talk to your agent about what steps need to be taken before you get the keys to your new property. While much of the closing process is standard, every real estate purchase is different and your purchase agreement and escrow timeline will reflect that.