Real Estate Advice for Buyers

February 1, 2011

If you are the “average” buyer, you’ve been looking online at homes for about 2 years. You’ve wandered into occasional open houses but you’ve never felt an urgency to buy anything and you’ve been pretty nervous about what you’ve been hearing about real estate. It sounds scary, doesn’t it? So many people that you know losing their homes: friends, family members, former classmates, neighbors, and co-workers.

The first thing that you need to know is this: The water is safe! It’s OK to buy a home!

  • Interest rates are starting to rise, but they’re still very much in a “safe” zone. However, don’t make the mistake of playing a waiting game, hoping for them to fall. Odds are the rates will rise, instead, causing your monthly payment to increase.
  • Lenders want to make good investments, so they carefully screen and qualify buyers who want mortgages.
  • While we all like to feel like “it’s all about us,” when you are dealing with a foreclosure or short sale, you relinquish control; the lien holders have more control over the transaction.
  • Sometimes buyers have added cost when working with a foreclosure property; a common expense  is the buyer’s policy of title insurance.
  • As more buyers gain confidence in the economy, you will have more competition in your search. Eventually, competition is likely to lead to multiple counter offers for the same property, and rising prices.
  • Most showings are going to require appointments for viewing; be prepared to provide 24-48 hrs notice minimum when you want to see a home.

If you plan to buy a home within the next 6 months, it’s time to interview agents. Be honest and tell them your timeline. Be pre-approved and be prepared to update your pre-approval letter when you make an offer. Know what you’re looking for so you can describe your “needs” and “wants.”

In Wisconsin, you do not have to have a buyer’s agent to make an offer on a property. The state does require that an agent provide you with a disclosure about how they will work with you in the transaction. A buyer’s agent will ask you to sign a contract (in Wisconsin, you aren’t represented in a transaction unless you have a contract with a buyer’s agent, much like what a seller has signed with a listing agent). Here are some questions you might want to ask when interviewing agents to represent you:

  • Do you provide Buyer Agency services?
  • How long is a Buyer Agency contract in effect?
  • How do you get paid?
  • How will you search for properties for me?
  • Do you think that what I am looking for is realistic, given the price range I’ve given you?
  • Do you have experience in the area(s) I’m searching in?
  • Are you a full-time agent?
  • When will you be available to work with me: days, evenings, weekends?
  • What should I expect, from start to finish, in this process of buying a home?

Of course, these are just suggestions; feel free to tailor questions to your needs.

Some Realtors have undergone additional training and earn what are known as “designations.” For example, if an agent has an “ABR” after their name, that is a designation for Accredited Buyer’s Representative. The agent has fulfilled educational and sales requirements to qualify for this designation. Please note that the ABR designation is not required in order for an agent to provide buyer agency services.

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