We’ve been slowly moving forward with the home-buying process, but I’ve fallen behind on the updates. We are far from experts and we might have done it all wrong, but here’s how we found our buyer’s agent to represent us. We started by essentially interviewing ourselves.
First, we had to see what was out there. We went on Open Houses every single weekend for months. We looked at houses in “bad” neighborhoods, “good” neighborhoods, and everything in between. We looked at homes priced from $260,000 to $3,800,000. High-rise condos, nice townhouses, detached houses, even a shack with no water heater (but great lot). Close by and far away.
Next, we used online resources such as MLS listing websites. These days you can get a ton of information online in most metro areas, including e-mail updates of new listings. However, I am always suspicious that these sites are somewhat delayed compared to what real estate agents who pays hundreds of dollars for “real” MLS access gets. But by poking around online you can find recent sold data, tax records with previous sales history and home sketches through the city or county, and more.
By combining the real-life visits and the data available online, we started getting really good at doing our own home appraisals. By taking careful note of prices, price drops, whether the house sold or not, and for how much they sold for, we got a feel for the housing markets in different areas. We would predict whether a new listing would be sold within a week, or if it would languish for months. This allowed us to help narrow down what we cared about, and how much each separate feature might cost us.
Oh, and we asked our friends a lot of questions.
Deciding On Our Needs
This helped us figure out what we wanted from a buyer’s agent:
- Access to homes. Real estate agents will often give each other lockbox codes with no problems, but not just random people calling them up. This can get us in faster, and often with less hassle.
- Shield us from other agents. When a listing agent sees a buyer without an agent, what they see is potential client to show other houses too. They start asking more questions about what we do, what neighborhoods we’re looking at, and so on. We just want the facts on the house.
- Guidance after offer acceptance. Our parents, brothers, sisters, friends – they all have bought houses. I’ve read enough books to know what the steps are and what the terminology is, but it’s still good to have someone who’s done it 100 times before and seen all the potential hiccups.
- Patience. I would be upfront with the fact that we were going to be direct and picky buyers. We don’t want to see every house, just the select few that meet our criteria. We want to see a house, decide on a price we were willing to pay, and make an offer the same day. If they refuse, then we move on. If we don’t see a house we like for months, then that’s also fine with us. In that way, we didn’t need to be called every day or feel pressured. But if something did come up, we would be willing to move fast. We have the down payment and mortgage pre-approval ready to go.
- A second opinion and another set of eyes. I have a father-in-law that can just about build a house by himself, so that helps us a lot. But just having an experienced person point out flaws or features can be great.
Now, could we find such a person, and perhaps even get a commission rebate? I mean, we are talking about a $500,000+ home here. It turns out we could, and we did. (To be continued in Part 2.)
By Jonathan Ping | Real Estate | 1/16/08, 5:14am