I’ve been a real estate agent in Springfield, Kingstowne, and Fairfax for several years, and for the most part I have found that Northern Virginia buyers are pretty bright. But I have seen some prospective home buyers do things that make me wonder what they were thinking (or smoking, if you get my drift).
For instance, wouldn’t you think it pretty important that you understand how much you are able to afford before you start looking for a home? Maybe you would want to consult with a good lender (or two?) to help determine that you can qualify for a mortgage, and for how much?
And then there are so many different types of real estate loans – 15-year, 30-year, even 40-year fixed rate – FHA guaranteed – VA no money down – local down payment assistance – 3, 5, 7 or 10-year fixed/adjustable – wouldn’t it be a good idea to understand your mortgage choices? A competent real estate lender will recommend the best financial product for your needs. I have seen way too many of those quickie print-it-yourself “You’re Prequalified!” letters from Internet mortgage “brokers” who promise you whatever they think it will take to get your money. Please, speak with a lender you trust, and ensure that you have been fully approved for your mortgage and that you understand it. If you don’t know a lender, ask your agent for referrals to some good ones.
What?! You don’t want to work with a real estate agent? How many homes have you bought/sold/negotiated lately? It’s one thing to be bright, but entirely another to think you know everything about everything. Oh, you don’t want to pay a commission? Perhaps you didn’t know that as a home buyer, you ordinarily will not pay any commission. The seller pays the commission to their agent, and they share that commission with the buyers’ agent. You can choose to be “represented” or “assisted” by the seller’s agent, but that’s the same as not being represented at all. Get your own agent to make sure your interests are protected! We’ll wait . . .
So now you (and your agent – hint, hint) are out looking at homes. You’re a people person, so naturally you strike up a conversation with the sellers or their
agent, or maybe their neighbors. Smile, but shut up, already! Everything you say, especially to a well-trained ear, gives them some information you may think is innocuous, but might undercut your negotiations later. You talk to your real estate agent, and let your agent get the answers. After the contract is ratifiedyou can jabber all you like. We encourage it.
Ooh, look – here’s the most expensive house on the block! Let’s get this one, honey! Who cares about later resale value? Most of the time, the highest priced home in the neighborhood will appreciate more slowly than others. Get the pool, the big sunroom, or other costly amenity if you really want it, but don’t expect to get your investment back when you sell unless that “extra” is common in the neighborhood.
Neighborhood? What about the neighborhood? Looked OK when you wrote the offer on Sunday afternoon! Of course, that’s when the 12 guys living in the frat house across the street were sleeping. Take a drive around the neighborhood at different times of day and evening. How’s the commute to your job?
Contract, shmontract, they’re all the same. It’s all about the bottom line, right? Well, no. Designing and presenting a persuasive offer while keeping your options open is a skill born of experience and research. Formulate the offer with your real estate agent. Present yourself as a strong and committed buyer by being approved by a lender and having a competent real estate agent put the offer together with you.
You didn’t request a home inspection? Nah, your uncle is a plumber, so you don’t need no steenkin’ inspection. Every home should be inspected by a qualified home inspector. If you are buying in Virginia, a termite inspection is required. And, if you are considering a home with a septic system – as you might find in Clifton, Fairfax Station or other western and southern parts of Fairfax County – insist on a county inspection of the system.
OK – we’re all set. Settlement in two weeks. Hey, let’s buy a new car for our new garage! And while we’re at it, darling, go right ahead and quit your job so you’ll have time to pack your stuff and move! I have had buyers do something like this – well, not quite that bad – in the weeks prior to settlement, only to find that their chosen lender will recheck employment and credit just two days before the expected settlement date. No verification, no loan. Oops!
Buying a home in Springfield, Kingstowne, Fairfax or anywhere else can be stressful and there are many pitfalls. Let yourself be guided by a real estate professional you trust and respect, who has YOUR best interests at heart.
Yup – like me.