Since it's the Holiday Season, and many Louisville home buyers (though not all, as my buyers' closing on 12/12/12 shows!) are taking a couple of weeks off to enjoy Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Years, I thought a series on how to buy a home in Louisville KY would be helpful since many Louisville Home Buyers will enter or re-enter the market in 2013. Today is Step 1: Choose a Real Estate Agent.
Well, this step 1 sure seems self-serving, doesn't it? I happen to know a good real estate agent, and I'm happy to refer you to him...in all seriousness, I have gone back and forth on what the first step should be over the years that I've been practicing real estate in Louisville, but I do think this is the starting point.
The reason that choosing your real estate agent should happen first is that the buyer consultation with the real estate agent is the springboard to all the next steps in the home purchase process. Additionally, if done properly, the home buyer consultation will save you, the home buyer, time, money, and most of all, stress/frustration. So what should the home buyer consultation involve? Here are the five ingredients to a great home buyer consultation:
- Time Frame: This piece of the home buying pie is often overlooked by novice real estate agents. Many agents are so glad to (finally) have a client to work with that they neglect to ask the simple, but crucial question: How soon do you plan to move? Keep in mind that there are numerous factors to consider before answering this question. Some of which are: Do you have a home you must sell in order to buy your new home? When does your lease expire, and if you plan to buy prior to your lease expiring, what sort of penalty might your landlord levy against you for breaking the lease? Do you have any recent events that have dramatically changed your financial situation, or could change your financial situation (some overlooked items are newly married/divorced, new job with better pay but in a different industry, your uncle just won the Power Ball and is willing to purchase a home for you, etc.)? A good Louisville real estate agent will be able to inform you about how long the process should take, how many homes the typical buyer looks at prior to making a decision of a home to buy, and other factors to consider before embarking on your house hunting journey. Starting your home search too early can be very frustrating since you will undoubtedly encounter a house or two you might be interested in without being in position to buy the home.
- How much money are you comfortable spending versus how much you are qualified to spend: This is important for obvious reasons, but funny enough, many qualified home buyers are surprised by how much house they can afford, and many do not want to spend as much as they are qualified to spend. A good Louisville real estate agent will have a feel for common lending standards. Granted, you will need to speak to a great loan officer prior to beginning your Louisville home search, but an experienced real estate agent should be able to estimate what sort of mortgage you are capable of obtaining. You should also be able to get a list of reputable loan officers from your real estate agent.
- Needs analysis specific to the home: The clearer you can get about the attributes of the home you want to buy, the better. For Louisville Home Buyers, location is typically the first thing I try to pin down on my initial home buyers consultation. This can be challenging for Louisville Home Buyers who are unfamiliar with the area. It's helpful for potential home buyers to drive neighborhoods, talk to friends familar with the city, and describe the sort of lifestyle they want the location to provide for them to their real estate agent when settling on a target location. From there, it's simpler things like number bedrooms and bathrooms, garage size, square footage, and lot size. The clearer the picture of the home you want you have in mind, the less frustration you will have as you begin to look at homes because many homes can be eliminated from consideration by doing the right homework before making appointments to view homes.
- Discuss the home buying process: Every real estate deal is different in some form or fashion, but there is plenty about every real estate deal that is the same nearly every time. It's important to know this fact. It's also important that you trust your real estate agent to guide you in the right direction whether it's an unexpected twist in the process or an everyday issue. A good Louisville real estate agent will provide you with the basic framework for the home buying process several times during your home search so that you never feel in the dark about what is happening with the purchase of most likely the most expensive item you will ever buy.
- Talk Communication: Every year, the National Association of REALTORS releases results of its home buyer survey, and every year communication struggles between real estate agents and home buyers (and sellers, for that matter) are a major point of contention. And guess what? One of the main areas of dissatisfaction home buyers report regarding their real estate transaction is poor communication by their agent during the course of the home buying process. How do you like best to communicate? How often do you want to be communicated with? Who will communicate with you at different times during the process? These and other questions are important to consider and will help you avoid frustration and stress as you search for and purchase a home.