Following are a few words of wisdom from those of us who have learned from past experience:
– Take a few moments to discuss what you’re looking for with your spouse or partner before you start setting up appointments to look at properties. Make a list of “must have” features together, then discuss other “would like but can live without” features. After you’ve looked at a dozen or so properties, re-evaluate your criteria. Often priorities shift with time. .
– Have a realistic idea of how much you can afford before you start looking (most lenders will pre-qualify you for free). Not only will this save time, but will also avoid needless disappointment on everyone’s part.
– Don’t sign a contract with an agent that locks you into looking with him or her, or guarantees them a commission even if you find the house yourself! Specify, instead, that a commission will be paid only if you buy a property shown to you by that agent. This enables you to look with others, and also at For-Sale-By-Owner properties, at your own convenience.
– Don’t bring an agent with you to look at FSBO properties, or bring them into the picture when it’s time to draw up a contract, unless you are willing to pay their commission through either a higher sales price, or out of your own pocket. Otherwise, you may risk losing the house. (note: if you aren’t sure of the process, have an attorney look over the contract for you. He/she will charge you much less than an agent.) (Kind of odd, don’t you think!)
– If you find the house you want to buy before you’ve sold your home, and the seller is reluctant to sign a contract with you with the contingency that you sell your home first, you may draw up a contract that allows the seller to continue marketing and advertising the property yet gives you the “first right of refusal” should they receive another offer. This way you will be notified immediately if the seller has another offer, giving you an opportunity to re-offer if necessary. Another option is to put a non-refundable deposit on the property. This shows the sellers that you are serious about buying their property.
– If you sell your house before finding a home you want to buy, be sure your sales contract is contingent upon you, the seller, finding suitable housing!! We have heard several stories of people frantic to find a home under pressure, and even having to rent after the closing, because they sold first. Remember, the seller is legally bound to sell once the contract is signed.
– When presenting an offer, be courteous and respectful of the sellers. In general, avoid criticizing the property with statements like “we don’t care for the new carpeting, and therefore will have to replace it”. This will not justify a lower offer and may possibly insult the sellers, decreasing you chances of their accepting your offer.
– If you feel the property may be overpriced, yet the seller refuses a lower offer: Make your offer contingent upon the property appraising for the selling price or higher. .
– Request that you be permitted to walk-through the house (shortly before closing) after the furniture is removed to make sure that some of the home’s faults weren’t covered with furniture, rugs, or wall coverings. It is far easier to request compensation for necessary repair work before the house is sold than afterwards.
– Request that the seller complete a property disclosure or disclaimer form before you make an offer. Agency listed properties carry no guarantees, and it is the seller who is legally bound to be truthful in reporting the condition of the property. It is recommended that any major deficiencies in the home be reported to the buyer regardless of the form being utilized.
– Make the time frame of your offer short (24 hours or less) so the seller has less time to “shop the bid” among other interested parties, or to accept another offer. Also, don’t make the deadline time at midnight unless you usually are awake at that time!.
– If you don’t know much about building construction, don’t worry. Simply make your offer contingent upon the property passing a professional home inspection. This is also an excellent way to become more familiar with the upkeep needs of your future home.
– Put everything in writing. Your sales contract should spell out whether the washer and dryer stay, etc