How To Search For A Home

Buying a home is a complex process and the typical home buying guides are written by anonymous sources with no way of knowing the expertise of the author.

Therefore, to cover the topic of searching for a home and making an offer, we have turned to the expertise of Eileen Kim, a leading real estate agent at Advise Realty in Boston. In this article, Eileen answers questions related to the critical aspects of the home search and in another article, we will share her insight on making and negotiating an offer.

Own Up: What are the critical things buyers need to look for in a real estate agent?

Eileen: Purchasing your first home can be a wonderful experience, that fulfills a new chapter in your life. I have found the primary attributes of a good realtor are:

  • Local: It is imperative that you select an agent who knows the market where you intend to purchase. He or she will know the nuances of the area as well as future developments that might impact your home’s value. I’ve seen plenty of buyers use agents outside of the local market and who got stung by their agent’s lack of knowledge. These buyers often end up paying top dollar unnecessarily.
  • Responsive: You want an agent who responds quickly and immediately alerts you to new listings that meet your criteria. A proactive agent will get you into showings so you do not lose opportunities.
  • No Pressure: The agent’s goal is for you to buy a home. Period. For some, this might mean putting their interests ahead of yours. Seek an agent who will guide you, advise you and stay within your budget without pressuring you or making you feel uncomfortable.

Own Up: So for the first time home buyer or for somebody buying in a new market, how should they find a real estate agent who exhibits these characteristics?

Eileen: There are essentially two sources for finding a reputable realtor.

  • Ask for recommendations from friends, relatives or colleagues who may live in communities you are searching.
  • If you are moving to a new location where you don’t any references, information is available online. There is a plethora of ads, agencies and services online so caveat emptor — buyer beware! While it is helpful to read reviews, using your judgment and trusting your instincts, are equally as important to determine if there is compatibility between you and the agent. This may be the largest financial transaction of your life so it deserves careful attention. Also, because real estate is inherently local and your needs may differ from somebody else’s online reviews may not provide a complete picture. Be sure to interview at least a few agents to find the best fit.

Own Up: How do you help clients narrow down homes to visit?

Eileen: It is really a collaborative process that starts with trying to identify the location or locations the client is considering. Are they looking in the city, the suburbs, or somewhere in between? Do they prefer a neighborhood feel? Is walkability a factor? Is commuting an issue? Do they need parking? Are School districts important? Where is the nearest grocery store or hospital? All of these are questions to help narrow down the potential markets to begin the search.

We also work to establish a price range that can fit a client’s budget. In a competitive market it is untenable to make an offer without a strong pre-approval letter to convey confidence to the seller that if they accept the offer then the deal will close.

Lastly, I discuss various property types with my clients and the pros and cons of each. In some markets the client’s budget or the available inventory may determine whether the search is focused on a single family, condominium or townhome.

Own Up: Ok, so the buyer has found their realtor, they have an idea of neighborhoods and what they can afford. How do the mechanics of the actual search work?

Eileen: Today’s buyers go down three potential avenues.

  • Online: It has never been easier to search for a home online and most buyers are beginning their search here. But how do you navigate the plethora of information? There are a number of useful portals including online newspapers, realtor.com, Zillow, or Trulia. However, these sites are not always current with their listings or with status changes. For the most up to date and accurate status for a particular listing, your agent should offer to link you directly to his/her MLS feed along with your search criteria. This will assure you see relevant properties as soon as they come on the market.
  • Open houses: Once you do your initial online search, open houses are a great opportunity to explore your preferences. They tend to occur for a couple of hours on a weekend and it’s a great opportunity to get a personal feel for the neighborhood, homes styles, and to assure that the property is representative of the listing photos.
  • Private showings: Not all properties on sale have an open house. Some sellers don’t want to expose themselves to non-serious buyers. Private showings help sort serious buyers from mere gawkers. Your agent will be able to make arrangements with the selling agent to tour a home.

Own Up: Thanks Eileen. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on making and negotiating the offer, which we’ll share in our next post.

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