Selecting A Realtor
For both Buyers and Sellers, choosing the right Realtor for you is very important to achieve success. The most important criteria for selecting a Realtor is how well you relate to them. Do your personalities sync up? You should also be able to get a sense they are genuine people who truly desire to help you with the process. Ascertain whether they are more concerned with their commission by getting you into contract quickly and moving on to the next transaction versus putting the highest priority on achieving your goals.
I also recommend steering clear of the ‘ultra-top-producer’ Realtors. They advertise very heavily and often are doing a dozen concurrent transactions. The result is that the client only meets with that agent once or twice in the beginning, only to be passed off to an assistant once the process begins. On the other hand, you don’t want to select a part time agent who only does one or two transactions per year either. That level does not allow them to be fully up to date with market nuances and changing real estate laws. Agents that are in the middle category of five to 25 transactions per year are ideal. They possess the expertise and they have the bandwidth to give you their full attention.
It’s your Realtor’s fiduciary responsibility to protect you from the unforeseen. As humans, we’re all prone to miss details and make occasional mistakes. Sometimes those misses can be significant. That’s when it is even more important that we have chosen to have the best qualified and experienced people to help us catch mistakes before it is too late. More than once I was working with Buyers who happened to set their sights on properties that seemed to me to be priced lower than they should be, given the comparable properties in the area. I usually visit the Megan's Law website as a step in my regular checklist of protecting my clients anyway, but especially when a below-market priced property lingers on the market unusually longer than makes sense. Twice I was able to learn there was a registered sex offender living next door and disclose that information to my client. Having small children, that immediately eliminated that property.
Second, I highly recommend finding a Realtor who has their own website that is linked to the local MLS so they can conduct various searches in different areas. If your search is in an area you are unfamiliar with due to a recent relocation, don’t be in a rush. Allow at least 2-4 weeks to accurately assess different neighborhoods and try to visit those neighborhoods at different times of day, taking note of traffic patterns, street parking, and noise levels etc.
I often remind my clients that while purchasing a home can be an emotional decision, which is only natural, part of my job as their Realtor is to help them keep them grounded, as to make sound financial and pragmatic decisions on the highest valued asset they will ever acquire. At the same time, I’m not a boring killjoy who is ultra-serious. I am good at what I do because it’s a serious progression of steps, but I am also rewarded by my clients telling me how the entire transaction was much more enjoyable, even actually more fun than they ever thought it would be.
By all means the most important first step you should take when you ‘think’ you are ready to get into the market and start looking for a house is to make sure you are pre-approved by a lender! Think about it, why would it make any sense to begin the ‘fun part’ of going out to look at homes if you have no idea what price you qualify for? Oftentimes, people don’t realize that this first step is well outside the scope of a Realtor because it’s done by a mortgage broker/lender. However, since Realtors are often the first to be contacted by a potential homebuyer, a referral to a good lender often comes from the Realtor.
I can only speak for my community, but we very much tend to lean toward local mortgage providers versus the big banks. The Napa Valley has an unusually high degree of emphasis on loyalty toward supporting local businesses versus the big industry players. That is part of our culture and is part of what makes Napa Valley such a special place to live. Plus, having that local presence seems to streamline the process. A local person is much easier to reach than calling a toll free number and explaining things to a new random stranger every time you call.
Ultimately, the lender will provide Buyers with the amount of purchase price you qualify for, even if it’s more than you feel comfortable with. Only then should the search begin in earnest.
Now that you’re pre-approved, you know exactly how much mortgage you qualify for given the amount of your down payment, and you have methodically researched different areas of town. Finally, you are ready to tell your Realtor which properties you want to view. Before I implemented my strict policy of not taking clients to see properties until after they were pre-approved, I would indulge them in booking appointments to view properties. Not surprisingly, they would fall in love with homes and then frantically attempt to get a rushed pre-approval in 48-hours. Nearly every time the approval would not come back in time, causing them to miss an offer deadline set by the listing agent. Or, they would beg me to write and submit the offer anyway, without the lender pre-approval letter. Not surprisingly, their offer would not be accepted because the agent would advise their client, the Seller, not to accept the offer. The reason is that an unqualified Buyer is much more likely to tie up the property by being in contract while they ‘attempt’ to gain loan approval. That is usually about 21 days, during which time any other potential Buyers typically steer clear of the properties that are already under contract. A second Buyer can submit an offer that would be put into a ‘backup’ position but generally only about 15% of backup offers result in a closed transaction. Losing a home you truly desire is not as painful as getting your heart broken by a lost love, but it’s still quite unpleasant.
Therefore, the biggest advantage to a Buyer being pre-approved is that it enables you to act very quickly. In a seller’s market there are a lot of properties that are coming on the market where the listing agent will give a particular date that they are going to review offers. That date might be four days away, or sometimes it's only two days. Not being pre-approved virtually eliminates any chance of having your offer accepted in these scenarios.
Perhaps reading through my advice for Buyers conjures questions. Feel free to reach out to me. I am happy to assist.