Experienced real estate agents are accustomed to working with clients who have a wide range of knowledge, from first-time buyers just learning words like “mortgage” and “escrow” to multiple property investors exchanging homes as tax shelters. Those of us who primarily serve a military market are more likely to work with clients looking for their first or second home and nearly always for a primary home. We have a lot of information to share, usually in a short amount of time, driven by the often tight timeline of a PCS move. And no matter how much time we spend together, without requiring our clients to read real estate textbooks before a purchase, they’ll never soak in all the intricacies of the industry in one transaction.
So, what would we like to make sure you as our client know before purchasing a home?
Know the Boring Part Is Important
Clients tend to glaze over the most important part of home buying: shopping for a mortgage loan. Interest rates and financing terms are not nearly as sexy as chef’s kitchens and man caves, but they are much more important. Finding a lender who offers a program with reasonable pricing that fits your situation and who is willing to create a relationship rather than just spit out a preapproval letter based on fuzzy math is often the difference between closing on the house you want and watching your dream kitchen slip away due to a lending problem. Get the loan plan straight well before you shop. You’ll probably find a VA Loan is the best route, but if you have a large down payment saved, explore other options too. Real estate agents are a great resource for lender referrals because we’ve seen which ones perform well, and we have our “oh-heck-no” list of those who have killed our previous deals.
Understand You (Probably) Can’t Have It All
Unless you’re very financially secure or live in a very low cost of living area, you’ll probably have to prioritize your wish list to bring it in line with your budget. Clients often ask us to search for homes with specific criteria not understanding if one or two of those “must-haves” were tweaked just a bit, a new and attractive pool of homes would become options and may present a better value overall. So, yes, you’d like a garage, but would a carport do? Yes, you’d like a fence, but can you add one later if the house costs a bit less?
Focus on the Permanent
When clients walk into a home they get wrapped up in the overall emotional experience of the space, how it feels to be there. This is why home staging works. The candles and pillows and art on the walls don’t come with the house, but they all make you feel comfortable in the room. When viewing homes, try to focus on the permanent features, not the staging. You won’t be able to change the home’s location. Without spending significantly more money, you won’t be able to change the utility of the floor plan, the home’s architectural style, and the type or condition of the mechanical systems. On the other hand, paint, wallpaper, tile, carpet, and landscaping are quite easy to change and can be done on a flexible schedule as you have the budget.
Plan for Transitional Costs
Speaking of budget… It seems every time people move into a new house, no matter what they pack and take with them, they spend at least another $400 at Target to restock their new home. Then there are the overlapping expenses of paying rent, changing utility companies, hiring moving services, eating out more because every dish in the kitchen is packed, and buying another X, Y, or Z because the one they need right now is in a box somewhere. So, when you’re looking for a home, just be sure to set aside some cash for these inevitable expenses of moving.
Prepare for the Home Inspection
When you do find the right home, you’ll certainly have a home inspection. Remember, it’s the home inspector’s job to find things wrong with the house. Keep it in perspective. Unless you’re moving into a newly built home, there will be some deficiency noted on the home inspection. And that’s okay. From the day they’re built to the day they’re torn down, homes are living beings that decay and get patched up, just like people. As a buyer, you should read the home inspection report and ask yourself if you’re prepared to deal with the house in its current condition. You should ask the home inspector if the condition of the home is consistent with its age, or if the findings are unusual for the neighborhood. And you should ask if you’re likely to find something in better condition if you pass up this home and move on.
Ask Questions and Take Notes
We love to answer your questions, and hopefully, if we’ve done a good job of explaining the process and walking you through the forms, you won’t feel overwhelmed by all the things you don’t know. Keep asking questions and remember to take notes so you can refer back to them when you feel insecure about the next steps. We’re here for you!