I’ve been reading a book based on a TV series about real estate. It’s actually fairly well written and in many cases downright funny. But there are also a number of places where it is just plain wrong. That’s one of the joys of receiving advice (whether it’s from a book, TV show, or the agent you are working with). Sometimes it’s just plain wrong.
I chuckled a bit when a potential buyer called me recently to announce that she was ready to buy a house because she’d been watching all the real estate programs on TV and knew “how it worked.” I envied her because I’ve been at this for a while and I still don’t know how it works. Not every time anyway.
Students in my real estate classes learn to remember that we have two hands and that should remind us to consider both sides of a question when giving clients advice. When a buyer asks, “Should I make a really low offer?” we do well when we consider both possible answers. “Yes, because the seller might accept it. But on the other hand… there are some risks associated with really low offers…”
In other words, you should be getting all the information necessary to make a decision that is ultimately yours. If I could give a buyer only one “tip” it would be just that. Get all the information—the pros and cons—before making an informed decision. In simplest form the tip is “be a smart buyer” and that includes surrounding yourself with professionals willing to educate you.
In addition to being a smart buyer, here are some other recommendations—many of which will apply to sellers as well.
- Read every piece of paper and take everything seriously. This is especially important regarding the offer you sign. Don’t be intimidated into just signing and don’t be too proud to ask questions about any points you don’t understand.
- Keep legible copies of all paperwork in an organized file. Remember that a real estate transaction is complex. Be prepared to consult professionals: lenders, home inspectors, attorneys, accountants.
- Don’t just look for a house; look for a community or neighborhood. Unless you are a hermit, what’s around you will have importance. You can add a family room. Changing a community isn’t quite so easy.
- Be prepared to act quickly and be available to do what needs to be done. Taking a few days off to go to the islands might sound good, but remember your priorities. It’s actually a good idea to set a timetable. I once worked with a buyer who had been looking for seven years. (Not with me!)
- It will sound self-serving, but have some loyalty to the agent you choose.
- In Maine, you should be given a one page “Real Estate Relationships Form” that describes various types of relationships the law permits and requirements for them. Selecting the agent and type of relationship is an important decision that should be made early in the process.
- Understand that there is an emotional and financial component to selecting a home to purchase. In the ideal world, these will be in balance. In the real world they’ll require some juggling. The home you fall in love with may not make the best economic sense. That doesn’t mean you should reject it. (Think, “On the one hand—on the other hand.”)
Ultimately this really is about making an informed decision—your informed decision. Don’t let somebody else tell you the right answer. Oh… and don’t believe everything you see on TV!