Efficiency will be the name of the game in 2018. No one likes wasting time or money. So even though buying a property is a big decision, it doesn’t have to be painful, drawn out, or full of nasty surprises. Technology now facilitates the lightning-fast exchange of all kinds of information, especially if you know where to look and which questions to ask. Here’s a helpful buyer’s guide to vetting all the players in your upcoming real estate transaction and making it a pleasant, smooth process with a happy ending.
1) Pick the right lender who offers sage budgeting advice, excellent customer service, a competitive interest rate, and low closing costs. Shop around, comparing local mortgage brokers, national online lenders, and the institute where you already bank. Know your credit score and financial info, and without having your credit run by each lender, ask what your likely closing costs and interest rate will be, and a likely timeline for closing a loan. A good lender will spend time explaining the loan process, down payments, and loan products, and will be willing to talk numbers with you. A tiny reduction in your fixed interest rate can save thousands of dollars over the life of the loan, so don’t be shy about asking questions and pursuing the best possible financing. Once you’ve decided on a lender, submit your financial information to that lender before setting out to find the home. This will establish you as a qualified buyer and give you an advantage over buyers who are scrambling to find a lender after they find a home.
2) Pick the right real estate agent. Find a full-time, experienced agent who is familiar with your area and knows the market well. Subtle negotiation tactics and perceived authority can swing prices by thousands of dollars, so pick an agent who isn’t too pushy but offers valuable guidance backed by solid facts. One who is laser-focused on your needs and honors his or her fiduciary duty to you. Write an introduction letter about yourself and your family that your agent can present with purchase offers. Ask agent candidates how available they are for showing properties, whether they will screen homes on your behalf, and what technology they have available to make touring homes easy. Review the AAR Buyer Advisory, timelines, and the flow of the purchase contract with your agent so it will be familiar when you need it.

3) Pick the right home. This is the fun part! Try to get a gauge for the market by watching homes sell for a few months before you start your search. Think carefully about how much space you need, the number of bedrooms, commutes to work, schools, utility costs, amenities, traffic, shopping, etc. Searching online is easier than ever, and savvy listing agents are saving both buyers and sellers time by posting floorplans, 3D Matterport representations, videos, virtual tours, bird’s eye views, and drone footage of the home and its surrounding areas. Be sure to explore all available media and information about each home. This may save time and prevent visits to homes that have dealbreaker floorplans or “no go” lot orientations. Don’t pass on the “perfect home” just because it doesn’t fit a piece of furniture or because one room has a funky paint color. And don’t get too excited about a home that will be fun for entertaining 1% of the time, but miserable for the other 99% of daily life.

“A tiny reduction in your fixed interest rate can save thousands of dollars over the life of the loan, so don’t be shy about asking questions and pursuing the best possible loan.”

“Subtle negotiation tactics and perceived authority can swing prices by thousands of dollars, so pick an agent who isn’t too pushy but offers valuable guidance backed by solid facts.”

“And don’t get too excited about a home that will be fun for entertaining 1% of the time, but miserable for the other 99% of daily life.”

4) Pick the right title company, with an escrow officer who early on will check for clouds on title and issue a preliminary report showing easements and restrictions. It is customary for the buyer to pick the escrow company. Rates between companies can be compared at http://azdfi.gov/Consumers/Rate_Filings.html, and buyers who own multiple properties should ask for investor rates on escrow fees or title policies. Your real estate agent will probably have recommendations for outstanding escrow companies.
5) Pick the right home inspector. Although the inspector cannot open walls or take things apart, there are new tools like infrared heat detectors that can identify uninsulated walls, hot spots in the roof, and energy leaks. Some inspectors are even FAA certified to fly a drone over the nooks and crannies of a roof to spot trouble areas. Ask to see a sample report before hiring an inspector and look for unambiguous, well-written summaries that will give all parties clear direction for repairs. The inspector should take photographs of all trouble spots and offer a summary walkthrough to point out discoveries. Be prepared to bring in other specialists like roofers and HVAC technicians for red flags raised in specific areas.

“Ask to see a sample report before hiring an inspector and look for unambiguous, well-written summaries that will give all parties clear direction for repairs.”

With an effective team in place, the home buying adventure can be enjoyable, efficient, and predictable. Deadlines met, cold feet avoided, best home found, equity poised for growth. Good luck and let us know if we can help!

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