The Key to Buying a Home This Year: Questions to Ask Your Real Estate Agent
If you are thinking of purchasing a home this year, you are not alone. In today’s competitive Central Ohio market, when it comes to buying a house, you must have an “in it to win it” mentality. You need the right people on your team and the right leader in charge of your game. Without a doubt, having the right real estate agent is the key to successfully landing the home of your dreams.
One of the best things about employing a real estate agent is that you can get a straight answer about anything you need to know regarding purchasing a home. Here are a few examples of common questions that many people ask their real estate agents.
What’s the First Step to Buying a Home?
Before you get too excited and start hunting around for a home on the internet or requesting showings from an agent, there are two "first steps" you should take on the homebuying journey.
It should begin with scheduling a real estate financing consultation with a reputable (and preferably local) mortgage lender. Your discussion with them is confidential, and by the end of the process, you'll have a great idea of how much home you can afford, how much cash you'll need to bring to closing, and what your monthly payment will look like based on a pre-approved amount. They should also be able to guide you through repairing any credit blemishes or errors on your credit report (like what happened to me when I was pre-approved).
The next step should be finding a real estate agent to be your guide through this process. The most important traits your agent should have are experience and relationships. The experience to give you great advice during each phase of the process, and the professional relationships in the local market to build trust with the listing agent who is reviewing your offer. They should present a homebuying playbook to you that is current and based on the market in which you're planning on competing (not a generic template that could have worked 5, 10, or even 20 years ago).
Discuss with him or her what aspects of your ideal home are most important to you. Perhaps you desire a specific neighborhood or school district. Or, you might wish for particular aesthetic characteristics. Whatever the case may be, real estate agents specialize in locating what you desire, and making magic happen for you based on their experience and professional relationships.
Can You Recommend a Good Lender, Inspector, or Insurance Agent?
When purchasing your first home, you will need to utilize various professionals during the process. Real estate agents often have an extensive network of connections.
If you haven’t already gotten pre-approved, getting a recommendation on a lender from your real estate agent may really help bring you up to speed. When your offer is accepted, it will be very helpful to have great inspectors ready to assist, and insurance agents who can ensure you're receiving the best insurance coverage on your home at the right price.
What Are the Closing Costs on a House?
Some people don’t realize that a down payment isn’t the only thing they need to bring to the table when purchasing a home. Closing costs are also part of the equation. These fees are typically between 1% - 2% of the purchase price in Central Ohio and included but are not limited to appraisal fees, prorated property taxes, recording fees, and inspection fees.
How Do I Compete to Win in a Bidding War?
In 2021 I was honored to serve as President of the Great Dublin Realty Association, Through that, and by being the broker for my company - Core Ohio Realt Advisors - I've been able to build some fantastic relationships among my Central Ohio agent colleagues.
So, instead of giving you my best advice for competing in this market (which you'll have once you hire me), I'll share with you their advice when I asked them their thoughts on this topic:
"Work with an agent who has great agent relationships. I've gotten many offers accepted not being the most competitive based on the agent relationship."
"Understand what it takes to be competitive and go into the process with the right mindset, so you're prepared. Know the listing price is just the starting price. Leverage the [family financial] resources you have if you have them."
"Whatever your max price point is, drop that by $50,000 and don't look any higher than that unless a home has been on the market at least 7 days."
"Make your first offer your absolute best offer. Don’t leave anything on the table, because you may not get a chance to improve it."
What Are the Next Steps After an Offer Is Accepted?
Logically, after your offer was accepted, you may be ready to jump for joy! Before you do, let’s get real about what could happen next.
First of all, don’t be surprised if everything doesn’t go exactly as planned. You need to prepare yourself for the possibility that the house could have inspection-related issues, you can’t obtain the type of financing you want, or your house was not appraised high enough to justify its price (even when you were able to provide appraisal gap coverage of a certain amount). Being prepared for possible outcomes will help you overcome any challenges that may happen throughout the process.
With that being said, here is what the schedule is like after your offer is accepted. To begin, your earnest money is collected and held in an escrow account (usually of the buyer's broker). If you follow the contract, this money is either credited to you at closing or returned to you if the deal falls through.
Next, all inspections on the home will be performed and completed. These inspection costs are the costs of doing business in real estate, and you won't recoup these funds if the deal falls through. However, skipping an inspection or not performing all of the recommended inspections is a recipe for disaster and should be avoided at all costs.
During this time, your lender will choose a certified appraiser to objectively assess the property. This is another cost of doing business. If the deal falls through - you won't recoup this appraisal fee.
Your loan approval deadline will then approach. You will do the final walkthrough of the home, followed by signing all of the documents and transferring the rest of the down payment. In the final step, the closing paperwork is signed, the funds are transferred to all parties according to the contract (usually by the title company), and you are a homeowner.
Buying a home this year can be quite a complicated and arduous task. Trying to navigate the waters of home buying on your own is not something that anyone should attempt. Having a real estate agent on your side to guide you and negotiate for you is an absolute necessity.