If you are looking for a new home, there are many real estate professionals out there who will want to work with you. How do you select the right real estate agent to be on your team?
Real Estate Agent, Realtor, or Broker?
First, let’s clarify some of the terminology around real estate professionals, which can be confusing. A real estate agent is someone who acts as a guide or counselor in the process of buying or selling property. Real estate agents are required to have a license in the U.S. and are trained to handle the legal aspect of buying and selling property, including homes. Some agents specialize in either buying or selling, while other agents assist with both transactions.
A broker is also licensed and must have been a real estate agent prior to becoming a broker.
Legally, a real estate agent must be managed by a broker, who takes legal responsibility for the agent’s actions. A broker may manage a firm of real estate agents, work as a sole proprietor, or work under another broker.
A Realtor is a real estate agent or broker who is part of the National Association of Realtors, or NAR. NAR members pay dues and are held to a certain standard of ethics.
Although all real estate agents must be licensed to ensure a certain level of expertise, that doesn’t mean all agents are right for you. It’s important to find an agent who is the right fit for your situation.
A real estate agent will be guiding you through what may be the most significant financial transaction of your life. Some important qualities to look for in an agent are responsiveness,
knowledge of the local area and market, expertise and negotiation skills.
Referrals are a good source of information on whether a potential real estate agent has these qualities. It’s a good idea to ask people you know about real estate agents they’ve worked with in the past. Another resource is the Better Business Bureau ratings.
Looking at a potential agent’s listings is also a valuable way to see if they are a good fit for you. If most of their listings are different in location or type from what you are looking for, the chances are they aren’t the right agent for you.
Questions to Ask
It’s very important to meet an agent in person before you decide on whether you want to work with them. You can get a better sense of your compatibility with an agent in person.
The National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents has compiled a list of questions to ask a potential real estate agent.
I'm happy to answer these questions or any others you may have. Let's grab coffee or meet up at my office. Feel free to email me here or call or text me at 540 246-9067.
Buying a new home doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are 10 Simple Steps to follow to buy your first home.
1. Credit Score
Find out your credit score before you start talking to lenders, find out your credit score and get a free report from
Annualcreditreport.com. Credit scores range from 350 to 850. The higher your credit rating is, the lower the interest rate on your mortgage will be. Several factors determine your credit score:
A good credit score is considered to be 720 or higher, but you can usually get an FHA loan if your credit is at least 580.
Calculate what you can afford to spend. Try online tools like Nerd Wallet. You also need to consider how much you want to spend. You may not want to make a large monthly payment, even if you are approved for a large mortgage. To get a sense of what you can afford in your area, start attending open houses and doing research online for houses that are on the market.
3. Contact a REALTOR®
Find the right real estate agent. Your real estate agent will be your guide, counselor, and confidant through this sometimes challenging process. It's important to choose a REALTOR® who will look out for your best interest and has high ethical standards. Researching the agent's firm, reading their reviews, and interviewing agents are all good steps before agreeing to work with someone long term.
4. Get Pre-Approved
Get pre-approved for a loan before you fall in love with a home, you want to know that you’ll actually be able to buy it. Find a lender first and get pre-approved for a loan before you start house-shopping. I highly recommend you use a local lender because they have more accountability than online lenders you can't see face to face.
In pre-approval, a lender obtains your credit information and then decides how much money they would be willing to lend you. They will give you an official letter stating this. It’s smart to do this because if you end up in a bidding war, this may give you an advantage because the seller will see you’ve already been approved for a loan.
Getting pre-approved does not mean you have to ultimately get a loan from the lender who approves you. You are still free to look at different lenders and compare them.
Contact me for recommended lenders:
5. Start Looking at Homes
Start the shopping process. Talk to your agent and identify your must-haves and your wants. Also nail down your price range and the neighborhoods you want to look in. Your realtor will assist you with finding houses online and touring them. You may be surprised by the opportunities that you find!
To get custom alerts of houses that meet your criteria, fill out this simple form!
6. Make an Offer
Make an offer on the home. This is often the part that makes people nervous. Don’t worry! Working with a great agent will ensure that you make the best possible offer on your dream home. Your agent will be able to advise you whether your offer should be at the asking price or perhaps above or below, depending on the local market. Your agent will also help you with details such as whether there are any contingencies to your offer, or if you will want a home inspection. Once you make an offer, you may get a “yes”, a “no”, or a counter offer. Rely on your agent to guide you through this process.
7. Use a Licensed Inspector
Do a home inspection. If you decided you want a home inspection as part of your offer, this is the next step. I recommend you be present for the inspection if at all possible. A home inspector will thoroughly examine the home and provide a report about the house. The report can be useful as it will often have more information about your house than you need for the negotiation process.
When negotiating repairs, the contract calls us to focus on material defects and not updates or maintenance items. This often comes up when exploring heating and cooling systems (HVAC). If the HVAC is older than it's statistical life but working properly, replacing it would be an upgrade/update as it is not a material defect (not working properly).
The home inspection is also an opportunity for you to spend time in your new home envisioning what you want it to look like. Enjoy this exciting time!
Contact me for my recommended inspectors:
8. Insurance and Utilities
Unless you are already a homeowner, you will need to find an insurance agent and purchase homeowner’s insurance. This will be required by your lender. If you owned a home to begin with, just tell your insurance agent you’re buying a new home and they will make a new policy for you. Homeownership is necessary to protect your investment even if you don’t have a mortgage.
It’s also important that you contact your utility companies to set up services so they begin the day of settlement. You’ll want to move into a new home with climate control and running water!
9. Close on the House
Closing day is a very exciting day! There will be a lot of paper signing, but don’t let it wear you out. You’re almost done!
You will need to bring a photo ID to settlement and the funds you need to close on the house. If you plan on wiring money, beware of Wire Fraud. More information here...
10. Move Into Your New Home!
Yay! You’re finally done! Get the keys from the former owner and move in. The move in day will vary based on your contract, so it may be on the same day that you sign the closing papers, or it may be a few days later. Either way, you are now officially a homeowner and can start this exciting new chapter in your life. Congratulations!
Owning one’s own home is truly part of the American dream. Home ownership means many different things, being rooted and grounded in a community, having the freedom of one’s own space, establishing a legacy to pass down to future generations, and building wealth are a few of the key benefits of home ownership.
Buying a house is not just a matter of material ownership, of owning a piece of land with a structure on it, but it is also a matter of emotional groundedness, putting down roots in a certain place and calling it your home. Being rooted in a place enriches the community at large as well as the individuals who own the home. Having roots in a home kicks off a legacy that can last for many generations as the home is passed down. A well-made house can last much longer than any other material possession that the modern person owns.
Home ownership is also synonymous with freedom. When you own a property, you are at liberty to renovate, to add on, to change, to transform in the way you choose. In your own home, you have a sanctuary where you are able to truly be yourself and express yourself. From renovation to decoration, a home is an expression of the individuality of its owners. Owning a home gives you a space where you can do your own thing freely, whether that’s playing the tuba, dancing the tango, or making sculptures out of toothpicks.
Owning a home has multiple financial benefits as well. A homeowner’s monthly contribution to their mortgage goes toward building something of permanent value, as opposed to rent, which is only temporary. In some cases, a mortgage may actually be less expensive than paying rent. A well-kept home will also appreciate in value over time, so home owners who keep their homes in good shape over the long haul will end up owning something worth more than the price they paid for it.
There are many idioms about home- a man’s home is his castle, home is where the heart is, there’s no place like home, make yourself at home, homesick, etc. This all points to the primacy of home, and home ownership, in our collective hearts and minds. A home is a wise investment on so many levels, financial, material, and emotional.
Finding extra money each month can be difficult. It may seem that when you are able to put money into your savings account one month, you end up needing it the next month. So, how can you go about saving for a new house? Here are some tips that could help make the process easier.
Sure, this seems obvious but this can be the best tool to help you save! Budget for every dollar you earn in a month and set an achievable savings goal. Then, just track the amount you spend to make sure you don't go over budget. If you stick to your budget, you will be able to put money away. I find that even if unexpected things come up or you don't stick to the budget perfectly, you will still save a lot more if you are trying to adhere to a budget.
Saving For Your First House?
If you are saving for your first house, I would recommend opening a money market account with an institution such as Vanguard. What you want to look for is an account that gives the best returns with the least amount of fees. Money market accounts won't give you amazing returns but they will give you more than most savings accounts. Also, if you want to take money out of your account, it can often take 2 days to post into your personal account. This can be helpful for savings as it may not feel as accessible.
It my also be helpful to figure out how much you will need to save. Let me know if you have questions.
Plan on Selling a House to Buy the New One?
If you already own a house and you are planning on selling it to buy another house, first check with me to see what the house would be worth in today's market. The lack of inventory has made housing prices go up over the past year. You may find that you are in a better position than you thought.
If you still need to save money, try paying off the mortgage as a form of savings. By doing this, you are guaranteed to save(gain) your interest rate. This is likely better than any other savings account or money market account you can find. Furthermore, the more you pay off of a mortgage, the more your monthly payment goes towards principal instead of interest.
So, you are thinking about buying? You may be asking yourself, "What other costs will I have to pay for once I own my own house?" If you are coming from a rental agreement think this utilities, home ownership could add a few more expenses.
Frequently, when a house is listed, the sellers will fill out a utility cost sheet. This is for potential buyers to get a feel for what the utilities cost in that particular house. If the utility cost sheet is available, I will be a little find this for you.
Depending on your tastes and needs, you may be looking for a house that has an association fee. Associations can include services such as lawn care, road maintenance, trash collection, and group facilities such as a pool. feel free to ask me if the house you're looking at has an association attached to it.
Paying taxes comes along with home ownership. These costs are usually bundled up with your mortgage. I can help give you an idea of what taxes will look like for certain property.
Another part of home ownership, that is different from renting, is maintenance. Keep potential maintenance costs and minds when looking at houses, especially older homes. When buying a house, it is wise to perform a home inspection to help protect you from hidden maintenance issues.
If you're reading this, you likely have a house under contract. In the contract, you asked to have a home inspection contingency so that you know the integrity of the house you are about to buy. Your Realtor should provide you with recommendations of home inspectors, but how do you choose which one? Asking these questions will help you find the right inspector.
1. What does your inspection cover?
If you are working with an inspector that is new to your state, is based in a different state, or works in multiple states, ask the inspector to ensure that they are meeting all the state requirements, common standards of practice, and code of ethics. You can even request to see this information beforehand so that you can ask clarifying questions. Also, if you have any specific concerns about the house, make sure you address them with the inspector beforehand.
2. How long have you been a home inspector and how many home inspections have you completed total and in the past year?
A inspector may have a website that lists their history and feedback. If not, feel free to ask an inspector to provide you with this information. Also, new inspectors could be very qualified and be partnered with a seasoned inspector.
3. What is you specialty? Are you experienced in Residential Inspections?
It's generally helpful to have experience in construction or engineering. However, this is not a substitute for experience in residential home inspections. Note, there can be inspectors with more experience in commercial home inspections.
4. Will the inspector also make improvements based on the inspection?
Ask the inspector if their association and state regulations allow them to perform repair work they discover from performing the inspection. However, be aware that this can be a conflict of interest and may be prohibited.
5. When can you preform the inspection and how long will it take?
Frequently, in contracts you have a two week period to request the repairs you want done on the property. This means that you will need to have the inspection completed with enough time for you to develop your requests for repairs. So when scheduling an inspector, sooner is better. On the average single family home, the inspection process will take 2-3 hours. However, this is a good question to ask the inspector.
6. How much does the home inspection cost?
Costs can vary significantly. To help insure you are getting a good price plus high quality service, it helps to get recommendations from your Realtor. Also, it helps to ask these questions to various inspectors so you get a good idea what you are receiving for your money. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development does not regulate inspection costs.
7. When will you provide the inspection report and what will it look like?
Again, speak with your Realtor about the time frame you need to have the inspection process completed by. You want to make sure the inspectors can complete the job within this time frame. Often, inspectors will provide the report within 24 hours. You may also want to ask to see samples of home inspections so that you get an idea of what the finished report will look like.
8. Can I shadow the inspection?
Going through the house you are going to buy with the inspector is an excellent educational experience. The inspector can give expert insight on the house's current condition and how to best maintain the home. If an inspector refuses to let you shadow them, you should see this as a red flag.
9. Are you a current member in a professional home inspector association?
There are a lot of state and national associations that a home inspector could hold membership. You can research or perform whatever due diligence you think is appropriate. You can request to see their membership ID.
10. Are you licensed and do you pursue continuing education programs to maintain your level of expertise?
Recently, all home inspectors have been required to become licensed. So, it is important for you to ask your potential home inspector if they are licensed. In addition to the license, an inspector who is committed to continuing education is likely committed to professionalism. This is especially important when you are dealing with older and unique homes.
In addition to these questions, I am happy to give you my recommendations based on the home inspectors I have used in the past. If you would like my recommendations or have any further questions, call or email me.
Most people who dream of buying a house usually will begin by scouring sites like Zillow for their dream home. If one comes up that they are interested in enough, people often call the listing agent, or another agent they know, to go see the house. Is this the best way to begin the home buying process?
This is certainly not a bad way to start the process. However, if you find your dream home on the internet and then fall in love with it in person, it can be somewhat devastating to learn that you may not be comfortable with or able to make the monthly payment. With this in mind, I would urge everyone to speak with a bank before getting too invested in the search process.
Furthermore, you will need to have a pre-approval letter from a bank to make an offer on a property. In Harrisonburg/Rockingham's current market, desirable houses that are priced well do not last long. Should your perfect house come on the market, you will want to have the ability move quickly. For perspective, I have recently sold two houses before they hit the market. So, having your pre-approval letter ready to go is vital.
If you or someone you know is looking to star the home buying process, contact me for recommendations on lenders and next steps: Phone or email.
If you are looking to buy a house you will most likely need to apply for a mortgage. To do so, you will need to go through the application process. This article will help you understand what you will need.
A Mortgage adviser will ask you to prove your last month of pay by providing two pay stubs.
You will also need to provide your 2 most recent W-2 forms.
Bank and Investment Documentation
Your mortgage adviser will ask you to provide bank and investment statements for the past 30-90 days.
Depending on your situation, you may be asked provide a few additional documents. Contact me if you would like local suggestions.
Overall, the average sold price is 4% under the average list price and in 2016 in Rockingham County and Harrisonburg City. However, 4% is obviously more significant on a $500,000 house as opposed to a $150,000 house. So, I broke down the sales in hundred-thousand dollar increments.
Keep in mind that the sample size is a lot larger around the median house sold price, $191,000. So, while there seem to be more significant discounts in the below $100K and $400K-$499K price points, there are less sales to balance out the averages.
2015 continues the upward trend of housing sales in Harrisonburg city and Rockingham county.