My daughter is currently shopping for a house outside of Washington State, where I’m licensed and practice. Although I cautioned her and her husband against making sign calls and suggesting (strongly!) that she work with a Realtor I interviewed on her behalf and recommend, they decided to make a sign call and then moved forward with that agent. And not happily so. When I spoke with her by phone yesterday, her comment to me was
“Oh Mom, the agent just opens the doors. We’re perfectly capable of finding houses on our own and we don’t need any other help.”
Yikes! Now this young lady, of whom I am very proud by the way, has been raised to think for herself. However, she’s also seen me work and, gee I would have thought, understood exactly how much work I really do on behalf of my clients. Needless to say, I was terribly disappointed with her assumption that all I do is “open doors!” For Pete’s Sake!
With that in mind, I set out this morning to create a list of what I typically do for most buyer transactions. Certainly not every buyer requires each item, and certainly these are done with an eye to the specific house, experience of the buyer, and so on. I know there’s more, but this is a good stepping off point.
1. Find Houses
- Help you identify areas, neighborhoods, commute options
- Set up searches that narrow the list of “everything out there” into homes that more precisely fit your requirements
- Keep an ear to the ground, coupled with hard research, to find homes that are just coming on the market, price reductions, those that have offers that may not have been reported in the MLS, and so on
- Help you narrow down your choices
- What about For Sale By Owner properties?
2. Open Doors
- Yes, there’s that elusive MLS keybox. And for that, you need me.
- Help you assess any/every house you see with regard to its condition
- Help you assess any/every house you see with regard to how it may fit your lifestyle / needs
- Evaluate the Competition — research and assess your “choice” with regard to asking price, condition, availability, and issues
- Recommend proven lenders
- Review and help you understand your Good Faith Estimate (GFE)
- Review and help you understand your HUD Statement
- Keep you up-to-date on financing options
- Help you understand/evaluate those you’ve been offered; i.e., does FHA make more sense than Conventional loans … or how about a USDA option, etc.?
- Help you understand how your financing choices may affect a home you are considering
4. Write Your Offer
- Believe it or not, there’s a lot of legal knowledge that goes behind writing a strong and safe offer for you … and a bit of an art, too. After all, what if you need to back out? Is your earnest money protected, or did you just give it away? And heavens, what if you change your mind?
- Help you put together an offer that’s as strong as possible, identifying any strengths and/or sticking points and presenting them in the offer in the most favorable way.
- What if the house is in a distressed situation? What if it’s a Short Sale? What if it’s Bank Owned?
- Be sure your paperwork is complete and top notch at every step
5. Open Escrow
- Help you understand forms that escrow may send to you
- Stay on top of the escrow process to be sure your everything is complete so that your home purchase will close on time
6. Legal Documents
- Be sure that you have copies of all legal paperwork regarding your home
- Be sure that you have a complete copy of the title report
- Read the title report with you to identify any tricky spots
- Be sure that you have a copy of and have read and understand any CC&Rs
- Be sure that you have access to and have read homeowner association documents, including minutes from meetings that might identify future issues with your purchase
7. Recommend other proven professionals:
- Roofers, electricians, painters, plumbers, landscapers, etc.
- Attorneys, accountants, tax professionals
- Testing services for wells, septics
8. Help you identify, locate, and understand specific jurisdictional requirements
- County septics, wells, etc.
- Permits, etc.
9. Be your representative
- Present and negotiate on your behalf in a positive and professional manner
- Present you in the best possible light
- Be there for you at every event: all showings, inspections, repair trips, signings, builder meetings, septic inspections, well inspections, etc.
10. Be the intermediary between yourself … and everyone else! (The listing agent, the seller, title reps, escrow officers, etc.)
- Clarify and draft responses to all communications, being sure that each item is presented in a clear, precise, concise and professional manner
- Schedule appointments to meet everyone’s schedules
- Field endless phone calls and e-mail messages regarding the transaction
- Help you remain objective throughout the homebuyer process
- Appreciate your excitement and enthusiasm for the house you find … and help you evaluate that choice as a business decision
- Offer suggestions when faced with difficult or complex decisions
- Act as your sounding board when things just aren’t going smoothly
12. Offer skillful & professional guidance
- Suggest research you may want to undertake — what is the permit process, what about wetlands, property corners, schools, bus routes, etc.
- Help you identify issues that could cause difficulty down the road, i.e., “lawsuits waiting to happen”
13. Communicate, communicate, communicate
- Do you know what’s going on?
- Do you know when answers are due?
- Do you know your deadlines?
- Did you get it done?
14. Be there for you after the purchase
- Answer questions
- Suggest solutions (how do I adjust the hot tub? — or … I love this one … “The alarm keeps going off, could you please call the Seller and see if this is normal?”)
and finally …
15. Get it done!
- Things fall apart at the most inopportune moments. We’re here to be sure your transaction stays on track and to help when things go sideways!