No matter how much research you do, or how much advice you solicit, you probably feel you haven’t done enough before buying a home.
Don’t worry. You’re not alone.
Real estate agents can feel the same way, even with years of experience under their belt. But that experience has also armed them with proven strategies and tactics that can come in handy for anyone seeking to buy for the first time – or even the fourth or fifth.
We asked two longtime Orange County-based agents to share their best advice in three key areas, based on their personal homebuying experiences. Whether you’re buying or selling, you would do well to learn from their stories.
Todd: “I was living out of state, trying to buy a home in the low of the market, competing against investment buyers and all-cash buyers, which I was not and am not.
“I was calculating the market. I knew it was recovering from the recession, and because I’m a REALTOR®, I watched the market levels and sales volume to gauge when it was a good time to buy. So all that was taken into consideration when I started my search. I’m a big believer in watching the cyclical nature of real estate, not necessarily buying at the high but timing it so you’re buying perhaps 10 percent above the low of the market, which would be indicating that the market has corrected and we’re starting to see increases of the market.'Because I’m a REALTOR®, I watched market levels to gauge when it was a good time to buy' Click To Tweet
“Consumers can find that data by working with a great REALTOR®. I was watching market conditions, evaluating days on the market, interest rates, average price per square foot, comparing the market rate pre-recession, evaluating different neighborhoods of a city. I also was comparing the value of a two-bedroom, two-bath house in North Laguna Beach vs. the village vs. South Laguna Beach, and what you get for your money in each of those areas.
“I was looking at the low of the market. We looked at available properties, and began making offers.
“We eventually bought a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house in South Laguna on a double lot, with a 180-degree view of the coast, the ocean, and Catalina Island at probably 20 percent less than a comparable house in South Laguna. I saw that the market was down, and I was at a place financially in my career where I could afford to do it, fortunately. And I acted on that dream.”
Diane: “I’m a big fan of single-level houses. But a lot depends on the home’s age range, when the kids are moved out of the house, and your age. I say look for something long-term that you can stay in. I love that concept of the longer you’re in it, the price of the overhead is reduced substantially in comparison to values going up over all the years you live in it.'I say look for something long-term that you can stay in' Click To Tweet
“Noise also is a big deal for me. I don’t like to be in a noisy area. I lived oceanfront for 10 years in Corona del Mar, but when you’re in a public area, where a lot of people like to spend their weekends, it’s somewhat of an intrusion on your privacy.
“I like gated communities in Orange County because they provide both privacy and security. The older gated communities give you more space because they didn’t have the option to build on every square foot of property. I think given the influx of a larger population, gated communities are probably going to help with prices for sellers.”
Todd: “I was competing against cash buyers and investment buyers because they were offering all cash. The market was recovering, so cash buyers were deemed a safer bet than people who were getting a mortgage because of the struggles they were experiencing getting approved for loans at that time.
“Many sellers were opting to go with the security of a cash buyer, rather than the risk of a mortgage buyer, so they would rather take less for the house for the higher probability of closing. We were offering at asking and above-asking to compete with the cash buyers, just so our offer would stand out. Even with 30 percent down, it took two and a half years to find the right home.”
Diane: “A non-respectful seller–when I’m trying to sell a house and trying to get the seller to be more kind and understanding. I think whenever anybody buys a home, in any price range, but especially when somebody spends a few million dollars to buy a house, sellers should act appreciatively. Be of good will, don’t leave the house a mess. I put in my contract that the house is to be professionally cleaned at close of escrow.
“It’s about being very diligent and spending time as you’re coming to the close to check out the property so you’re not caught off guard, or have a buyer say they came to the house without the agent present and have them tell you what’s wrong with it.”
Todd: “Experience, and whether or not you relate to that agent, because it’s a very personal process. That agent becomes an integral part of your life. Relying on their instinct and trusting that the agent has your best interest at heart. Giving you a full analysis of the market and pricing. Being forthcoming in the market prices and details so that the education process going to market creates clear expectations. A lot of agents create a false expectation and don’t educate the seller. The seller might be thinking that their house is going to close in a week, where, in fact, a prudent agent will look at the probable pricing and probable days on market, and compare the market to this property to get a fair analysis and clear expectation of how long this house could be on the market.'A prudent agent will look at the probable pricing and probable days on market' Click To Tweet
“For me, personally, it’s not all about the house. I love real estate. But it’s more about understanding my client’s lifestyle, how they live, how they want to live, where they want to live. Lifestyle is the major consideration when helping a client with a home. That is a priority for me, understanding their objectives and helping them in each community. Because each community is so unique and so different. I pride myself in being a ‘lifestyle coach.’”'I pride myself in being a 'lifestyle coach'' Click To Tweet
Diane: “I have to feel the trust of that agent. I don’t want the used-car salesman routine. I want somebody I feel that I can trust and who also has a record of success. I can’t tell you how often people don’t even ask an agent how many sales they’ve had in the past couple of years. They don’t ask for any proof of that. They don’t ask if an agent has been fired from a broker. I think it’s important to find out their history. Ask how often they go out of town each month. Are you the person I’m going to be communicating with? Will you be showing my property? A lot of agents have assistants, so you need to know. I personally want to feel really comfortable and trust my agent.”