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Tips: Finding a home


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Tips - Finding a home
wish list | real estate agents | buying from the owner

Make a wish list

What does your dream house look like? Before you start looking, make a list of qualities you must have in a house, and those you'd like to have but can do without if you must. 

Among the qualities to consider: · Ideal price (A lender or REALTOR® can help you figure out how much house you can afford. However, a rough guideline would be that your monthly housing cost -- including mortgage payment, taxes, insurance and other fixed expenses -- should be no more than 28 percent of your monthly income.)

  • Minimum number of bedrooms/bathrooms 
  • Age of house 
  • Square feet of house
  • Lot size 
  • Type of neighborhood 
  • Eat-in kitchen 
  • Separate dining room
  • Fireplace 
  • Family room/Den 
  • Yard 
  • Pool/Patio/Other outdoor amenities.

What you should know about real estate agents

There is a difference between a real estate agent and a REALTOR®. A real estate agent or broker is someone licensed to negotiate real estate transactions for payment. A REALTOR® is a broker who belongs to the private organization, the board of REALTORs®, and follows a code of ethics.

The most important thing to remember is that unless you have hired a buyer's broker, the real estate agent is working for the seller and must look after the seller's interests first and foremost. Do not confide to the agent that you love a house so much, you would be willing to pay more than asking price. The agent, strictly speaking, is obligated to report that information to the seller.

However, if in your house hunting you encounter an agent you like, he or she can be of great help. You have no obligation to this agent, but striking up a good working relationship with someone who takes the time to understand your needs can speed your search. Although the agent's obligation is with the sellers, he or she wants to be the one to sell you a house and make that commission. An agent will probably work harder to help you if he or she is the only agent you work with. 

You may also hire a buyer's broker, whose obligation is to you rather than the seller. Buyer's brokers are paid in various ways -- such as hourly or by commission -- and sometimes the seller will pay. This is all negotiated up front in your contract with the buyer's agent.

Should I buy from the owner?

Buying from an owner, otherwise known as FSBO (for sale by owner) is an option, especially if you're knowledgeable about real estate transactions. You might find a bargain this way. (On the other hand, you might also find people who think the sentimental value they see in their house should translate into dollars.) 

However, if you're venturing into real estate for the first time, or don't feel secure in your knowledge, you're biting off an awful lot in terms of negotiating, understanding your contracts, finding financing, and other challenges. Consider hiring a Realtor®, who can work as your "Buyer's Agent", representing you, instead of the Seller.

If you find a FSBO you absolutely must have, be sure you know real estate values in the area, have the house inspected, and engage an attorney before signing anything.  

Note: These tips are not intended as a substitute for advice from financial, legal or other appropriate professionals.


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