Real estate is changing fast! We’re currently still in a seller’s market (meaning that the seller can get pretty much whatever they want). I shared with y’all what Sadie had to say here and Belle added to it.
Belle shared more about the inside look into real estate, particularly into what you need in a real estate agent.
All information is from Belle unless it is under my personal experience.
Belle’s Journey to Real Estate
Real estate was never on my radar growing up or through school. I studied psychology and minored in childhood studies, I always thought I’d be a teacher. After student teaching a few hours a week for a sociology class, I realized this was not for me.
At the age of 22 I was having a life crisis! After loving a few orientation jobs I had with my university I thought perhaps higher education and decided to apply to be a university fellow in the office of admission the year after graduation. Winter break of my senior year of college I went home and a longtime family friend reached out to me to come to his office and talk about real estate. I thought he was crazy, but also had 3 weeks to kill at home so figured why not! He told me how he thought I’d make a great agent and I told him I was applying for the fellowship job and thought I had a good chance of getting it. He told me he’d stay in touch and I brushed it off.
I was offered the position and it was soft sales, easy to sell the school I adored and attended the previous four years to prospective students! I really enjoyed it but after about six months it became really repetitive and I began interviewing for the next job (this fellowship was only a year-long position) I interviewed, and was offered positions, with level entry sales and recruiting jobs but never felt like the culture would be a good fit for me.
All along my friend (and now boss, Chris Craddock) had been calling me periodically and I would ignore his call, I kept thinking “real estate?! I’m not doing that” but with time ticking and my current job coming to an end I reluctantly answered his call and we talked for an hour and long story short we ended the call with me agreeing to study for the exam and onboard with The Redux Group later that summer. I studied and passed my exams and got my license in August 2016. Knowing Chris as long as I have I trusted him when he said he thought this would be a great fit. I feel so fortunate for his faith in me and the time he’s spent over the years training me and believing in me. I love people and helping them in the process and truly it is my passion!
Over the past 5 years, I’ve helped well over 100 clients and have sold just shy of 100 million in volume. I couldn’t be happier and love what I do. My team and I serve DC, Virginia, and Maryland and I have connections with agents and lenders all over the country! Out of 200,000 Keller Williams teams globally our team is ranked 20th in the world! I’m running and training with the best of the best. I’m always available for anyone who needs advice or has questions 🙂
Steps to Working with a Realtor
Honestly even if you are in the beginning steps of (even) considering the process, find an agent! It’s completely normal to interview a few agents before selecting one to work exclusively with. This is someone who you will be confiding in, working, and spending time with, you definitely want to make sure you have someone representing you that actually understands and prioritizes YOU!
Once you connect and sign with a top producing buyer agent, usually they will have a local lender who they can connect you with and start the pre-approval process. Without a pre-approval letter, how are you to know how much you can afford? Lenders also will do a credit check and sometimes (unfortunately) I’ve had clients (unbeknownst to them) find out they had some identity fraud or something goes to collections and they had no idea!! It’s always best to make sure the finances are in line before anything. There are grants and loan products out there for first-time home buyers or teachers/ nurses etc. so it’s also worth seeing if you qualify for any of these amazing products!
Your pre-approval letter will be valid for 90 days, so typically it’s best to speak with a lender before you actually step foot into a home! We are in a seller’s market, meaning there is more demand (buyers) than supply (active listings), so by the time you’re touring homes chances are high that they already have offers in hand. While actually getting pre-approved doesn’t take too long it does require digging up old tax returns and other needed documents from the lender, so by the time you begin that process the home has likely gone under contract.
What Should You Look for in a Realtor?
Definitely do your due diligence and make sure you’re working with an experienced realtor. In Virginia it is harder to get a license to cut hair than to sell real estate. Just let that sink in for a moment. Make sure you have an agent who knows what they’re doing and will advocate and represent you and your needs with excellence.
Unless you know someone who had a wonderful experience and sing praises of an agent, do some research (and no I’m not talking about requesting a showing on a random house online and hiring the first agent to call you). Those agents pay for those calls, it has no correlation to their experience. You wouldn’t have just anyone operate on your body right? Same goes for this massive, largest purchase you’ll (likely) make. Ask them how long they’ve been an agent, how many units have they closed year to date, how much volume have they sold, are they primarily a buyers agent or listing agent, will you be working with them directly or someone else on their team?
Now that all that’s off my chest (haha), onto the fun part! The biggest and I mean biggest factor in a realtor/ client relationship is communication! Your agent needs to communicate with you (I would argue) daily. They need to be available and personable with you and make time for you. Realtors need to uphold their realtor ethics and be completely open and honest with you. They are representing you and negotiating on your behalf, they should always clue you in on all your options. Your realtor should set expectations with you from day one. The best way to reach them (you too) and when you all can view homes.
You want a realtor who will fight for you and someone who is a problem solver. Someone who is creative and competitive, not passive. Someone who will door knock for you, send out neighborhood letters for you, find off-market properties for you if the current market inventory does not suffice. An agent who can (sometimes) drop everything and meet you at a property to tour it before a deadline. Someone who has a sense of urgency, but is not unnecessarily “pushy” – there’s a big difference.
Lastly, I would argue not working with a discount agent. They are usually paid hourly. There is no difference is it to them if you close in 30 days or 12 months. If they’re so quick to just give up their commission how likely will they fight for you and your needs? A normal agent is 100% commission and gets paid at closing. I promise they will put in the needed work to see all your goals and needs are met.
An Older Home or New Construction
Personally, I think both are solid options! It mostly depends on the buyer’s circumstances. Are they living with family, are they renting, do they have a home that needs to be sold first. Usually, new construction requires parts of your down payment to be paid as it’s being built. Financially that can be tough on a buyer who is also paying rent or a mortgage.
The other downside is that while they might have their estimated delivery time, materials and labor can always be delayed (now more than ever with COVID-19). So if the buyer has a specific timeline/ timeframe to buy and be in the home, a new build might not be the best option. With an older home, while everything isn’t brand new, there is more potential for equity to be made.
Projects and updates/ upgrades over the years will bring your home value up from when you purchased. With a new build, because you’ve purchased at peak condition, you’re waiting and hoping the neighborhood and location will continue to improve and increase your home value. I’m always a fan of certainly, and you don’t always have that with a new build (timeline wise) but it can be less competitive than purchasing a resale.
Let’s Not Make These Mistakes
Off the bat is not being pre-approved before they start their search, hands down. Something else worth noting is gambling the market or passing on a perfectly good home simply from the fear of “what if there’s something better out there?” I’ve seen buyers pass up on great homes because they think something else will come up and guess who then compares every home we see after to that initial home?? I get it, I’m very indecisive too, but when the bones and price are good you gotta go for it. Some buyers will mistake cosmetic items for bones of the house and pass up on a home that with just a little TLC can easily become their dream home. Paint really goes a long way people!
First Time Home Buying Advice
I would say buyers need to set the expectation that it can be emotional, we might not get the first or second, or third home, and that’s okay!! Sometimes it takes months, sometimes the area you desire to be in is so low in inventory you have to wait. To stay resilient and persistent, that is what will get you through and that’s where you’ll experience the best transaction! Like most things, it’s always worth the wait.
One of my best transactions in 2020 was with a precious family. We met in March right before the quarantine orders were in place and they wanted a specific location only. Over the nine months, we saw less than 14 homes and only wrote two offers. The first offer we were 1/8 offers and didn’t win the home. We continued to wait and just before Thanksgiving, we found THE ONE and even negotiated some off the list price. When I say this home checked every single box and then plenty more, I mean it! So was it ideal to take almost 10 months? Maybe not. Did my buyers lose hope at times? Probably so. But would my buyers do it all again knowing what they ended up with?
Also, be open and honest with your realtor, and if you aren’t happy with them and their service, fire them! (Just make sure they don’t have any retainer or early termination fees in your buyer agreement). It makes me so sad when I hear about some people’s transactions and how unhappy they were with their agent. How they were never available, never called them, made the buyers feel like they were wasting their time. I can’t stress enough the importance of interviewing agents and looking up their Zillow reviews.
My Personal Experience
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve worked with a realtor and browsed some places. Luckily, I ended up being able to put it on pause and add some more to my savings. But, I do have a few thoughts to add to what Belle said.
I will say my approval was super quick. I called a local mortgage company and had my pre-approval letter with 24 hours of completing the paperwork. Honestly, it was probably more like 3 hours!
I will whole heartedly say that I am that person who stalks Zillow. There are definitely way more buyers than there are properties on the market!
What Can You Afford to Change?
I loved how Belle said a little paint goes a long way. If you’ve got the time, adding some of your own personal touches to a home makes it more special. Anna, my friend, and current roommate did just this to her home. We moved in about 15 days after her closing, but we’ve updated things since moving in.
Please keep in mind with this advice, I am not a professional. However, I would say if you’re going to max out your budget get the move in ready house that you don’t want to fix up. If you have some spare change left in your budget, put it toward updates!