Real Estate Tips Your Agent Wishes You Knew

Cardinal Financial October 1, 2018 | 10 min read
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For home buyers and sellers, here are a few real estate tips that might win you points with your agent.

When it comes to what real estate agents wish their clients knew about home buying and selling, we’ve heard the pain points. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, and every real estate agent will have different advice, but here are some helpful real estate tips your agent might tell you to help you have a more seamless experience.

Real estate tips for home buyers

1. Might want to get that starter home now

The market is highly competitive right now. And mortgage interest rates don’t seem to be getting lower anytime soon. To add to the mix, some homeowners are still waiting for the perfect home to float their way before they make the decision to buy.

Given the current state of home buying and selling, this isn’t the most practical mindset. In fact, it’s the kind of attitude that could keep people from homeownership entirely. If you’re serious about hitting your goal of buying a home, it might be wise to just get that starter home now. Then, you can either DIY and put in the sweat equity to turn it into the home of your dreams or sell it later in order to level up a house. Of course, this isn’t a decision to take lightly, so we recommend you consult your financial advisor before you think about buying a starter home.

2. The serious buyer gets pre-approved

Pre-approval is the part of the mortgage process where your lender checks your credit and verifies your income and assets with the intent of lending you a specific amount. This preliminary step gives you a clear picture of how much you can afford. A serious (and smart) home buyer will get pre-approved before they go on the hunt for a home—or before they enlist their real estate agent to do so for them. Pre-approval shows your agent that you’re serious about buying a home. And by knowing exactly how much you’re able to afford, it helps narrow down your agent’s search and saves both of you from wasting time looking at homes you can’t afford.

3. Be frugal well after pre-approval

Many home buyers start out with a very frugal mentality because they don’t know how much it’s really going to cost them to buy a home. They err on the side of expensive and pinch pennies. Up until they get pre-approved. Then, they find out how much they can afford, realize it’s not so bad, and go opening new lines of credit and making purchases for the house they don’t yet have.

We can’t tell you what to do, but it’s best to avoid taking on more credit card debt and opening new lines of credit until after you’ve closed on the home. For one thing, we know you’re excited to furnish your home, but such frivolous spending can get you into trouble later. For another thing, your mortgage lender will pull your credit again toward the end of the process. New debt will have to be worked into your debt-to-income ratio. If your ratio was already close to the maximum allowed by lending guidelines, it could potentially result in loan denial.

4. I can’t tell you everything about the neighborhood

Every home buyer wants to know about the neighborhood they’re buying into. It’s normal to ask questions about the neighborhood’s characteristics: crime rate, diversity, economic status, and so on. These are honest questions that every home buyer is bound to have. What your real estate agent will most likely tell you is that they can’t give out that information—that would violate the Fair Housing Act. But what they may tell you is that you can find out for yourself.

There are plenty of trusted websites with those kinds of statistics, or you can ask around and see what the neighbors have to say. Just know that, if you ask the neighbors, you’re going to get their personal perspective, not necessarily unbiased data. There are many ways you can find out neighborhood demographic information, but you’re not going to get it from your agent.

There are many ways you can find out neighborhood demographic information, but you’re not going to get it from your agent.

5. Ask about flood insurance

Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the U.S. and, believe it or not, it affects every state. According to FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program, flooding isn’t just caused by excess rainfall. It’s also caused by “dams or levees breaking, new development changing how water flows above and below ground, snowmelt, and more.” And with the hurricanes and flooding we’ve had in the last decade, FEMA is making more flood map changes and expanding flood zones.

While this may be good and safe for homeowners, it’s also increasing flood insurance mandatories, adding an expense to homeownership. What might your agent say? Don’t be blindsided by flood insurance premiums. Asking about whether the property you’re interested in is in a flood zone should be as routine as asking how many bedrooms and bathrooms it has. The idea is to be prepared. If you know ahead of time that a home you like requires flood insurance, you have the chance to either prepare yourself mentally and financially for that added expense or pass up that house and find a different one to pursue.

Asking about whether the property you’re interested in is in a flood zone should be as routine as asking how many bedrooms and bathrooms it has.

6. It’s not over until it’s over

Read it again: it’s not over until it’s over. It’s not time to celebrate until final funding goes through. Even if you feel like everything is in your favor and you’re confident that this house is yours, anything can happen over the course of the buying process—even up to the day you sign. Stay nimble and don’t get your hopes up until everything is said and done. Your real estate agent will appreciate your level-headedness and you’ll be glad you didn’t pop open the champagne prematurely.

Real estate tips for home sellers

1. Make sure the price is right

When you’re selling your home, it’s tough to come up with the right dollar amount. You may get nostalgic and think about all the memories you’ve made there . . . and how can you put a price on that? When deciding on a fair price to put on your home, don’t trust websites to do it for you. Remember, those are just estimates. They can be helpful, but you shouldn’t take that to the bank.

Don’t get attached to the number those free online calculators spit out. Trust your real estate agent to help you come up with an accurate amount based on nearby comparable homes. How might your agent weigh in? Price it to sell quickly, especially in this competitive landscape. Although the memories you’ve made are priceless, the house you’ve made them in is not. It’s ultimately about finding that balance between competing in the market and getting the price you deserve.

It’s ultimately about finding that balance between competing in the market and getting the price you deserve.

2. Don’t skimp on staging

Among the other to-do list items you have to tackle when selling your house, staging is one of the most important. Though, mentally, it may fall by the wayside, don’t let it. Take staging seriously. There are a few key principles to remember here. For one: depersonalize and declutter. You want home shoppers to be able to picture themselves living there, not you. Make sure your house is bright and illuminated, whether by opening the curtains or turning on the lights, or both. Clean like crazy and make sure the place smells good. You want to appeal to all the senses, not just the eyes. Some say baking cookies a half hour before the viewers arrive adds to the experience because, not only does your house smell amazing, you get to give away an unexpected sweet treat that turns out to be a pleasant surprise.

3. Your open house actually gives me more business

Real estate agents get a lot of business via word of mouth. You’re not just attracting potential buyers who may be interested in your home when you hold an open house. You’re inviting people who could potentially become your agent’s clients. During your open house, your real estate agent will be networking hard, passing out business cards, and trying to make connections. You may be welcoming neighbors who might sell their home later or home shoppers who don’t yet have an agent. Either way, your agent has a chance to meet these people and possibly gain their business.

4. I’m not made of money

This real estate tip goes for home buyers too. It’s a common misconception in the real estate world that agents make tons of money. And with that misconception comes the idea that a real estate agent can just *poof* magically make things happen. The agent is an advocate, but they’re definitely not made of money. And while some home sellers (and buyers) may feel like they’re writing a big check to their real estate agent, the truth is that the agent is only pocketing a small percentage of that amount. After splitting that check with their brokerage, they’re then putting some of that money toward various expenses like the sign in front of your house and access to the MLS. At the end of the day, they’re really only profiting a small portion of what you’re paying them.

5. It may take longer than you think to sell

Just like when you were buying your home, keeping realistic expectations is key. It’s a competitive market out there, and even though in past years it may have been faster and easier for people to sell their home, it might not happen the same way for you. Do you have an ideal timeline in your mind? It might not to go your way. A good home seller is a patient and prepared home seller—and one that makes the real estate agent’s job a little bit easier.

6. Don’t let a low offer get you down

We know you’ve made memories in your home, and no price tag can do that justice. But think about where bidders are coming from. They’re not coming from a place of nostalgia. Their perspective is looking out for their best interest and trying to get the best deal possible. You might be tempted to think that bidders who give low offers are selfish, but remember your agenda when you bought the place. You too were looking out for your best interest and trying to get the best deal possible. Just like buyers, sellers have to be savvy and nimble. Don’t get offended if you get a low offer. Work with your agent to counter-offer or decide whether it’s a fair price to accept.

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