Buyers’ Most Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do I really need to work with a buyer’s agent?
A: It’s not a rule, but definitely the best way to go. Some buyers think they can rely on the agent selling the home they’re interested in purchasing – but remember, that agent’s first duty is to their seller. You need someone on your side! Look for an agent who’s experienced in the local market, and who’s a strong negotiator. Buying a home is an extraordinarily complex business -- there are dozens of inspections, reports, disclosures and other documents and issues to navigate. You should have someone working for you whose primary purpose is to get you the best property for the best price, while protecting your interests.
Q: What should I do to prepare to purchase a home?
A: Your first step should be talking to your banker or mortgage lender to work out how much you should spend. They’ll work with you to get prequalified for a loan, and provide you with a prequalification letter that helps let sellers know you’re a serious buyer. You’ll also want to have a preliminary discussion with your real estate expert to refine your list of requirements for your new home, help narrow down possible areas and neighborhoods, and give them a good indication of what your needs and wants are. It’s also a good idea to take a look at a number of properties online to get a general indication of what types of homes are available in the neighborhoods you’re interested in and what the current market values are. But take any info you find with a grain of salt -- you may have now ay of knowing whether the listings you’re looking at are vastly overpriced or whether the estimated values shown on one of the popular home value sites is anywhere near accurate. Your agent can give you a more detailed and accurate overview of the current market.
Q: Once I’ve selected a home, what kind of inspections will I have to do?
A: Your agent will handle scheduling of all necessary inspections, and will go over the resulting reports with you. Generally, there’ll be an appraisal (required by the lender), a physical inspection to check for any major issues with the home’s construction and systems, plus termite and mold inspections. Some properties may also require geological or other inspections, as well. The reports will detail any problems that need to be addressed; if there’s anything serious, your agent will work out a suitable agreement with the seller and their agent to either get the problems repaired, or get you a credit against the sale price or closing costs.
Q: What is Chinese drywall?
A: Drywall from overseas (not just China) was often put in homes during the years of 2004 to 2007. Unfortunately, it may contain sulfur that has been causing a number of problems: corroding electronic wiring and emitting a smell of rotten eggs. If the home is built with it, it will all have to be removed and new drywall installed. The good news is that most home inspectors can check for this before you buy. If you are concerned about Chinese drywall, be sure to address this issue with your inspector before you hire them.
Q: How’s the neighborhood?
A: You want a home that is accessible to shopping, restaurants, and nightlife. A central location isn’t just convenient, it is an important factor in terms of resale and maintaining your home’s value.
Q: How are the schools?
A: If you have children, you want to find the best school district. If you don’t have children, consider that the potential buyers of your home may have them. To find out where the best schools are (and where you should be buying), go to the Collier County web site at http://www.collier.k12.fl.us/ . You can search for information like AP and SAT test results.
Q: What additional fees do I need to know about?
A: Homeowner or condo association fees can really add up in some communities, making a manageable mortgage uncomfortable. The majority of homes sold in Southwest Florida are in gated communities and have fees of some sort. Be sure to ask. Maintaining the beautiful landscaping, swimming pool, tennis courts, golf courses, clubhouses, etc…costs money. It comes communally from the homeowner’s pockets. These fees vary widely, so ask your Realtor ahead of time. Some fees are only a few hundred a month. Some are thousands.
Q: What are the comps?
A: Forget about what’s on the market for sale – these are asking prices, not comparison sales prices. You need to consider what has actually closed and sold in the last 6 months and base your offer price on this figure, as well as the condition of the home, location, and historical data and current market trends.