[Fourth Quarter, 1992]
The strength of your position as a buyer of a new home needn't be as tenuous as it seems if you protect yourself by being aware of some of the most critical factors involved in purchasing a house.
Monitor Your Emotions
Before you and/or your significant other look at the first house, talk extensively about why you're buying a home. Is it to be a primary residence, a seasonal home or a weekend retreat? Is it in an area where you plan to retire? Be realistic about how much you can afford and about the economic impact a mortgage may have on your lifestyle. Most importantly, talk frequently and regularly about the impact househunting is having on both of you, for it can take an emotional toll.
Get The Real Estate Agent To Work For You
The real estate agent works for the seller. However, as a potential buyer you represent a significant portion of an agents annual income. Position yourself as a client and make it clear to the agent that you have certain criteria that must be met before you'll sign a contract. Communicate the amount you are willing to spend and explain to the agent that you're not interested in discussing or even "just looking" at anything that's not within your specified range.
Hire Your Own Structural Engineer
Work with your own structural engineer, not an engineer recommended to you by the real estate agent. Then, clarify your expectations to the person you have hired. Explain that you plan to use the written report in your negotiations with the seller and that you will want to meet and discuss the findings of the report. Also, specify up front that you expect the engineer to provide you with very clear recommendations as to whether or not you should buy a particular house.
Don't Fall In Love
You'll know you are in love with a particular house when you see a problem and you hear yourself say, "We can easily take care of that after we move in!" Consider inviting a friend or relative to look at the house with you to provide a bit of third-party objectivity. Ask the person you invite to play devil's advocate to give you reasons why you shouldn't buy the house.
Be especially careful when you become so worn out that you can't bear to look at one more house. It's at this point that you're most likely to make a mistake. If circumstances permit, take a break. If that's impossible, make certain your third party skeptic is part of your decision making process.
Read, Research, and Talk
Research the area where you're planning to move and check out the average selling price of houses in the neighborhood. If possible, drive through the area at different times of the year and at different hours of the day and night. When you find a house that you are seriously considering, ask your real estate agent how much the owners originally paid for the house, how long they have lived in it, why they are selling, how long the property has been on the market and how soon it must be sold. If this particular house is either higher or lower in price then comparable houses in the area, find out why this is the case.
Making Your Offer
In the real estate world everything is negotiable. Realistically, the seller doesn't expect to get the asking price and you know that you will up your opening offer. Your real estate agent is in the best position to open the negotiation process with the seller. Have him or her itemize your reasons for offering less then the asking price. If there are enough problems, ask either that the seller change the listing price prior to your making an offer or that some of the problems be corrected - at the owners expense - prior to closing.
Ideally, your househunting process will conclude with you as the proud owner of a new house - a home you'll continue to enjoy because you made the right deal.