5 Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Bought Our House
Buying a house can be an emotional, stressful process. Here's a list of things I wish we had known going into the negotiation process so you can learn from our experiences.
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First things first, I want to start with the disclaimer that my hubby is a realtor. (If you ask me he’s a pretty awesome one. I may be biased, but I’m also right.)
As a realtors’ wife, I've learned a lot of things. Some things I wish I could unlearn. (A girl can only hear about Dodd-Frank so many times before I going crazy.)
The biggest problem with being married to a realtor is that I have learned so many things I wish we could have done differently when we were shopping for our current house.
A Tale of Doing Everything at the Worst Possible Time
This summer we were engaged, we lived in New York City. However, we were planning an imminent move to the West Coast, and were house hunting mostly online. Actually, it was entirely online.
The only time we physically looked at houses, was one rushed afternoon with a realtor the day of our rehearsal dinner (we got married in California, so we stupidly decided to try and multitask to make the most of the trip).
As you might be able to imagine, this was not the wisest way to look at houses. When it came to buying a house, we actually had to put in an offer on our house using my parents is a proxy because we are out of the country on our honeymoon. Again, not the smartest move, but we figured real estate waits for no man (this was before hubby was a realtor), so we plowed stupidly ahead.
However, in the years that followed, I've gained a lot of knowledge about what I would do differently next time. Other than the basics of house hunting in person and not buying your house while you're on your honeymoon, I figured this list might benefit some of you guys. If I can help you avoid any of our misery, it will definitely be worth it!
Things I Wish I’d Known When We Were House Hunting
When you start looking for a new home, you could find that you end up viewing a load of properties that just aren’t suitable for you or don’t meet your needs and wants. (This blog is more about making an offer than house hunting, but if you want tips on how to look at houses, hubby has an article on it.)
Eventually, though, you’ll finally find the right kind of property, and you will fall in love with it as soon as you walk through the door. However, it isn’t yours just yet. Now the frustrating process of putting in an offer and negotiating the price with the seller begins. If you don’t get things right, then you could end up being persuaded to pay a lot more for the house than you first had in mind! (Hubby still maintains he could have cut a sizeable amount off our price had he been there to negotiate, and I don’t doubt it.)
To keep your negotiations going in your favor, here are a few tips on making an offer and haggling on a house.
#1) Don’t Make Your Feelings Obvious During The Viewing
When you are looking around a house, you might instantly know if it is the one for you. (This doesn’t always happen, but sometimes it does.) Just don’t give this away to the selling agent or current owner who is showing you around!
It sounds a little devious, but if they know that you really like the house, it puts you in a worse position when it comes to negotiating an offer. I’m not saying to lie outright or try to win an Oscar trying to pretend not to like it, just observe quietly. Try not to show any emotions and then you don’t give anything away that the estate agent or owner could use to their advantage.
#2) Give Your Realtor Your Offer In Writing
Most people will phone up the estate agent to give them their offer. It’s then the estate agent’s job to inform the seller and then let you know whether or not it was accepted. As well as giving them the offer over the phone, it’s also wise to email it to them as well. That way, you have a copy in writing so there won’t be any confusion over it at a later date.
Any realtor that’s worth their salt will probably get the details right, but would you really want to leave something so important up to chance? An extra five minutes of typing an email could make a huge difference!
#3) Take Advantage of an Inspection
There could still be the option to reduce your original offer even after it has been accepted by the current owner. It all depends on what the real estate inspection uncovers.
Usually this is a standard part of the deal, but many people foolishly waive it. This is a huge mistake.
An inspection could uncover stuff like electrical issues, foundation problems, plumbing issues, or a number of other things you’d never in a million years know how to check.
If the inspection shows that there is some significant structural issue that you need to fix, then you could try to haggle down the price to compensate for this.
#4) Agree On Any Fixtures And Fittings Included In The Sale
If the current owners are going to leave behind any fixtures and fittings, such as furniture, curtains, and electrical appliances, you will need to agree to these during the sale process.
Seriously, one of the houses we moved into when I was growing up came with a ping pong table the previous owners didn’t feel like moving. Bizarre, but a lot of fun. If there’s something large in a house you see, don’t hesitate to ask if they’d be willing to consider selling it with the house. A lot of times sellers would be more than happy to spare themselves the trouble of moving something large and cumbersome.
Make sure every item is written up in the contract. Again, this is to avoid any confusion and prevents the current owner trying to increase your offer later down the line. When you do put in your offer originally, you should specifically state that this covers all of the extra fixtures or fittings being left behind.
#5) There are Many Fish In the Sea
This one is incredibly hard. You see a house, you fall in love with it, and you start imagining yourself there. Totally natural, but not good for negotiations.
Unless you are moving into something designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, you should go into it knowing there are probably at least a dozen houses in your exact desired area that would make you equally happy. The house you are currently courting is ONE of those houses, but it’s not the only one.
I know it’s hard to reign in your emotional side once you’ve pictured playing with your kids in that gorgeous new backyard, but you really are best served remembering that buying a house is primarily a business transaction.
If you go into a negotiation thinking that you’ll be devastated if you don’t get that house, you’re probably going to get clobbered on the price. If you go in with the mindset that it’d be great to get the house, but that there are others out there if that specific deal falls through, you’ll be in a much better position to negotiate.
Tell Me Your House Hunting Horror Stories!
Everyone has a horrible tale about what went wrong the first time they tried to buy a house. Help me add to this list! What went wrong for you? What would you do differently now? Let me know in the comments!
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About the Author
Founder | Contributor
Liz (or Dr. Mommy, as her toddler started calling her after learning what a PhD was) is the happily sleep-deprived mom of a baby boy (and professional raccoon noise impersonator), a sparkle-clad toddlernado, a teenage stepdaughter, the canine embodiments of Pinky and The Brain, and a rabbit of unusual size. During nights and naptimes, she uses her PhD in business psychology as an author, speaker, and consultant. She also serves as an executive and principal for three companies, two of which she co-founded with her very patient (and equally exhausted) husband.
My Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
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