Buying a house is like planning a wedding; most of us don’t do it often, so most people aren’t very good at it. Here are a few pointers based on common mistakes I see people make:
Don’t shop for homes on Zillow.
I’d like to be a company man and tell you to use windermere.com to conduct your home search, but let’s be honest…a serious home buyer should be using redfin.com. It’s by far the best search experience. The mobile app is amazing too; you’ll receive listing alerts while you’re on the bus or walking through the grocery store, so you can send a new listing to your spouse or real estate agent instantly. Zillow’s data is often outdated or inaccurate, as any serious home buyer will eventually discover.
Don’t go to the bank to get pre-approved.
The question of where to get a home loan has long been a soap box issue for me. Your retail bank is most likely not the right choice for a home loan. Small local lenders deliver great service and great pricing. A good lender won’t just be there to help you close on the sale of your home; she’ll also help your odds of being the winning offer. (Quick tip: avoid Chase and B of A.)
Don’t call the listing agent.
Buying a home is not like buying a car. When you buy a car, the dealership provides a salesperson who represents the dealership, but no one represents the buyer (no matter what they tell you). When you buy a home, you have your own agent whose job is to represent your interests and goals. If you don’t think your agent represents your interests and goals, find a different agent fast!
Don’t choose an agent because she’s on the page of a home you like on Zillow.
There are better ways to find a good real estate agent. Here are a few:
- Ask your friends or co-workers for a referral.
- Use Zillow’s “Agent Finder” tool. It sounds hokey, but this tool is actually pretty useful as long as you know to look past the “Featured Agents” (read: they paid to be there). You can sort the results by things like most local sales or best reviews.
- Ask your mortgage lender who she would recommend based on where you’re looking to buy.
Don’t compromise on what matters most.
Most of us make a compromise or two when buying a home. But don’t compromise on the things you really care about. Moving is expensive and time consuming, so find a home you can live with for the long haul even if it takes longer. Location and square footage are really tough to change. Aesthetics are easy! Plus you’ll enjoy making it your own over time.