Looking for a House
How do you find a house? If you are like most buyers today, you will plunge into your search on-line and use sites like Realtor.com and Trulia to identify houses that fit your search criteria. The internet has made it easy to find basic information about houses, but how do you find out more information about a particular house? How do you even know if you can afford it?
Many buyers make the mistake of contacting the listing agent for each house under consideration. It is true that the listing agent knows a lot about the house, and they can even show it to you. But this is an inefficient way to search, and any listing agent is working for the seller and legally bound to look out for that seller's best interests.
It is far better to develop a relationship with a buyer's agent, one agent who will look out for you and guide you through the homebuying process. Unlike a listing agent, a buyer's agent is not biased in favor of a particular property. The agent will help you determine the price range you can afford and build your market knowledge by showing you several properties that meet your criteria, pointing out their relative strengths and weaknesses. When you find a house you like the agent will help you analyze data from recent sales to determine the terms of your offer. The agent will negotiate on your behalf for the best price and terms, keep your negotiating strategy in strict confidence, and help you through the long closing process.
Why I Should Be Your Buyer's Agent
Experience: I have been selling real estate since 1995 and have helped over 200 individuals and families buy homes. I work in all price ranges and my buyers have come from all over the world. I have experienced a wide range of issues including short sales, buried oil tanks, uncommunicative listing agents and sellers, unhappy tenants, and encroaching compost heaps. I welcome new challenges.
Due diligence: I was born absent-minded and as a result I developed good work habits at a very young age. I am a list maker and fact checker, I question things and I'm good with details. This has proved incredibly useful in real estate.
Compassion: I am not a pushy Realtor. I realize that some people need a lot of time, and usually a ton of information, before they can make a decision about buying. I also realize that in most cases buying a home is not an isolated act. Usually there is something else going on in your life--a job change, marriage, divorce, new baby, downsizing--that has led to your decision to buy. I respect my clients' privacy and their need to deal with the other things going on in their lives. I also respect the needs of buyers who have to act quickly!
Integrity: I strive to be honest and forthcoming in my real estate transactions, while always looking out for the best interest of my buyers. This has earned me the respect of other agents, who want to do business with me. This helps all my clients.
The Home Buying Process
I encourage buyers to interview one or more local mortgage lenders before they even decide on a buyer's agent to work with, to figure out their price range and financing options. Ithaca is fortunate in having several strong, sensible local banks who helped us avert the mortgage shutdown a few years ago. Call me for a list.
First-time buyers on limited budgets should look into the programs offered by Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services (www.ithacanhs.org) and Better Housing for Tompkins County (www.betterhousingtc.org). These two wonderful organizations have helped hundreds of buyers, and I am proud to have worked with them on many occasions.
At my first meeting with buyers I like to develop a list of "wants and needs"--features they would like to have in a property, and features they absolutely must have. Using these criteria, I search for properties that best suit the buyer's wants and needs. Then we look at houses. Usually buyers need to see at least five to ten houses before they develop a feel for the market and find the right home.
When buyers have identified the house they want to buy, I use my access to Multiple Listing Service data and my knowledge of recent sales to prepare a comparative analysis, looking at similar properties that have recently sold and closed. Together with the buyers, I draw up a purchase offer (with attorney approval clause) and strive to negotiate the best possible price and terms for my clients.
My job continues throughout the period--usually about sixty days--between signing the contract and closing. I help the buyer arrange for inspections and tests, monitor deadlines, and generally try to keep things on schedule.
New York real estate transactions can seem cumbersome to some buyers from other parts of the country. Although this is a caveat emptor state there are many mechanisms in place to protect buyers, including agency and property disclosure laws.
Attorneys are involved in almost all real estate transactions. Part of their job is to research the title, which involves an examination of public records to determine the history of ownership and encumbrances affecting the property (such as easements and rights-of-way). A condensed version of this history is called the abstract, which is ordered and reviewed by the sellers' attorney.
The buyers' attorney then reviews the updated abstract and makes sure the sellers have fulfilled their part of the contract. The attorney lets the buyers know what insurance policies they will need, prepares a closing statement, and records the deed and mortgage at the County Clerk's office after closing.
It is very common for buyers in the Ithaca area to hire the same attorney used by their mortgage lender. This can save the buyer several hundred dollars and makes co-ordination of the closing simpler. However, some buyers feel strongly that they want separate representation.
I urge my buyers to use a local attorney, especially one who specializes in real estate. I can suggest several excellent law offices.