In this week's Buyer Insights, Jason and Melissa Smith end up facing a move because of a new job opportunity. As long-time renters, their initial reaction was to start checking out all the rentals available in the cities they were considering for their relocation, but after some serious searching with seriously dismal results, they decided to think about buying.
This is their story:
We were living in a rental house when my husband Jason, who is a band teacher, was offered an awesome teaching opportunity at a school in a nearby community. Our current rental was great – but the commute to the new school would be tough for him, so we decided to start looking for a new rental. Luckily, we weren't under a huge time crunch since we’re both teachers - we had the whole summer to find a place, move and get settled in.
In late March, we started looking for rental houses between my school and Jason’s new school, but we didn’t have much luck. Most of the houses we saw were in rough shape, out of our price range, managed by landlords who weren’t professional or were not pet friendly – all deal breakers for us.
After about a month of looking at rentals and getting frustrated, we decided to consider buying.
Since we didn’t have enough cash for a down payment, we knew we’d have to get qualified for a zero down mortgage. Originally, we wanted to move to Fremont, a mid-size city that was a good commute compromise for both of us, but we didn’t have any loan options available in that area. That being the case, we started looking at properties in Wahoo, Nebraska – a smaller town that allows FHA loans.
Jason started searching Wahoo listings online and found a house on Zillow that was in our price range and had been recently remodeled. We drove by the house and liked what we saw from the outside, so we called the agent listed on the for sale sign to schedule a showing. We were immediately impressed with the house, but we had the agent show us a few other houses in the community for comparison’s sake. None of the other houses checked all the boxes on our wish list like the first one had.
We knew we’d be getting the most bang for our buck with a recently remodeled property, so we decided to pursue the first house. The listing agent who had shown us the property was nice enough, but she was also assisting the sellers and we didn’t feel like she was interested in helping us get what we wanted.
Instead, it seemed like she was looking for a quick, easy sale.
Since this was our first time purchasing a home, we wanted to make sure we were working with someone who was looking out for our best interests. We also wanted an agent dedicated specifically to our purchase rather than one agent who was representing both sides of the transaction to avoid any conflict of interest.
We contacted a relative who is also a real estate agent and she was able to recommend an agent in our area. Once we made contact with our new agent, he took us back for a second tour of the house. We were immediately impressed with his practical assessment of the house. As we walked through, he pointed out a lot of things that went beyond the aesthetic value of the house, which gave us better insights on what we were buying.
He also handled everything in a very practical manner and didn’t try to play to our emotions. When we toured the home with the listing agent, we heard a lot of things like, “Don’t you just love the paint color in this house?” whereas with our new agent, we heard things like “We can negotiate to have that crack in the garage fixed because it’s a trip hazard and won’t pass the home inspection.” Paint colors can always be changed, but structural issues are a different story – and we appreciated that our new agent was really looking out for us.
After our second viewing, we decided to make an offer on the home. Our agent recommended a loan officer who helped us get pre-approved for an FHA mortgage and we put in our offer. The sellers counter-offered and after several rounds of negotiations and a home inspection, we reached an agreement and purchased the house.
We closed on the house in June and started moving in that same day.
My husband and I were both happy with our decision to choose a new agent, who quickly proved himself to be a major asset in helping us through our first home purchase. He was very helpful every step of the way – from our loan qualification, through several rounds of negotiations and all the way through closing. The whole process would have been a lot more difficult without him. We will definitely use him again for our next real estate transaction.
- Your clients are going to do homework to find properties that align with their wish list - and in doing so, will rule out properties on their own. Knowing your market and available listings well can serve as a huge asset because you may be able to offer them access to a couple of listings they didn’t find in their online research that are good alternatives for their needs.
- Make sure if you're representing both the buyer and the seller in a single transaction, you remain as neutral as possible to help both of your clients have a great experience. If you skew your actions towards one side or the other, don't be surprised if your would-have-been client decides to work with another agent.
- One of the most valuable assets of their agent - the one that convinced them to happily re-hire him if they ever choose to sell their property - was his forthright communication style. Rather than simply discussing cosmetic details of the home, he was pointing out all things they needed to consider as potential buyers - both good and bad. Make sure you communicate openly and honestly so your clients have a great experience working with you.
- Jason and Melissa found loan qualifications and offer negotiations to be the two most stressful parts of the home buying process - but their agent was fully prepared to help them. He recommended a trusted loan officer who quickly qualified the couple for their FHA loan. Then, during negotiations, he worked hard to balance pushing back on the things that really mattered to his clients without risking the transaction. As a real estate pro, you need to be willing to help your clients manage their stress with open communication but you also have to be assertive and willing to go to bat for them – especially when they are first time buyers or sellers.
- Bonus Real Estate Marketing Tip: Set Proper Expectations for Small Town Home Shoppers
In a small town, inventory is low and buyers may have a more difficult time deciding on a property that is a perfect fit with their wants and needs. Learn how to set appropriate expecations for best results.