As a real estate agent in Charlottesville, I have been asked many questions by homebuyers over the years. Here are 12 of the most frequent questions homebuyers have asked, along with my answers:
1. Can we low-ball the seller?
Yes, always…but it depends how badly YOU want to own the home. In a hot sellers-market (as we are in at this writing), it would be silly to make an embarrassingly low offer. Most of the time the seller will not respond. That is why pulling ‘good’ comps (comparable homes sold in the neighborhood) is paramount to making a winning offer. Most sellers build-in a certain amount they are willing to discount their price. For $300-400,000 homes it could be as much as $20,000 and as low as $5,000. I have found the sweet spot to be around $7,000. Again, it all depends on the seller and the local market. Also, particularly important, are the DOM (Days on the Market) on the MLS. If a home has been active on the MLS for over 30 days, then it is best to re-run the comps and take a closer look at the home (and neighborhood). I concentrate on all these things before offering my customers advice. I lay out all the facts using my 17 years of local knowledge on the line. I will then ask YOU what you want to pay for the home. It is up to you (not me) to decide. Then once you decide on a price (you can afford), I will put my 24 years of real estate negotiating to use. I have been a licensed realtor in Florida, Rhode Island, and Virginia and have seen every trick to save you money.
2. What if I am out of state and home shopping online?
The first thing I will do is tour the home you are interested in. I do this for many of my out-of-state customers. I then drive the neighborhood inspecting the lay of the land and nearby houses. So many times, a home looks fabulous on Zillow or Realtor only to be on a busy road, have barking dogs or a trailer park next door.
3. Who pays my commission?
The seller does unless specified in our MLS. We make this noticeably clear to you in our first conversation. In addition, we encourage you to sign up at www.mycaar.com for a free account on our MLS. Very important – Never, ever purchase a home from the same agent. The listing/selling agent MUST by law represent the seller’s interests. You will always pay more and not be a happy camper at closing.
4. Does the home have to appraise if we are borrowing the money?
Yes, and only the lender hires the appraiser as this keeps everyone honest. If the home does not appraise then the bank deducts the amount it is short and asks you to come up with that amount. You then must decide to continue with the sale or move on to another home. This only happens when the seller lists their home at an unrealistic price. However, this rarely happens in today’s Charlottesville real estate market .
5. How can we buy a home if we do not have enough to cover the closing costs?
There will always be closing costs and they ARE a big-ticket item (See a great article here on: What Are Closing Costs Buying A Home for in-depth info. These costs typically include mortgage insurance, homeowner’s insurance, appraisal fees and property taxes, while the seller covers ownership transfer fees and pays a commission to their real estate agent. I always negotiate with the sellers to cover some of these closing costs especially with new homebuilders like Stanley Martin and Ryan Homes. They expect it and build it into their price. Therefore, you NEVER purchase a new home without a knowledgeable Charlottesville realtor.
6. Do we need a home inspection?
Yes, if you are borrowing from any lending institution. However, you have the choice of who you want to perform the inspection. The better the inspector, the more you will know what is wrong with the home. You then can use this information to renegotiate the sales price.
7. Is purchasing a home easy?
It depends on the buyer (you), the seller, and the agents representing each. One entity on this chain can make a deal go very wrong. That is why it is good to work with a realtor who has at least ten years of real estate sales experience. I have 24 years’ experience as a buyer’s agent and have seen every trick in the book (I just tooted my whistle).
8. How fast can we close?
If you are borrowing from a lender usually within 60 days. However, in today’s market it might be longer. If it’s a cash deal, then around 30 days. The appraisal is what holds up the loan, which holds up the closing.
9. What happens if we close and we find problems with the home?
The first thing you will do is ask your home inspector about the problems. He will either acknowledge the problem and give you an approximate estimate to fix it or he will puff and say it is not his fault. In either case you will contact your homeowner’s insurance and discuss it with them. If it is something that can be repaired for under $1000 then I suggest you do not file a claim. Why? Because your rates will go up.
10. What about HOA fees?
Usually the fees are listed in the MLS, what they cover, and when you are billed. I have found it is better to contact the HOA with your list of questions and concerns. Most do not take phone calls but use email. Some are horrible to deal with…and I know who they are.
11. When we move-in will all the services be turned on?
No. Water (if public), gas, electric, cable all must be set-up in advance by yourself. I suggest doing this 2-3 week in advance especially with cable.
12. What can a Charlottesville realtor do for you?
We do much of the work to make sure the deal runs smoothly. We run comps, we give you our local knowledge, we suggest a fair offer, we suggest 3 good home inspectors, title companies and lenders, we make sure your lender is not gouging you with fees, we open the door for the home inspector and discuss their report with you, we open the door for the appraiser, we negotiate a lower price (if need be), we work with your lender to make sure the closing date will be met, and finally we make sure any repairs have been done and the home is clean for your final walk-thru.
I hope this information is helpful. I would also like to be your buyer’s agent. I KNOW I can save you $1000’s and can assure you of a stress-free closing. Buying a home is supposed to be fun and exciting. Thanks for reading…Fondly, Toby.