Probably because of the lower prices in Sacramento, I have been working lately with a larger than usual number of first-time home buyers. Almost 80% of my closed sales for the last quarter were first-time home buyers. The other 20% were investors, and investors are hot-to-trot over entry-level homes as well. Throw into the mix that much of the inventory offered for sale are bank-owned homes or short sales, and you've got a lot of competition for some homes.
It's not easy for buyers to write that first offer. Many are filled with trepidation that they will screw up somehow or make a huge mistake. But that fear is quickly overshadowed when they find out their offer was rejected because it wasn't high enough, and some other lucky buyer snagged their dream home. Winning offers are often just a $1,000 or so above the second highest offer. That's extremely stressful for buyers to digest. To be so close, yet so far away, from home ownership.
Yet when an offer is accepted, some buyers can't believe it. They keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. They say, "Something is wrong with this deal. We got everything we wanted." And then irrational fears set in. That little nagging voice in the back of their minds can't let them sleep at night. Some worry something awful might happen, and their transaction will not close. But my transactions close. I make certain they close.
Two couples who were buying homes in Land Park last week expressed those fears, and neither of the couples knew each other. They both called on the same day to ask identical questions. It was eerie. But in retrospect, not uncommon.
Here are some ideas first-time home buyers can use to help alleviate the angst that accompanies buying a home:
- Get preapproved by underwriting. A mortgage broker can submit your loan application and verify your employment before you write an offer.
- Find a real estate agent you trust -- in whom you can place your confidence.
- Get a copy of the documents you will sign before you sign them.
- Read the purchase contract and buyer broker contract -- ask questions. For example, I point out paragraph 14-b-1 in the C.A.R. contract, which explains that buyers are entitled to inspections and can get their deposit back if it comes to that.
- Ask for a timeline on the closing process to fully understand all the steps involved. Always find out what happens next.
- During the transaction, don't be afraid to call your agent with questions. Your agent will guide and advise you.
- Line up your insurance agent, don't wait until closing to shop for insurance rates and plans.
- Locate a qualified home inspector. Ask your agent for recommendations, interview the candidates and ask for sample reports.
- Read every disclosure and report. Ask questions.
- Don't change your financial situation once you are under contract. Don't buy anything new.
And finally, realize that even the most organized and rational first-time home buyers may experience stress. It's OK to shed a few tears. I don't sugar-coat the journey and promise that nothing will ever go wrong because it might. But almost anything that can go wrong can be fixed. Have faith in your convictions and your agent's track record.
Buyers go through highs and lows during escrow because it's a complex and emotional process. If any real estate agent suggests that buying a home is all butterflies, cinnamon cookies and puffy-white clouds, you might want to find a more honest agent to guide you.
What's paramount for me is that when the transaction closes, my buyers are ecstatic. That's my goal for first-time home buyers, and I don't settle for anything less.
photo: Big Stock Photo