For the last several months, I have been telling you all to “ask me anything”. So it was no surprise that over the holidays one of my clients came up to me and asked, “WHERE DO I START WHEN IT COMES TO REAL ESTATE?” The funny thing was that he asked it as if he were embarrassed. Something I tell all my clients and repeat often: “There are no dumb questions in real estate.” To boot, this is an excellent question!
Whether you’re buying your first home, you’ve never sold a house before or you haven’t been part of a real estate transaction since the inception of the digital age, help is easy to find! As a helpful reference, I have outlined what I believe to be the “must dos” to get you started.
“Fortune favors the prepared mind.” ~ Louis Pasteur
Buying a Home?
- Talk to a REALTOR – Ask a qualified real estate professional about market conditions, trends, inventory levels, but most importantly about the process in general. Don’t be shy to ask for stuff in writing either as you are most likely to forget details.
- Talk to a lender – The mortgage is usually the bedrock of the home purchase. Without a lender, nothing else really matters. Lenders will ask for documents which show income such as bank statements or pay stubs and they will probably run a credit report. The goal here is to assess your viability as a borrower and once they do, you will be given a price range for what you may purchase. Your agent usually has a list of lenders you can call.
- Begin the search – Now that you know what you can afford, it allows you to talk location, property features, and school districts with your agent. Unless time is of the essence, I advise clients to keep their options open so no opportunities are missed.
Note: I do encourage an in-person meeting with your agent at some point during this process. There is something to be said about face-to-face contact which can’t be replaced by technology. Keep in mind that your agent will be with you from start to finish, so developing a close relationship is an advantage.
Selling a Home?
- Talk to a REALTOR – Similar to buyers, one should inquire with their agent as to market conditions/trends, inventory levels and ask for comparables or “comps”. Comps are a report of past sales in the area which match the property features of your home. These give a good idea of how fast homes are selling, at what price and will be a strong factor in determining at what price you decide to list your property.
- Walkthrough – Next step is to invite your agent over for a quick tour. Your agent should know exactly what they’re working with and they can provide some valuable tips for any repairs or modification which need to take place before listing the property.
- Prepare to List – Once you’ve decided to sell your home and agreed upon a price, there are still things that need to be done that help sell your home. Main things are to generally clean and declutter. This includes getting rid of junk, smells and other things which make the place seem undesirable to buyers. Your agent (or their stager) can help in this regard. Some homes need a little more TLC.
- BONUS TIP – Pre-listing Inspection: Back in October, I wrote about how inspections in a real estate transaction were where the “Where the Rubber Meets the Road…“. A pre-listing inspection is performed before you put the home on the market and helps you get out ahead of any unforeseen issues.
I have found that a lot of people can be intimidated by the real estate process, but it is actually pretty straightforward. When one is armed with the knowledge and guidance of a good agent, there’s no reason it can’t be a very smooth (even fun) process.
Got questions? Please ask me anything by leaving a comment below!
Seth Lejeune is a licensed PA REALTOR.
610.804.2104 / firstname.lastname@example.org