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Avoiding The Pitfalls
Unfortunately, even the best planning can fail to protect you from the many surprises and obstacles that can materialize in the course of the home buying process. Often the difficulties that complicate the process are a direct result of the human element brought to the table by the buyers and the sellers. Other problems occur because of the failures or mistakes made by the lenders or other service providers involved in the real estate transaction. And finally, there are those acts of nature that are unexpected and usually unavoidable, such as severe storms, fire, and earthquakes which can foil any good plan.
The Human Factor
Many times, the most difficult problems originate from the people involved in the actual sale of the house because home buying and selling is so often laced with emotions. There is frequently tension between the buyer and seller from the outset of the transaction, prompted in part because each enters the negotiations fearing that the other side will get the better part of the deal. There is also the opportunity for unbridled dissension to grow within the parties who are either buying or selling (especially when spouses and children enter the picture) as they attempt to agree on the endless decisions that accompany the purchase or sale of their home.
Short of hiring a personal psychologist (or a bodyguard) to guide you through the process, there are some situations you can guard against given the right attitude and planning:
Unless you are dealing with a third party seller, meaning the party has been hired to act on the seller's behalf, expect that the seller will have some level of attachment to the property, probably at an emotional and very personal level. Be sensitive when you walk through the property with the seller in tow. This is not the appropriate time to critique the color of the furniture or comment on how much better the property will look once in your loving hands. Talk of extensive remodeling ("Once we rip out the kitchen, relocate the family room, and put wall-to-wall carpet over the hardwood floors we can begin to call this 'home') can make even the most committed sellers reconsider. Rule: Insist that you be allowed to preview the property without the seller in attendance. That should give you room to visually remodel without offending the seller.
Keep an eye out for the other emotional party to the sale...you! No matter how logical and analytical you try to be in purchasing a home, it is likely that by the time you make your first offer, you and whoever you might have as a partner, will have begun to make an emotional investment in the property. The furniture will begin to fit in all the right places, your children will be moving their swing set under the big oak in the back yard, the basement will be on its way to being the workshop, and most importantly, you will know that the search is over. As the dates for the closing are finalized, so is your commitment to making this work no matter what. In this weakened condition, you are vulnerable to making mistakes that could cost you dearly in the long run. Rule: Try to remember that you can walk away if the terms are not right for you. There are plenty of homes out there, even if none seem so special at the moment as this one.
Shopping for Bargains
It is easy to become something of an expert on accurate home pricing if you look at enough properties. Once you have developed a feel for the market, you will be able to spot a bargain as well as an overpriced listing. If you find a bargain, assume you are not the only one with such incredible insight and act quickly! This is not the time to negotiate for the last penny or construct an offer that is laden with conditions. If the seller has priced the property to sell quickly, then you can trust that you will not be the only one to line up with an offer. Some sellers know as much about pricing as you do and will only accept an offer that is within a narrow range. Heartbreak often follows those who enter into negotiations on an aggressively priced property, and then try to take advantage of the seller's apparent eagerness to sell by trying to push a little too far. Rule: If you find a "bargain" property, respond with a worthy offer unless you can afford to lose the property to another bidder.
Dealing With Over-Priced Listings
That same expertise that qualifies you to jump on the bargains will also lead you to identify the properties that are grossly overpriced. Why are listings overpriced? Usually, the seller is simply unwilling to consider a value for their property that is below their self-imposed range. Most buyers will avoid these properties like the plague, since the apparent message being sent by the seller is that they are unreasonable people. (Why else would someone allow their property sit idle on the market months longer than similar properties without a single offer or price reduction?) And yet, in spite of your best efforts you could find yourself falling in love with an over-priced listing. There is nothing more frustrating than finding the home of your dreams grossly overpriced, and being unable to coax the sellers into considering a more reasonable price structure! If you do locate such a property, be prepared to negotiate artfully and aggressively to bring the price into line. This is a situation where an accomplished Buyer's Agent can be of great value, since it is likely that a successful negotiation will come only at the expense of the seller finally admitting that their initial price was out of line. A third party negotiator helps keep the emotions of the buyer separated from the ego of the seller. Even with the aid of a third party negotiator, it is likely that there will be several rounds of negotiations encompassing many days (even weeks) of offers, discussions, and counter offers. Over-priced listings require patience and perseverance.
RULE: If you must present an offer on an over-priced listing, do so through a third party, or be willing to wait patiently while the seller slowly adjusts to a more reasonable pricing level.
Buying With Urgency
Having time on your side is one of the best methods for assuring that you will be satisfied with your eventual home purchase. Unfortunately, many buyers find themselves forced into deciding to buy a property primarily because they are out of time. Perhaps their spouse is arriving with the kids in three weeks, or they have to be settled to begin a new job, or they have to move out of the house they are selling and don't want to live in interim housing. The most common urgency situation is created when the buyer is relocating and plans the single trip to the new area to locate the property. Within the weekend, the house must be found, put under contract, and financing must be applied for. The situations that create urgency are too many to count, and the end result is often the same. The buyer has to act aggressively in order to secure a property, which ultimately means that the buyer is likely to pay too much. RULE: If price is important to you, try to arrange your circumstances so that you are not buying with urgency. Set aside ample time to look at houses and make your decision. You will find that you are in a far better negotiating situation when you do find the perfect house.
The preceding tips will help guide you to a more comfortable and painless purchase process. By anticipating what could go wrong and being prepared to cope with surprises with a positive attitude, you will have a far better chance of reaching your end goal of buying the home.