Homeowners enjoyed double-digit price growth in the first half of 2013, greatly exceeding experts’ predictions of a year ago and even settling into pre-recession values in many markets. Though there was some softening in the second half, sellers remain in their element and are turning the screws on anxious buyers who fear further price spikes and escalating interest rates. New-construction home sales are up, previously underwater properties are in positive equity again and investors are turning their attention to “secondary markets” to find value.
BUYERS: BE CREDIT READY!
There’s a lot of competition out there for homes, so tarry not. Get your credit report and start repairing any blips. If your scores are below 620 or so, a conventional loan will be a challenge. But if they’re under 740, you still might not get the best rates. Many buyers get a prequalification letter from the lender, but you can one-up them with a preapproval, which comes after a more thorough evaluation of your finances. A preapproval letter shows the seller that you’re good to go and can close quickly.
BUYERS: ADJUST YOUR NEGOTIATION EXPECTATIONS !
Lowball offers are off the table in this environment and could eliminate you from consideration. Respond to counteroffers quickly to keep other buyers from entering the picture; you don’t want to encourage a bidding war. If one breaks out, be prepared to get fewer concessions and pay more money. And have a few other homes in mind so you can be willing to walk away if the price soars.
CAUTION:CHECK RESTRICTIVE COVENANTS
When buying a home, it’s important to be aware of restrictive covenants, the legally-binding deed requirements that “run with the land” and dictate what you are allowed to do—or are restricted from doing—on your potential property. Covenants are common in many parts of the country, particularly in planned community developments managed by a HOA. Unlike, zoning ordinances, which are government-imposed requirements on private individuals, covenants are rules or responsibilities imposed by developers or private sellers on present and future owners. Covenants can be extremely important to the property value, as well as crucial to your enjoyment of your home. Most large, planned subdivisions impose covenants, conditions and restrictions (CCRs) that empower an HOA to prescribe detailed rules regarding architecture and esthetics designed to maintain the attractiveness of the community.
VIEW TOP CHOICES A SECOND TIMEAfter touring homes for a few days, you will probably instinctively know which one or two homes you would like to buy. Ask to see them again. You will see them with different eyes and notice elements that were overlooked the first go-around. At this point, your agent should call the listing agents to find out more about the sellers’ motivation and to double-check that an offer hasn’t come in, making sure these homes are still available to purchase.
BUYER'S AGENT-FREE OF CHARGE$$$$
Home buyers should always have their own agent. Buyer agents work to negotiate the best terms and price for the buyer. Best of all, the buyer agent’s services are free to the buyer. Most people think they have to pay a sales commission. The truth is this:only the seller pays the commission. Whether a buyer uses an agent or not, the seller still pays the commission. Most buyer agents will have their clients sign an agency agreement, an Exclusive Buyer Agency Agreement. It outlines their services, how they are compensated, and how the two parties will work together. To ensure you’re working with an agent who specializes in representing buyers, seek out an Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR). The home buying process is stressful enough without worrying about who you can and cannot trust. Your buyer’s agent is your trusted advocate.