There’s no avoiding the stress and anxiety that comes along with buying a new home. It can become more manageable over time, but there’s always opportunities for unprecedented circumstances to pop up – like a revealing inspection or a sudden change in financial status or a global pandemic. It’s hard to keep things picture perfect from when your offer is accepted to when you sign at closing, as much as you might want to.
To add another layer for new homebuyers, online-based real estate apps can push specific agents and lenders to make the process appear too easy and seamless. Don’t get us wrong, Zillow, Redfin and other apps are powerful tools in your arsenal, but booking a showing through an app or relying solely on the app’s metrics for comps will give you an unrealistic view of the process. A relator’s institutional knowledge about the housing market and the area where you live is invaluable when you’re walking a house and they have better tools at their disposal to share comps and help you make a strong offer. The same goes for an online lending app. They might give you a good idea of your price point, but the ones with looser terms and lackluster backgrounds might be the reason why your offer isn’t picked over another.
Relying on apps might be the cheaper option, but you’re buying a house. If you thought it would be cheap to do it right, you’re probably making the wrong investment decision.
For all of these reasons, and many more, it’s incredibly important to find a realtor and a lender who can support you through your home buying experience and make it smooth as possible. They will be the ones fielding your phone calls when you want to make a showing appointment at 8 a.m. and an offer at 1 p.m. on a Saturday – and then negotiate through late Sunday night. You have to develop a sense of trust and constant lines of communication.
The best way to begin your search for a realtor and lender is through your own network. Have any family, friends or colleagues in your area recently purchased a home? Ask them about their experience with their realtor and lender and see if they have any recommendations for a specific agent or company. A mutual connection is a great way to build a relationship – and how a lot of these agents like to do business!
It’s completely appropriate to interview your realtor and lender prior to choosing to work with them, whether they’ve come recommended by a friend or not. Here’s a few traits you’ll want to look for:
- Strong Local Experience
Every city, town, and even neighborhood has its own nuances and your realtor should have experience with the areas where you’re searching to help you find the best option for the best price. Your dream neighborhood might have an expensive and restrictive homeowners association or have planned construction in the coming months that will make a quiet space much louder and busier. Your realtor needs experience to know what will best suit your wants and needs as a buyer. If they’re locally based, they’ll also likely have strong insight into competing offers and might even know the listing agent or one of their colleagues, which can help you get a leg up in the process or maybe alert you that you shouldn’t make an offer on a home if they don’t have a good reputation. Similarly, having a lender with a strong local reputation can make your offer more attractive to a seller and their listing agent because they’ll likely be familiar with their company.
- Diligent + Timely Communication
Communication is key to having a good relationship with your realtor and lender. You will likely be exchanging more texts, calls, and emails with these two throughout the process than with your friends and family. In an aggressive market, there will be days where you need your realtor to show up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday to see a house that only popped up the day before. You’ll want to put in an offer a few hours later and your lender will need to be on standby to crunch the numbers with an updated cost breakdown so you know what to include in your offer package. Communication also shows commitment – to you, your home buying process and to their own pay day.
- Willing to Educate
As we both bought our first houses, the education component that our realtor and lender brought to the table was invaluable. There’s too many terms, tactics and potential outcomes throughout the process to go it on your own, so finding someone that can patiently educate you throughout the process is important. Not only will it help you become a more educated homebuyer, but it again shows their commitment to the process and your potential referrals for your network.
Our realtor is a family friend, which can be really common in an area with a housing market like others, but we know that we’d pick him even if he wasn’t. He has years of experience and sales growth under his belt and an office in the same zip code as our current house, making him the perfect candidate for future home buys in the area. He referred us to our lender, who Andy used for his first home and we used again for our second, and the relationship will only grow from there!
If it seems like we’re a little crazy about the quality of realtors and lenders, it’s because we are…kind of. The two are going to be your partners in this process and you always want to assemble the best team for the best outcome. That doesn’t mean you can’t find that person on Zillow or consistent “for sale” signs around the neighborhood (connections need to be made somehow!), but make sure you do your research first and find people who are as committed to helping you find a home as you are. If they have the three traits we mentioned above, you’ve found the right people for your home buying experience.
For our friends in Northern Virginia, we highly recommend Rob Cox Real Estate and Intercoastal Mortgage.