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The Time to Buy is Always Right When You Buy For the Right Reason
A quick read through today’s real estate headlines can be confusing.
Depending on which expert you believe, the market is currently bottoming, trending up, trending down, or heading toward the edge of a cliff.
Don’t let the chorus of experts confuse you. These experts are the same that took us to where we are by selling a market that was totally unsustainable. Over the next year, general market conditions for home buying may get better – or worse – than they are today. There are no guarantees. However, it’s important to remember that buying decisions should be based not only on market conditions, but individual needs.
It’s true that many areas of the country are considered overvalued, including South Florida but there are bargains to be had in all types of markets. If you’re intent on finding one, it’s a good idea to remember some important real estate fundamentals:
- No one can be sure where the market is headed so real estate speculation is best left to the so called “experts.”
- Buying a home to live in is different than investing for rental or speculative purposes.
- If you are planning to buy a home as your primary residence plan to keep it for at least several years, you will significantly minimize your risk.
- Just as the “size of the bubble” varies from region to region, so will be the timing of market corrections. Therefore, timing the market is a very risky strategy. The key during any type of market is to follow a disciplined approach to buying regardless of whether you work with an agent or choose to go on your own.
How do you find a home in this market?
First, do not be EMOTIONAL. This is one of the most important financial decisions of your life and one with long term implications. You must stay calm, cool and collected. This is a buyers’ market but you will lose your advantage if you tilt your hand. The days in which you were rushed to act are gone.
Second, define REALISTIC objectives. You want to buy the RIGHT HOME at the RIGHT PRICE and in today’s market there are quite a few properties that will meet your criteria. Prices have been trending down recently but keep in mind that a low price does not necessarily mean that it is a good deal; it only means that the price is low. The key questions are (1) How much I can afford and (2) what is the best deal I can get for my money given the number of options that are currently available. I may be able to afford the elephant but can I afford to feed the beast?
Third, prioritize those properties that meet your criteria and schedule visits. Value is an important consideration but not the only one. You need to prioritize your search based on a match of offered features versus your needs. Make sure you separate essential features from those that are “nice to have.” And then schedule visits to your targeted properties. Your real estate professional and free local search engines can be valuable resources in researching and identifying properties that meet your search criteria.
Fourth, enhance your KNOWLEDGE of the market. Knowledge is power and if your goal is to get the best deal for your money you need to access data and information that will allow you to make a rational decision. When you identify a home you are interested in here are some questions to guide you throughout the process:
- What did the last or current owner pay for the target property?
- When did the transaction take place?
- What have been the recent sales in the neighborhood during the last 12 months?
- Which of those properties were truly comparable to my target property?
- Were there other properties not quite comparable that sold during the same period?
- How did the final sales price compare to the asking price?
- How long were these properties in the market?
- What is happening in the neighborhood?
- How many properties are for sale within proximity to your target?
- How long have those properties been listed?
- What are the asking prices?
- What is the most likely market value of the target property now? Don’t rely on subjective opinions of value from sellers or a seller’s agent. Get a transparent, unbiased opinion of value.
Fifth, get FINANCING — this strengthens your bargaining position. The problem in today’s market is not the lack of available properties but obtaining financing. The days of easy financing are over and may not come back for the foreseeable future. The pendulum has swung from “high tolerance for risk” to “no tolerance for risk”. However, financing is available for those that are wiling to put some skin in the game, have good credit and can show earnings power. Time is of the essence for sellers and buyers need to be ready to prove their “readiness to buy”.
Sixth, NEGOTIATE effectively —remember your goal: to get the best deal for your money. Here are a few suggestions:
- When you find a home that meets your needs, be ready to make an offer quickly. The right way to make an offer is with a contract offer to buy, proof of financing and an escrow deposit. Never give a deposit directly to a seller. Give it to your attorney or your title company.
- In a competitive market, it’s important to act decisively.
- At the same time, don’t be intimidated by multiple offers. New homes are listed every day, so don’t be pressured into overspending or unacceptable contract terms.
- Do not be shy — price aggressively and do not rationalize your offer. Chances are you will end up paying more than what you have to if you let emotions drive the process.
- Avoid gimmicks— remember you are buying a house and not a trip to PARIS, a BMW or a Plasma TV. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Be firm and ready to walk away. There will be other properties waiting for you.
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