It’s never a bad idea to once in a while place yourself in the shoes of a client, to think through their side of the experience. At the same time, illustrating your understanding of their perspective—and showing a little empathy—is a great way to win over buyers. For this post, we’ll do just that, by hypothetically relocating you to a new city, where you’re the unlicensed agent and buyer.
Key points include:
- Selecting a Realtor and other professionals
- The best way to conduct preliminary searches and get a feel for various areas
- How to conduct a little homework to ensure that your instincts are tuned for the experience
- How to pit lender against lender in a fast and fun footrace to see who will deliver
Flipping sides: If I were a buyer
Let’s face it, some day I could find myself moving to another location, where, heaven forbid, I am not a licensed Realtor. (Though a license would have to follow, or I’d be starving in no time.) And should that happen, just like you, I would need to start from scratch with the buying process. This leads me to wonder exactly how I’d go about this and here’s the advice I’d like to give myself. Hypothetically, that is.
Choose a Realtor
First and foremost, I’d meet and interview several Realtors. It never fails to surprise me how many folks decide to go with the first person they meet and that’s something that simply doesn’t make sense to me.
Secondly, I’d quiz each one of them to see if they’re capable of offering unbiased input. If I ask about one location, but they immediately begin telling me about several others, or if they show a certain bias toward newer homes, when I might be interested in something older—those scenarios tell me that they aren’t going to be looking out for my interests and I’d move on to the next one—immediately.
Go for MLS and forget Trulia/Zillow
When it comes to listing data, the multiple listing service (or MLS—the vast database that’s constructed by agents and includes complete data on every available listing) is the fastest and most accurate source for the most up-to-date information. For this reason, I’d get set up immediately with access, through what’s called a Client Portal (through any Realtor). Rely on Trulia and Zillow, and chances are you’re going to get beat out by someone with a portal (because they’re going to see it first and have more accurate info to go on).
At first, cast a wide net
Especially when perusing a new area, one of the worst things you can do is cast too narrow of a net in your initial search, by attaching too many parameters. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve found the perfect home for one of my clients, just two miles outside of their selected area and with one too few bedrooms, BUT an office that can easily accommodate a closet. In other words, give yourself a shot at making those discoveries, by first casting a wide net, then pare that down as you eliminate the possibilities. In the process, you may also stumble across an unexpected area.
While you’re at it, include Pending (under contract and awaiting final sale) and Sold listings. You can’t buy them, but this information will give you some idea of sales prices and days on market, so you can gauge accordingly.
Become an extrovert
If you’re an introvert, you can go back to your old ways later, but for now, talk to everyone you meet, especially in areas where you think you may be interested in living. Ask them about the schools, the history of the area, events—you name it. The more info you can gather on the ground, the better.
Study the math
I would go so far as building inventory graphs, including the number of Active listings, Pending sales and Sold properties over the course of a year. Knowing how those numbers shape out can tell you a lot about how you should act as a buyer (relaxed, or with urgency; offering high, or trying to strike a deal, depending on the time of year).
Tap into virtual data
Connecting to local news feeds, as well as social media pages, for area organizations and businesses is a great way to get a feel for an area or community. If there are community papers or Facebook pages, get your hands on those as well. You can’t know too much about a new place.
Ask your Realtor to phone a friend
Realtors like dealing with closing attorneys, lenders and other professionals who they know and trust to make a deal go smoothly. For this reason, you’re well advised to ask them for a few names to consider. Nothing’s worse than getting someone who talks a good talk, but can’t deliver (or makes it tough to close a deal in a timely manner). Chances are, your Realtor has gone through those trial and error efforts for you, so just ask them for who they prefer working with.
Have some fun: Pit lender against lender
At the onset, select three lenders to provide with the exact same information and parameters (identical target property, same loan product and prequalifying information), then ask them for a prequalification letter. And do it in sync, so you’ll know who acts with the most urgency. Even if you switch products or properties when it’s time to follow through, this exercise gives you an apples-to-apples comparison for how much each charges in fees and how quickly they’ll deliver.
Get in the driver’s seat for a test drive
Last but not least, put yourself to the test. Watch the market—what comes up as new listings, then try to gauge what you think they’ll sell for and how long you think they might be on the market. Follow them to see how well your instincts have become. The more you practice, the better prepared you’ll be to make a decision and formulate an offer when it comes time to do the real deal. Which you might discover along the way …