20 steps to get
the best deal on a home
Hire a buyer's agent. A good real estate agent can help you focus your
search and avoid the pricing pitfalls. Ideally, you want "someone patient,
someone focused on the neighborhood you're interested in," says Tyson. Talk
to several agents. "Have they taken advanced classes or received a designation?"
says Fitzgerald. "Is it somebody that you feel comfortable with, somebody
who's going to listen to your needs? Is what you're looking for what they're showing
you?" Don't fall victim to the trap that you can save money by not using
an agent. The seller, after all is paying that agent in most cases, and even if
there's only half a commission involved, don't you think the seller wants to save
that same amount you have your eye on?
Don't trash the house. It's become almost routine to point out all the
things you don't like about a house to shake the seller's confidence and try and
bring down the price. This can be a crucial mistake. First, it makes them angry.
Second, once you've insulted their house (and them), it's going to be tougher
to get them to negotiate a good price. If you're at the stage where you're making
an offer, but there are details you really can't live with, be tactful and kind,
says Ron Phipps, broker with Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. Instead of declaring
that their 1950s kitchen is horrible, say "I understand the kitchen is original."
Then follow with something along the lines of "obviously, competing houses
have been updated and that would be a priority for me," says Phipps.
Study comparables. Do this before making a first offer. When you look at
the comps (which should be within six months and ideally within three months),
what's the relationship between the list price and the sales price? That's going
to give you a good idea of just how much room you have to bargain. And just how
much your first offer cuts from the asking price can vary with the town, neighborhood
and price range. "In some areas of the state, people wouldn't be distraught,"
at an offer than came in 15 percent to 20 percent below the asking price, says
Phipps. "In my area, the sellers would be offended and you wouldn't get a
counter offer." And that's why it can pay to have a professional on your
side. Especially in today's market, "you need a buyer's agent to explain
the nuances of the market," he says.
Stay current. Keep up with the market while you're shopping. In the areas
you like, watch the for-sale signs go up and come down. How long are homes staying
on the market? Look at the listing for the asking prices. Comb the local paper
to see what they actually bring when they're sold. What's the relationship between
sales price, value and asking price? The trends you see can really help when it's
time for you to make those offers.