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When you’re browsing real estate listings, you’re often faced with a barrage of information. Most of the details are fairly easy to understand: square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, etc. However, not everything is so straightforward — and some things should be considered serious red flags.
What is BATVAI?
In your house hunt, you might stumble across a long acronym that doesn’t look familiar: BATVAI. In real estate, these six letters stand for Buyer’s Agent To Verify All Information.
The term is a bit confusing: If the listing agent wrote the listing — and who else would? — shouldn’t all the information be accurate? Hypothetically, yes. But a BATVAI listing ultimately shifts the responsibility to the buyer’s agent, implying that the listing agent isn’t sure that the information is true. Hence the nickname “lying listing.” BATVAI doesn’t necessarily mean that the listing is actually a lie, but it does raise a red flag, indicating that you should be skeptical and proceed with caution.
What else should I be aware of when buying a home?
BATVAI status is not overwhelmingly common, luckily. But it’s a reminder that hunting for a house isn’t always a transparent and trustworthy process. Here are a few other things to look out for when buying a house:
Another confusing red-flag acronym is IDRBNG, which stands for Information Deemed Reliable But Not Guaranteed. This is basically a cousin of BATVAI and another signal for the buyer to beware. Buying a home will be one of the most expensive transactions of your entire life, and while nothing is guaranteed, it’s smart to follow your instinct. If you get the sense that the listing agent does not really stand behind their own listing, don’t trust that it’s accurate.
There’s nothing dishonest about as-is listings, but they do mean you should proceed with caution. Listing a home as-is typically means the seller is aware that there are issues with its condition, whether big or small, and does not intend to fix them.
If you’re interested in an as-is listing, know that there won’t be any wiggle room to negotiate for concessions based on the findings of a home inspection. So, if the home has serious issues — a cracked foundation or a roof that needs to be replaced, for example — you’ll have to deal with those as the new property owner.
However, as-is listings don’t always mean the property is in terrible shape. The owner may simply want to speed along the sale process and avoid lengthy back-and-forth negotiations. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons of as-is listings if you find one you love.
Buying a fixer-upper invokes luxurious HGTV fantasies, but for the average buyer — one who wants to live in the house, not flip it — it often just doesn’t make sense. If you see a low-priced listing looking for “the right buyer who can transform this into their dream home,” be careful about just how much work and money might be involved in making that dream come true. If you’re looking at a distressed property, it’s smart to bring a contractor with you to provide thoughts on an overall project budget and timeline.
No matter how badly you want to become a homeowner, don’t let yourself fall into the trap of stretching your finances too thin. As home prices rise in the midst of persistently low inventory, it’s critical to look at comps in your area (meaning similar nearby homes that have sold recently) to make sure the seller is asking for a realistic price. A Bankrate survey in the middle of the pandemic revealed a number of homebuyer regrets, including overpaying for their homes — an experienced local real estate agent can help make sure you don’t overpay for yours.
Finding and interviewing your agent
There are a lot of Realtors out there — more than 1.5 million, according to the National Association of Realtors. But you don’t want just anyone to guide your house hunting journey, you want the best real estate agent for your personal needs. A knowledgeable agent who knows your local area well is the most essential piece of your homebuying puzzle. To find one, start by asking friends and colleagues for recommendations, and look around the neighborhoods you’re interested in for “for sale” or “sold” signs.
It’s important to interview prospective real estate agents to understand how they can help you navigate the market. You’re the boss here. You don’t pay them directly out of your pocket — real estate commissions are almost always covered by the seller — but they only earn their fee if they help you buy a home. With that in mind, ask candidates plenty of questions to find out their strategies for helping you find the home you want. Find out how well they know the area you’re looking in, ask for client references and research them online, too. And do your due diligence on the properties you look at as well, so you can make an informed decision, together.
You may be able to fire your agent if you have reason to believe that they aren’t being truthful with you. If you’ve already signed a contract, you can just wait out the specified time period and switch to a different agent once that expires. If you don’t have time to wait, look over the termination rights spelled out in your agreement — you may be able to terminate the relationship before the time expires. A real estate attorney may be able to provide help here.
There is no law that requires you to have a real estate agent when you buy a house. However, it’s smart to hire one to make sure that you have an expert protecting your interests, negotiating on your behalf and helping you avoid any bad decisions with such a huge amount of money at stake.
You don’t necessarily have to, but you should. A buyer’s agent can make a big difference in your search for a new home, especially in a competitive market with low inventory. A buyer’s agent can eliminate a lot of the frustrations involved in house-hunting, and help you score the best deal possible.