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Step 2: Go with a Pro & Use a Real Estate Agent -  Getting a good real estate agent right away when you’re searching for a new home is as important as seeking the assistance of a good financial officer. Figuring out what you can or can’t ‘afford’ means more than just being realistic about the price you can pay, it also means understanding what you can actually get at that price. Things are not always as they seem in real estate and there’s no substitute for experience in the rapidly changing market we’ve seen over the last few years. A good agent will take the time to understand your needs, educate you, keep you pointed in the right direction, and hopefully even surprise you occasionally. If you like looking at listings online and house hunting on the fly it’s always smarter to work with an agent that you like who can quickly investigate and clarify issues affecting properties that you’re interested in and make you aware of other important options that you haven’t considered yet.


Also, sales commissions generally aren’t paid unless a deal closes. They’re negotiated by the sellers long before you ever first set foot in a property and you’ll need to get an agent to negotiate and close any purchase that you’re considering anyway so there’s no reason not to have your own professional team in place and ready to go at a moment’s notice. No matter how dedicated a novice you are… why try to completely reinvent the wheel and pass up the free services of an experienced professional with access to all the available resources now.

Step 3: Finding the Best Deals or the Money Never Lies - There’s been a lot of talk the last few years about short sales, foreclosures and other ‘distressed’ properties. Many of my clients first come to me thinking that these types of sales offer better values and they even suggest restricting our searches to these types of properties. I’ve posted an explanation of these types of sales, but essentially… there are no ‘tricks’ to finding and buying the best properties available and there aren’t any secret sources of ‘bargains’ that the rest of us aren’t aware of. Virtually all properties for sale are publicly listed on the MLS system and great deals can be negotiated on any kind of sale. You’ll see all kinds of creative pricing and marketing strategies, but real values tend to be remarkably consistent at any given time and if something seems too good to be true… then it probably is.



Step 4: Using the Internet & Avoiding Distractions - The amount of information (and misinformation) online these days about real estate in general and all the different ‘opportunities’ that are available is staggering. I always encourage my clients to take an active role in educating themselves, but there are a few things to be aware of.


Step 5: Finding Your Priorities & Your New Home - Once you’ve gotten your professional team together, learned a bit more about the realities of the market place, and been given a few tips on how to avoid false leads and other forms of misdirection you’ll be able to make a more informed and confident decision about the types of homes and areas you want to concentrate your property searches on. It’s when you actually start looking at properties that you get your next big reality check… unless you’re fabulously rich and/or lucky some compromises will probably be in order. The art of finding a home is matching your expectations, your dreams, and your ability to pay to what’s actually available on the market and making the right choice. Finding the ‘best’ deal is always a subjective thing that’s all about what’s most important to you so you need to have a clear idea of what you’re willing to give up.. and what you’re not to find the home that’s right for you.

Step 7: Submitting an Offer: It’s All about You - If your financial officer and real estate agent have done their homework properly you should have the information you need to make informed choices and submit your offer, but make no mistake, you are the principal on the contract who is legally responsible for all of it’s terms and conditions. The contracts used by many agents and lenders are often standardized, but any point can be negotiated and amended and any property purchase will have many other legal, tax, and financial implications and consequences.


You should always talk with your lawyers, accountants, and other professional advisors about all aspects of the transaction that you don’t understand or want to clarify before you sign any contracts because your agent and lenders are not qualified to comment on many issues that may be involved.

Step 8: Negotiating the Deal… Don’t Take It Personally - Let the games begin…. your offer to buy a house may just be the first round of a process that can take several days or more. It may get accepted if you agree to pay 50% over the asking price and put the owner’s kid through college, but you may also see a counter-offer come back that you don’t completely agree with so you send back a counter on their counter. The point is that this is only a negotiation until everyone signs on the dotted line and people are just trying to get what they need out of the deal so try not to take it personally. It’s an important part of the process because a lot of necessary details get worked out in advance that may not have been properly addressed in the original offer or that are of specific interest to one of the parties. Even more importantly, if you can’t come to terms then it may really for the best and you can feel good about walking away from the deal.

Step 9: Time Frames, Contingencies & Things Change - If the last few steps regarding contracts and negotiations seemed a bit thorny it’s only because they were meant to be. You need to be completely aware of all the of all the terms and conditions that you need to satisfy on the contracts you’ve signed. Sometimes your responsibilities will start as soon as escrow opens and before you know it you’re moving into your new home. In other cases you’ll have to wait months for bank or court approval before you have to do much of anything. The different kinds of sales and the effect that they have on the time it takes to close are discussed below in our Quick Buyer’s Guide to Standard Sales, Trusteeships, Short Sales, & REOs.


Also, though all of the terms and conditions of the purchase agreement that you’ve signed have to be met in order for the deal to close… not all deals close.


You’ll usually receive a lot of materials regarding known issues and defects affecting the property from the sellers once things get going and you’ll typically have the right to perform any reasonable physical or other inspections and investigations of the property that you choose as well. The good news is that any problems revealed during this discovery period can typically be renegotiated and remedied or the entire agreement can be terminated without penalty if no remedy is agreed to. In short, ‘it ain’t over ‘till it’s over’ and any number of things can derail an agreement for better or worse.


You also usually have the option to ensure that your financing will receive final approval and that the property will appraise for at least its purchase price. Again, if there’s a problem in either regard you’ll probably have the right to renegotiate or cancel within the time frames stated on your contract.


Once any contingencies that have been agreed to are released and signed off on you’re all the way in. Any failure to satisfy the remaining terms of the purchase agreement could result in a breech of contract, the loss of your deposit or other legal, financial, and practical consequences. Though problems do arise, the majority of sellers want to see the sale completed and will work with you to resolve issues that come up. However, they may not be under any obligation to do so. It’s always wise to pick the best professional help, stay fully alert to everything that’s going on, and try to avoid problems before they become disasters.

Step 10: Closing the Deal or Show Them the Money - This is the fun part of the deal if everyone has done their jobs. As soon as you sign the closing papers and the money for your final payments and loan are delivered to escrow the sale is recorded with the county and you get the keys to your new home so you can move in. See… that was easy.

Finding and buying a home may seem like a monumental task, but you’ll often be amazed at how little can involved when you actually do it. Once you’ve gotten professional help, negotiated a price, and everything has been spelled out in the purchase agreement the remaining things for you to do to complete the sale should be pretty straight forward with a bit of luck. You’re more likely to be misinformed, get misdirected, or miss important opportunities when you’re looking for a home to buy in the first place.



Step 1: Do the Math & Pre-Qualify with a Lender - Talking with a lender first may seem like something to do when you’ve already found a house and are ready to buy, but qualifying your ability to buy early on is essential. You can over or under-estimate your ability to get a loan and waste months looking at the wrong types of properties. The numbers never lie. Getting pre-qualified puts you in a better position to make the right decisions about the about the kind of properties that you should be looking at. You’ll also usually be able to get the necessary pre-approval letters from the lender on short notice without obligation when you do find the house that you want to make an offer on.

Step 6: Be Ready to Buy - After you do all of the brainwork and legwork and you’ve found the home that seems like the best fit it’s time for the biggest reality check of all… it’s time to take action and make an offer so your dreams can come true ( or at least as many as you can successfully negotiate.) Even a few days delay can easily cost you the house that you’ve spent months looking for in today’s increasingly competitive market.


Amazingly, many people still haven’t arranged for financing or don’t have their own agent at this point. Loan papers are usually required with the submission of an offer or several days after signing and many unprepared buyers end up asking the agent listing of the property to talk to with the sellers for them or even submit an offer. This is called a dual agency in California where all parties are required to sign papers acknowledging the potential conflicts of interest involved and some states don’t even allow  this kind of arrangement for real estate sales. Having your professional team together and being both prepared and ready to act from day one is the best way to avoid pitfalls and successfully engage the sellers offering the best deals in today’s market.

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Step 1: Do the Math & Pre-Qualify with a Lender


Step 2: Go with a Pro & Use a Real Estate Agent


Step 3: Finding the Best Deals or the Money Never Lies


Step 4: Using the Internet & Avoiding Distractions


Step 5: Finding Your Priorities & Your New Home


Step 6: Be Ready to Buy


Step 7: Submitting an Offer: It’s All about You


Step 8: Negotiating the Deal… Don’t Take It Personally


Step 9: Time Frames, Contingencies & Things Change


Step 10: Step 10: Closing the Deal or Show Them the Money



PLUS: A Quick Buyer’s Guide to Standard Sales,

Trusteeships, Short Sales, & REOs



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