6 Horrible House Hunting Pitfalls to Help Buyers Avoid house-hunting

Trulia Staff
June 5th, 2014

Sometimes it?s not the market or their agent (we know, we know) that stops buyers from snagging their dream home. And despite their good intentions, sometimes buyers unknowingly self-sabotage their home search. Which got us thinking: As agents, what can we tell buyers from the get-go that can help them avoid some of the worst house hunting pitfalls?

We reached out to Arron Sweeney, founder of Your Berkeley and realtor at King Realty Group in San Francisco, as well as Lance King, broker and owner of King Realty Group. They shared six home buying hang-ups and what agents can say to clients to help them avoid these common missteps.

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1. Missing out on the perfect place.
Hundreds of new homes hit the market every day, and buyers who are not using all of the house hunting tools available, could let their dream home could slip by unnoticed ?or worse, someone else might snatch it up before they even know that it?s for sale. One of the toughest lessons for a first-time (and, yes, even a second-time) buyer is that in this market, passive house hunting simply will not cut it. No matter what we agents do?and no matter how many e-mails we send showcasing a just listed property that agents would love to show our clients?if the buyer doesn?t make house hunting a top priority, it?s going to be a painful process.

What Agents Can Do:
As soon as you secure your newest buyer clients, set up a time to discuss your house hunting strategy. Ask them what their preferred method of contact is when there is a home that just can?t wait to be seen. Leverage smart free tools like Trulia?s Nearby Home Alerts come in handy. Buyers get an instant notification on their mobile device when new listings near their current location come on the market. Setting up such a strategy will let buyers stress less and think more about window treatments than missing their window of opportunity.

2. Choosing the wrong lender.
Few things are more frustrating (for buyers and agents alike!) than finding the perfect property only to find out that the loan isn?t coming through.

What Agents Can Do:
?We always tell our clients to use our preferred lenders because they?ll get great rates, the VIP treatment, and if there?s a problem they?ll find out on the front end,? says Sweeney. Remind clients that preferred lenders earn their preferred status only after they?ve consistently delivered loan closings. Provide them with a list of preferred lenders, and provide clients with educational materials to help them get their loan situation in order before they hit on their must-have property.

3. Fixating on price per square foot.
Buyers who search by price per square foot may be prime for some major disappointment.

What Agents Can Do:
King suggests reiterating to clients that if they are using this as one of their search criteria, they might want to think again. Measurements, as agents know, are not guaranteed to be accurate, and mis-measurements can place appropriately priced homes outside of a client?s search parameters.

4. Desperation.
When prices are on the rise, buyers get antsy and sellers get greedy. ?Many buyers have been outbid on numerous properties and have just become tired of looking,? says Sweeney. ?As a result, they are placing ridiculously high offers on properties that just aren?t worth it?just to get into a home this minute.?

What Agents Can Do:
Tell buyers to avoid the temptation and work with them to build up a backup plan. Suggest neighborhood or areas that may actually have the right home at the right price that the buyer potentially crossed-off the list due to superficial reasons. Make it a gentle conversation. ?Why don?t we just spend an afternoon looking at a few properties to see what?s out there? You don?t have to commit to changing your home search, and you?re not tied into anything. This is just a little bit of an exploration.? And, if all else fails, recommend short-term or corporate rentals options, so they?ll have a soft place to land while they wait for their dream home to appear on the market. When that happens, you?ll be the agent they come running back to.

5. Foregoing inspections.
In a perfect world, sellers would disclose every single issue to the prospective buyers. Since that?s not the case, inspections are a great idea; yet one that Sweeney sees clients skipping too often.

What Agents Can Do:
?I have a strong knowledge of construction and always advise my clients to pony up and have both an independent pest and contractor inspection,? says Sweeney. Inspections identify red flags and can address the general state of a property. Plus, they can provide leverage when it comes time to negotiate. Discuss these issues in details with your clients, and remind them of how much neglecting inspections may cost them in the long run.

6. Buying a ?project.?
The unwritten rule of renovating states that it will take more time and money than expected. So it?s important for buyers to know their threshold for renovations before buying a fixer-upper.
What Agents Can Do:
Be prepared to share referrals to general contractors and specialty tradesmen. It doesn?t hurt to schedule a showing with one of these pros in tow either. It?s better for clients to know what they?re getting into before they find themselves in over their head. Plus, a happy new homeowner is the source of a great recommendation and referral clients for years to come.

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