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Wading through the ocean of lenders can be an arduous process- How do you pick the right one? How will you know that you've picked the right one? Do you start with your local bank or the internet?
I find that the lender choice is the biggest mistake most buyers in Charleston make. You see, the pre approval (the document that buyers use to go shopping for a home) is simply a loan officers opinion that the bank will give the buyer a loan. If the loan officer isn't thorough or up to date on the ever changing guidelines, his "pre approval" may not materialize into an approval form the bank's underwriters. Another big mistake- picking a lender that takes too long to get the loan to the closing table. The worst offenders are the goliath banks, usually taking 45 days to get the loan done. The quickest are usually the regional direct lenders, some are able to get buyers to closing table in as little as 12 days! Which buyer do you think has the most negotiating room with the seller of his dream house?
So how do you pick the right lender? Have your agent give you a recommendation. I have sat across the closing table from many, many Charleston lenders- I know exactly which ones are duds and which ones are studs. Who do you think I send my clients to?
I watch the news, I know the market is slow right now. Or is it? What makes the market appear to be slow is the rapid drop in prices.... so rapid in fact that most sellers over price their house in the first 90 days. It takes them awhile to figure out what buyers are willing to pay. (the true meaning of VALUE) Buyers today are more educated than ever- with all the research tools available on the internet, I rarely meet a buyer that is willing to over pay. Of all 50 buyers that I coached last year every one of them wanted to get "The Best Deal". Guess which houses are selling like hot cakes? That's right- the best priced ones! Today in Charleston if your house is not hanging on the discount rack, buyers aren't paying it much attention. But the best priced houses are still getting multiple offers and going under contract in a matter of weeks.
This is where having a good buyer's agent gives you the upper hand. I help all my buyers get the paper work lined up ahead of time for financing and manage expectations in advance. When my buyers see a house they love- we strike quickly. If you see a house that is a good deal- chances are that you're not the only one!
In the Charleston MLS right now there are over 3,000 actively licensed real estate agents. Of those, only 821 have sold more than 5 houses (and there's only six weeks left in the year) and only 368 have sold more than 1 house per month.
I'm no statistician- but it seems that buyers in Charleston have an overwhelming chance of picking a true part time agent. Home buying is a major purchase, buyers deserve a true full time professional to represent them. Would you have open heart surgery from a doctor who just does cardiopulmonary bypasses on the weekend as a hobby?
Working with buyers is a very time consuming process. A listing agent sticks a sign in the yard and doesn't see his clients until the closing. By the time my buyers get to the closing table, I have usually spent many hours working face to face with them. From the consultation, showings, contract negotiations, home inspection, and final walk through- working with buyers takes a big commitment.
When buyers are picking an agent to represent them they need to find an agent who is full time, ranked in the top 5% in their local MLS, tenured, and has the heart of a teacher.
This is where having the right agent makes all the difference. Now, more than ever, seller are bending over backwards to make their home stand out from the rest. Over the past few years I have seen sellers giving away boats, pool tables, plasma TVs, paying buyer closing costs, paying buyer HOA assessments, and offering agents increased commissions. But there are certain things that sellers want to see happen in a deal that gets them excited- and it's not always price. A good buyer's agent knows how to write the offer to get the sale done for the buyers.
It seems like love at first sight when a buyer finds the house of their dreams. The necessity list goes out the window- and they've gotta have it! Buying a home is a very emotional decision, you know when you've found the right one. My job as a buyer's agent is to allow the buyer to step back and take a look at the purchase on the macro level. Is it a good deal? Does it suffer from any functional obsolescence? Will I be able to resell it in four years for the buyer? Does it have a wide resale audience? Is it going to need any deferred maintenance in the next four years?
I never stand in the way of the sale- but I always ask the right questions and make sure my buyer knows the answers before we put in an offer.