The first time I became a homeowner, I was in my early twenties. I don’t remember anything about the process of buying a house except that my dad did most of the groundwork and I signed what seemed like a million documents. Most of the financial choices I make even now are from the foundation work my father set for me. As an immigrant in this new land, owning part of the land was one way I felt like I belonged. So, at 22, I was the only one in my friend group with a mortgage. Five years later, my husband moved in the weekend we got married. We raised one child there and kept it as a rental unit after relocating to Houston.
Fast forward to 2014, as new immigrants in the great state of Texas, my husband became a first-time homeowner and I for the first time bought a house without “adult” supervision. We had a father figure as a realtor. The process was relatively smooth. Our townhome was a fixer-upper, we put sweat equity in it, and it paid off – we loved and enjoyed the many upgrades we added to the house. As our kids grew, we quickly realized a single-family home was the next step for our family. So, we decided in November of 2021 to list the house.
Each time I have bought a home, I learned from the past. This time, I knew I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes again. So, as you consider buying a residential home for your family, here are some tips to ensure you don’t make the same mistakes I made.
Interview Multiple Realtors.
Most people know multiple realtors in their network, but even the best one may not be a good fit for your needs. In this process, make it clear you are interviewing multiple realtors Most are understanding; it’s a job, and I don’t know many jobs that do not require an interview. The internet is full of resources with questions to ask to make sure they are a good fit. The most important question for us was Do you do this full time? We wanted someone full time because we were on a time crunch. Our goal was to sell our home within two weeks, and close within a month because we needed the funds for a down payment on our new house.
Find a Realtor Who is an Expert in Your Location
Find a realtor who is an expert in the location you want to buy. The realtor we ended up choosing lived in the area. Her children attended local schools and she owned multiple investment properties in the area. This expertise came in handy as we decided what neighborhood we wanted to live in based on the zoned school.
When we bought our townhome, the realtor we used at the time without interviewing others talked us out of buying a specific house because “the house didn’t hold value based on the location and the school it was zoned to”. We learned quickly this was not true. His advice wasn’t out of malice; he just didn’t know the area. He didn’t know how our school district operated. We should’ve done more research too. Hindsight is 20/20, right?
Tour the Neighborhood and Street
Tour the neighborhood and street of your top choices before you make any offers, or certainly before your option period ends. This gives you insight on the neighborhood and house from the people who will be your neighbors. They will be the ones you tell you if your home has flooded more times than the seller has disclosed. Yes, this happened to us and I’m forever grateful for the honest woman who saved us from a money pit. These potential new neighbors will give you the ins and outs of the neighborhood. If you are lucky, you can even get temporary access to the neighborhood Facebook group. You can tell a lot about a neighborhood by what is happening in the group.
I am forever grateful to our wonderful realtor who worked as if she was buying the house for herself or a family member. She was committed to us loving the neighborhood and our home. She was committed to our goal of selling our house on time to give us a competitive edge with cash on hand when we made offers. I’m grateful for the woman who saved us from buying a house that had flooded multiple times when sellers never disclosed any flooding.
Buying a house in the current market is challenging and can take a toll. Some stressors are unavoidable, but many are. So, as buyers, do your due diligence. Interview at least three realtors, pick the best one that aligns with the needs of your family, and research the neighborhood and house on your own so that your dream home doesn’t turn into a nightmare.
Have you bought a home recently? Do you have any other tips you would add?