Choosing Your Team
Top Things to Look
For in a Realtor
Full time agent - A full time agent will know the market
Technical Knowledge - A real estate transaction is a complicated process. Your agent needs to understand all parts of the transaction
Tech-Saavy - A tech saavy agent will have all of the latest tools to quickly find the homes and information you need.
Well Connected - A good agent will be networked and will know and will have screened local professionals in the transaction like painters, carpenters, and other service providers.
Team Player - A good agent will have backup person or team to assist them in the transaction should they be unavailable
Good Negotiator - Your agent will be presenting and negotiating offers on your behalf. Having and inexperienced agent involved may cost you thousands or lose the deal all together.
Communications - How will the Realtor communicate with you regarding the transaction? When will they be available to talk to you? A good loan officer is always available to assist.
Your Title Company
Choosing the right escrow officer or title attorney to handle your sale can mean the difference between a smooth and rapid closing or a complicated, delayed closing, fraught with anguish. Most often either the buyer or seller may choose the closing agent, depending on your local custom, but whoever it is, there are several important criteria which should be considered.
The Reputation of the Company
The first place to begin your search is to ask your friends and acquaintances who have had recent experience with real estate transactions to recommend a company or an individual they have been pleased with, one who met all their expectations. Inquire among friends as to the reputation of the individual officer or title company in your local community. Ask your friends if the escrow agent they recommend returns phone calls promptly, explains details in everyday, understandable language, inspires confidence, and is knowledgeable and acts in a professional, courteous manner.
Look at the professionalism in the escrow agent or title company you are considering. Your escrow agent should be knowledgeable, efficient, friendly, and confidential. Above all else, ask lots of questions when interviewing your potential escrow closing agent. Ask about their previous experience. Do they have a good working relationship with lenders and are they experienced in handling loan documents? Do they have experience in handling possible title problems that may be found in the title report?
Fees charged by escrow agents and closing attorneys do vary, and the decision on who pays which fees will also vary from state to state. The seller may be paying for the title insurance, as in Florida, for example, or the buyer may be paying the escrow fees, as in California. Whoever is responsible for paying for each individual fee should be determined well ahead of the closing, and before you choose your escrow or title agent. You will want to try to select the most reputable and professional escrow or closing agent you can find, combined with the one who also charges the most reasonable fees. Several fees, such as recording fees, transfer tax fees, are non-negotiable and will be the same statewide. Title insurance fees and escrow fees can vary from company to company.
Purchasing a new home is most likely the largest financial transaction of your life. Why not treat it that way? Choosing the team of professionals to work with is an important part of the process. We all have a tendancy to use our friends and relatives to help us with things but rarely are they the best person for the job.
Here are the different professionals used in a typical home purchase transaction and what you should look for and consider in each area. Taking the time to evaluate all the different professionals abilities is time well spent and will save you countless hours and possibly days of headache and financial problems.
Top Things to Look For
in Your Mortgage Professional
Experience - Having an experience loan officer is the most important factor in determining will you should handle your loan.
Loan Products - A good mortgage firm will have a full range of products to offer you of Government and Conventional loan products.
Product Knowledge - A good loan officer knows all the products you can qualify for and will show you your options. A loan officer with out product knowledge could cost you a lot of money.
Underwriting Knowledge - A good loan officer knows the FHA/VA/USDA and conventional underwriting guidelines by heart and can explain quickly why you don't qualify for or why one is better for your situation.
Communications - How will the loan officer communicate with you regarding your file? When will they be available to talk to you? A good loan officer is always available to assist.
Processing/Underwriting - Where is your processed and file approved? Having in-house underwriting is a huge advantage since the loan officer and underwriter know each other and can work out issues. There are many great underwriters outside of the mortgage office however, but this is something to consider.
What to Look For In A Good Homeowners Insurance Agent
Ask co-workers. Ask friends. Asking a perfect stranger is better than relying on ads or the yellow pages. People tend to refer people with whom they have had a positive experience. Ask what their experience was in dealing with the agent or broker. Was s/he responsive; was s/he able to answer questions clearly? If the person had to file a claim, was the agent or broker helpful?
Yelp, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media tools can help you gauge good service and quality businesses. These sites can be helpful, but a face-to-face with an agent or broker is one of the best ways of figuring out if they will take good care of you.
Your state insurance regulator’s website
Every state has an agency or that keeps track of insurance companies, agents and brokers doing business in the state.You’ll find your state’s insurance department website link in the State by State Assistance section of www.uphelp.org. Use your state insurance regulator to check an agent or broker’s license status, inquire about any complaints or disciplinary action, see how long the agent or broker has been in business, etc.
Commercial versus Personal
Agents and brokers generally specialize in either commercial or personal insurance – not both. Ask questions to make sure s/he has experience in the type of insurance you need.
If you have a unique situation or your property or business is considered high risk – you’ll want to find an agent or broker who has the expertise and connections to help you.
Personalized advice: A good agent or broker will be familiar with the products they’re selling and explain ways you can tailor your coverage to your specific needs, maximize protection and minimize cost. For example, a good agent will suggest ways you can adjust your coverage to take advantage of discounts (or credits) that insurers give for packaged policies.
Instinct and caution: Consumers occasionally get scammed by people posing as agents who advertise, offer a policy and collect a premium but don’t actually procure a valid insurance policy. Asking good questions, following your instincts and checking license status will help you avoid being scammed.
Your Home Inspector
Choose An Inspector With Top Qualifications
Buying a home will likely be the largest investment you will ever make. Consequently, it is very important to choose wisely when selecting your Home Inspector. Direct, "hands-on" experience in building is one of the most important criteria to look for. For instance, a house cannot be dismantled during an inspection, so it is important to have someone with the experience and background who doesn’t have to disassemble a wall to know what’s inside and how it’s put together. A house is made of many different components and systems that are all inter-related and are all supposed to work together. Many of these are hidden from view, and cannot be directly viewed. It is important to choose an inspector who has experience in home-building, from the ground up, and has been involved in the installation and layout of these systems.
Don’t be confused by Home Inspector "certifications" obtained through quick study courses (sometimes two weeks or less), or sold through trade organizations. It takes many years of experience and training to develop the necessary skills and insight needed to be a good Home Inspector.
Experience, Experience, Experience
Check into how long the Inspector has been in the business, and how many Home Inspections he has performed. There is no equivalent to experience!Do you really want someone inspecting your house who is doing this "part-time", or has only been performing inspections for a year or two?
Be Sure To Obtain A Written Report
Be sure that your Home Inspector provides a detailed written report, not a hand written checklist with stock responses that is given to you at the end of the inspection. A checklist can be difficult to interpret and to read, and may be void of many of the details and advice you need. A step up from this is a computer-generated report, which offers a combination of the checklist and a narrative reporting formats, and which includes specific comments to each home.
An Inspection Report should encompass three basic areas:
Overview – A detailed picture of the house on the day of the inspection, itemizing all the major components and their condition.
Maintenance Items – A listing of items in need of normal maintenance or attention. This list will allow you to be pro-active in your approach to home maintenance, and hopefully, minimize your risk of being blind-sided by an unexpected expense you could have been saving for, if you had known about it.
Major Repair Items – This is any defect with the potential to present a significant expense to you, in the near term. These items should be clearly identified, with estimated repair/replacement costs (if possible).
The Inspection and Report should give you the information that you, as the buyer, need to make an informed decision about your new purchase.
For more info on what you should expect during a Home Inspection, see What Is A Home Inspection?.
Professional Affiliations & Certifications
Be sure that the Inspector you retain has professional affiliations and certifications through nationally recognized organizations such as NAHI (National Association of Home Inspectors), ICBO (International Conference of Building Officials), EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), AARST (American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists), etc. This information will help to give you insight into the background, and depth of industry involvement of the Inspector you plan to hire.
What Type Of Equipment Will Be Used?
Many Home Inspectors bring nothing more to the Inspection than a flashlight. Today’s Home Inspector though, should be taking advantage of some of the newer technologies being introduced, and fully utilizing the best testing equipment available. This equipment is delicate and can be very expensive, but in order to stay on "the cutting edge" and provide the best service possible, it is a necessary investment. Proper equipment should range from the more sophisticated testing devices (electrical circuit analyzers, electronic carbon monoxide & fuel gas analyzers, digital moisture meters, digital cameras to document findings, etc.), all the way down to the more mundane but necessary equipment, such as ladders, flashlights, levels, etc.
Do you really want to go bargain hunting for the Inspector who will do the job for the least amount of money? -or- Is it important to hire the most qualified? Of course one should always try to be budget conscious, but when hiring a Home Inspector, you should always search for the most qualified and most experienced person you can find.