Saturday, February 16, 2013

Investing in A Home

Buying a home is usually the largest expenditure (or shall we call it an investment) any of us ever makes.  Spending that kind of money almost always comes with second thoughts, particularly if it’s your first home. And there are some hazards of home buying that are totally unavoidable. I always try to help buyers with their concerns. I would guess that the average agent holds the hand of a buyer maybe hundreds of times throughout their career.

You may have heard the term “Buyer’s Remorse”.  I like to tell both buyers and sellers that they may experience remorse once their “deal” is written and the offer is made and accepted.  And yes there is “Seller’s Remorse” too, but the truth is, both parties will probably spend that evening riddled with remorse: the buyers think the accepted offer means they could have gotten the place for less, and the sellers think it means they could have demanded more!

Even after showing the homes that I think will work best for my clients, they still sometimes are attracted by some glitter seen in a water front home or a golf course property, and later rue the day they closed on that particular home, maybe for years and years to come. I had a buyer once who saw a worn out waterfront home with a barn and paddock—after he saw it, he could not focus on anything else.  He had to have it, even though the home was not functional for his family. Apparently it represented all the things he had always wanted to show off. Unfortunately the purchase price plus the repairs caused him to over extend himself financially and he ended up in mortgage distress.

Clearly, the decision-as to what house makes the most sense for a family is the buyer’s.  But as an agent I can and do make suggestions—and sometimes even argue. Probably the most important suggestion I ever make is that the buyers hire a home inspector. House condition surprises are only avoidable if you have inspections. And while the inspector may find many things to report to the buyer, the idea is that sooner or later the homebuyer would find these things out for himself, so before he buys is a better time than after.

When I am trying to find the perfect home for a client, I have long used a visualization exercise. I like to ask them to close their eyes and tell me what the perfect house would be. And to tell me what their favorite rooms were in the homes or apartments they have lived in. Sometimes I try to get their minds’ eye on topics like how long will the family likely live in the new home.  Or what is important to them in terms of neighborhoods and schools? Do they want to walk to shopping. What sorts of things are appealing to the family, both inside and outside of the home, for work, school, play and their downtime. County water and sewer may or may not be available. How close are they to retirement? (These points seem personal, but so is a home, and more to the point, what home amenities they will need). Naturally I ask about the desired number of beds, baths, square feet desired in the next home. 

American clients don’t have a good feel for the size of a home expressed in square feet.  They are more from the school of, “I’ll know it when I see it.”  Whereas, Canadians and European buyers seem to know exactly how big a home they want and can quote you the exact number of square feet, “I want a home that is 1800 square feet,” they’ll say.

Some buyers fail or choose not to read disclosures, inspections, loan documents and such. These are the buyers who tend to end up really, really upset at a later stage of the deal. Some buyers are so unused to these sorts of transactions that the mere sight of all those papers and zeros makes their eyes glaze over. Other times, there are buyers who have done so many major transactions in their work or their lives that they’ve gotten casual, with the details.

I try to summarize the documents which I know are important and encourage them to ask questions. The prospect of trying to read and catch mistakes in a pile of docs at the closing table can be daunting.  When the closing is hanging in the balance and all the excitement and expectations of the family—and maybe the moving truck is parked just outside--is one of the most common reasons buyers cite for not reading and understanding their papers.

I’ve had buyers proudly arrive at the closing in a brand new car, and then be told (by phone) by their lender that since they bought a new car their credit no longer qualifies them for the mortgage. I always tell my buyers not to make any expenditures (no new furniture, no new cars or boats) until AFTER athe closing.

Some of my best buyers have early on disregarded my advice, only to lose a house to another buyer or a mortgage to a dumb financial move. But then, once they see that good advice and timing will help them, these are the folks who can turn out to be my best clients, especially when the market has proven me right!

Dane Hahn is a real estate professional serving Sarasota and Charlotte counties. You can reach him at 941-681-0312 or via email at See him on the web at

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