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Bethesda Real Estate

by Josette Skilling, Associate Broker

By Josette Skilling | Agent in Bethesda, MD

How Buyers Can Be Successful

  1. Learn about  the hyperlocal market: There is a glut of information out there but still a great need to distill that into something usable for the local area. No such thing as a national market exists… Most buyers believe what they hear to their detriment and it’s my job to help them cull through the good, the bad and the ugly and figure out a strategy to get a house. It is my job to educate them on the true local market conditions in their target area.  Educating people on what average days on market, list to sale ratios and the amount of inventory will mean to them for that segment of real estate they are considering helps them understand the pricing trends locally. For example if a buyer is looking for homes for sale in Bethesda, we need to focus on the zip code they are considering and then right down into the neighborhood. Too many people pass up an opportunity because they are afraid of making a mistake but a good buyer’s agent will help them understand what the data is telling them about the market. 
  2. Learn about agency and its implications: Very few people understand what agency means to them and what they give up by not fully comprehending the value. A listing agent’s legal responsibility is to put the seller’s interest ahead of their own and to promote and protect the seller’s interest. A buyer’s goal generally is to get the best deal possible and have their interests protected. A listing agent in Maryland represents the seller only and will never be legally able to advise the buyer. We may have one client only. But time and again I see buyers giving away valuable information to a listing agent, whose legal responsibility it is to use that information against them at every turn to get a better deal for the seller. Level the playing field and give yourself an advantage as a buyer with good representation whose legal responsibility it is to put your interests above their own and to protect and promote your interests. Don’t call listing agents in Bethesda or anywhere else to set up showings.  Always make sure your buyer agent is with you. And as I tell all my buyer clients, don’t ever talk to listing agents about your needs. Ever.
  3. Learn how to search for homes: The vast majority of buyers start the process on the Internet. I happen to believe it’s a good thing for buyers to be able to see the breadth of inventory (or lack thereof) in any given market so they can make good decisions about areas in which they’d like to live. If you use my website, Homesdatabase or one of the big brokerage’s websites you’ll find ALL available properties listed there. No need to go from site to site searching for homes – you might like some of the data the other sites give you but the home search info will be the same. Generally I advise people to drive the area they are thinking about. Where are the amenities they’ll be using in relation to the house? Schools, grocery stores, work, transit, gyms, restaurants, etc. On paper a house can be much different than in the actual neighborhood so figure that out first and then use the on line tools to figure out what is available there. The Census site is good for some demographic info, you might find crime info from the local police stations, you can check Meghan’s Law websites to figure out if there are pedophiles in the target area, but in the end the only MLS site you’ll need to search is an active MLS listings site. ALL the listings will be there so you don’t have to worry you’ll miss something that’s listed as you search on multiple sites.
  4. Learn about Realtor compensation: It’s always hard to talk about payment but this is a crucial discussion. While it’s true the seller has offered compensation from the funds at the close of the transaction, it is still a buyer who is bringing those funds. If as a buyer you are bringing funds, you should have strong representation which assures those funds are well spent. The compensation offered by a seller is negotiated at the time of signing a listing agreement with his/her agent. The listing agent should have given a very thorough review of the market to the seller so they can make a good decision about how to price and to offer a competitive compensation to all buyer agents. It’s this cooperative agreement to pay a buyer’s agent that drives so much of the rest of the process.
  5. Learn about the loan process: Most buyers that have never purchased a home do not understand how the loan process works.  It is imperative that you find someone you trust who can help you make decisions about your financing and who can educate you about the proper product for your needs. The documentation and disclosures are incredibly complex so you need to be able to ask questions that get you good answers not evasive responses designed to fool you. A lot of money at stake can bring out the worst in people so you want to be assured your lender is making a living but not a killing off of you. Compare your good faith estimates you receive and ensure they contain the same items. Ask about overages or yield spread and see how that compensation for the lender will affect your rate. Ask what par is and how you can get it. Have your credit info ready to give to the lender as you shop around but don’t have all of them pull it until you are ready to commit.
  6. Learn about the contract you will sign: Most buyers do not understand our contracts. Therefore it’s really critical to go over the documentation once before buyers plan to use it so we’ve gone over some of the questions and contingency scenarios and buyers are familiar enough with the process to go forward. With an average of 50 pages there is a lot to work through!
  7. Learn about the value of a home inspection: Most buyers do not understand that the home inspection is a contingency to the contract and is for their protection. While sellers may not like having inspections done, the market reality right now is that they are the norm. The contract states clearly that there are items considered required to be in working order and those must be fixed. But an entire gray area exists for “wish list” items that can open up an additional round of price negotiations. Some buyers consider this a wise tactic but it should be thought through carefully so buyers understand the implications. Far too often contracts fail on home inspection negotiations because the proper expectations were not set in the beginning.
  8. Learn about the contingencies and negotiation process: Most buyers do not know how to negotiate and look to us to help them. Especially first time homebuyers are unaware with how the process works and don’t understand the market as most real estate professionals do. It’s critical to understand the local area so that an offer won’t be dismissed out of hand and to learn that each home will have to be researched to ensure the proper offer is crafted. In multiple offer situations buyers need a good advocate who understands what questions to ask and how to prepare the buyer to make a good decision. In too many cases, buyers tend to think it’s all generic but in fact each neighborhood is different, each seller is different and each negotiation process will be different. Most buyers do not understand pricing trends in neighborhoods nor do they understand that offering the wrong amount on a home can hurt them and not help them reach their goals. Appraisal, home sale, financing, home inspection contingencies each create a different scenario in the offer and it’s best to talk through each step so buyers understand the implication of their actions. While a buyer make the final decision, but it is my job to guide them by education and professional advice.
  9. Learn about settlement: Most buyers do not understand why a final walk through is necessary. I have found many issues with a property at the time of a final walk through that did not exist when the offer was made though our contract stipulates that the property will be in “substantially the same condition”  Or, items were missing from the property that should have stayed in the home, such as a refrigerator. Moreover, items were left at the property that did not belong, such as paint cans, or furniture and debris. This last assessment of the property is done before settlement, better a day or so before to have enough time to react to any defects that may be found.

This list just begins to discuss the amount of education a buyer needs to get in order to make a good decision about the home purchase. If you plan to buy a home in Bethesda or want to know about homes sold in Bethesda, I’m always happy to spend time going through the process. Generally we need to budget a couple of hours for this initial discussion and more will follow when a property is identified. All time well spent when you get into the home of your dreams!

To find that home, you can search here...

Josette Skilling
Associate Broker
Solving Your Real Estate Puzzle
Keller Williams Capital Properties
301-385-9213 (cell)
202-243-7700  (office)


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