Growing up in a blue-collar home, I was taught to be respectful of - even a
little afraid of - bankers and real estate agents. They were right up there with
the police, lawyers and shamans - magical 'entities that could make you,. break
you or heal you. They held access to worlds that we common folk could only dream
had answers to mysteries that stymied the multitudes.
Real estate professionals, in particular, could lead you safely through dark
alleys that led to a potential new and safe domicile. With their blessing, you
could stave off any monsters you encountered along the way, monsters that had
names like mortgage rates, title search, structural defects and disclosure.
No wonder I was nervous about my first real meeting with my realtor Not only
didn't I know what to expect, I expected the worst. I was pretty sure the first
words out of his mouth were going to be something like, "Ha! How dare you think
any bank will even consider loaning you the kind of money you're going to need
to buy a home?" Then. he'd pick me up by the scruff of my neck and hurl me into
the gutter in front of his fancy office.
I decided to avoid this horrible scenario by inviting my newfound agent to my
house for coffee and dessert. I figured that way I'd be on my own turf and, like
a date which wasn't working out, I could always ask him to leave if things got
too hairy. As it turned out I needn't have bothered to go to all this trouble.
My realtor arrived on time and the session was ... well, it was a piece of cake.
Keeping in mind that realtors and brokers are qualified people who have strict
legal standards they must adhere to, there are three basic areas that you should
expect to cover on your first go-around. When you sit down with the agent, she
or he will be chatting and asking questions with the express purpose of
extracting important information from you. This information, though it may seem
terribly personal (and private, even) at the time is going to be very helpful to
you in the long run.
Here are the three basics that you'll see covered:
Transaction Review Expect a transaction review during which the agent clarifies
exactly what you can expect to happen over the next weeks or months. This may
include everything from a discussion about why you want to buy (or sell) a home
to some thoughts about termite inspections. Ask questions.
Your Finances: For many, this is probably the most difficult part. To determine
what you can actually afford, the agent is going to have to ask about your
financial situation. These are practical questions. For the most part, you will
require a good income, enough money to pay for closing costs, and good credit.
Even then, there will no point in looking at four-bedroom condos in Woodley Park
when practically speaking, you can only afford to buy an efficiency in Dupont
Circle. Be prepared by bringing as much information about
your finances as you can. One of your realtor's services to you is to help you
sort out your financial picture.
Brass Tacks: To begin filling in the final picture, you'll have to explain what
it is that you're looking for - what your dream place is going to be like. A
discussion of preferred neighborhoods, the amenities you'd like to have (How
critical is having a swimming pool? Will you absolutely need a dishwasher or
washer and dryer? Are you going to need parking and/or a garage? Do you
currently have a pet?)
By this time, taking into account all the information you've shared so far, the
agent will be as ready as ever to help you find the perfect home - well, as
perfect as possible once every variable is taken into account. You should leave
this meeting with a pretty good idea of what you can afford and in what
neighborhoods your agent should start looking.
When you leave the agent (or the agent leaves your home, if you took the coffee
and cake route) give yourself a pat on the back. You've managed to get through
what you thought would a dreadful experience. In reality, this first meeting is
just the beginning of an ongoing process. It was nothing to be afraid of and,
now that you're on the other side, you can give yourself credit for placing your
affairs in the hands of a professional. Call someone - a friend or loved one -
and share the news!