Mary O'Brien's Blog
Too busy to buy that second home in Myrtle Beach? No time to fly down and walk through multiple properties to find the one that's right for your family? No problem. You, too, can enjoy the dream of homeownership when you buy your next property remotely.
What Is Remote Home Buying?
When you buy a home remotely, someone else takes care of the specifics. Your main responsibilities are communicating your wants and needs to an on-site real estate agent, paying for the home and being available to sign the finalizing documents digitally. Because of this, buying a home that's located one state or half-a-world away is entirely feasible in today's real estate market.
Who Handles a Remote-Home-Buying Transaction?
You'll work with a real estate agent when buying a home through remote means. This is similar to any other home-buying venture. In a remote transaction, however, it's vital to have an agent whom you trust completely and with whom you have excellent communication. Your agent should be local to the area where you're buying your new home, and they should be an expert on the neighborhood. You'll communicate via phone, email or internet with your agent and will likely use an e-sign process, followed up by signed hard copies, when it's time to finalize.
How Do I Pay for a Home I've Bought Remotely?
Typically, you'll pay for a home you've purchased remotely by wiring the amount needed to close. Most people can't afford to buy a home using cash, but you'll likely need at least a down payment and other costs up front.
How Will I Know the Home Is a Good Deal?
The real estate agent with whom you're working will view the home, be present at inspections in your stead, and do their part to ensure that the home you're buying is viable. They will be able to advise you on comparable prices in the neighborhood to give you an idea of whether the price you're paying is reasonable.
Why Would I Want to Buy a Home Remotely?
Most people who buy homes remotely do so because they're too busy or live too far away to buy the home in a traditional way. There's little risk involved as long as you use a licensed real estate agent who's experienced in remote-home sales.
It's good to remember that once you own a remote property, there's no backing out. It's vital to make sure you're buying a home that's well suited to you and your family. This is where your choice of real estate agent becomes vital in helping you choose the location of your home, the size, layout and community in which it's located.
When you start looking for your dream home, you need to know how much mortgage you will qualify for. Your real estate agent might ask you to get a pre-qualification letter. However, just because you are pre-qualified doesn’t mean that you will get the loan. You need a pre-approval for that, and even then, the mortgage company might not approve your application.
A pre-qualification letter just tells you how much loan you can afford. The lender does not check your credit, your debt-to-income ratio or other factors before issuing a pre-qualification letter. Additionally, a pre-qualification letter is dependent on the information you provide to the lender. The pre-qualification essentially gives you an estimate of how much home you are able to afford so that you do not look at homes that are not within your range.
To get a pre-qualification, you supply the lender with your assets, debt and income. Because the lender bases its decision on the information you provide, rather than information from outside sources, a pre-qualification is not a guarantee that you will get the loan.
Getting pre-approved for a loan usually takes longer than getting pre-qualified. The lender pulls your credit report and might ask for additional documents, including tax records and bank statements. To get pre-approved, you must complete a loan application and provide your social security number. The lender might charge an application fee for a pre-approval.
With a pre-approval, you will have a closer interest rate assessment, that is usually not finalized until the loan goes through underwriting. Once the lender pre-approves you, it will send you a conditional commitment for the loan amount. You can look for homes at or below that price.
In a market when buyers bid against each other – a seller’s market – having a pre-approval letter might give you a step up with the seller, who will more likely choose an offer by someone more likely to get the loan. Thus, if you and someone else submit a bid on your dream home, but the other person only has a pre-qualification letter, the seller might accept your offer, even if it is not as good as the other buyer’s offer, simply because you are more likely to get the mortgage.
For a pre-approval, you will need to:
Complete the lender’s mortgage application;
Possibly pay an application fee;
Supply your social security number and allow the lender to pull your credit;
Provide financial information to help the lender make a decision; and
Tell the lender how much you plan to put up as a down payment.
After you are pre-approved and the seller accepts your offer, you will then have to provide the rest of the documentation to the lender, including the accepted offer, bank statements, retirement account statements, taxes for up to two years, proof of income and other documents that will help the lender come to a concrete decision.
Where do you start when you first consider purchasing a home? Buyers who are new to the real estate market may not know exactly what they want in a house or where they want to live. While the dream homes found online, in magazines, and on your favorite television show are great resources for design and style, visiting open house events will help you to hone in on features that will best serve your household.
When visiting open houses, follow these tips to make the most of your time:
Allow plenty of time for each house on your list. If the home appeals to you, take a few moments afterward to drive or walk around the neighborhood.
Create a list of must-haves’, likes, and dislikes to help you evaluate each property. Add ideas that appeal to you during each open house experience.
Sign in when you arrive but let the hosting agent know if you’ve already selected a real estate agent.
Dress comfortably. You might climb stairs, descend into basements, visit attics, or walk from house to house in the neighborhood so be sure to wear appropriate clothing and shoes.
As you tour, create a list of questions for your real estate agent to address with the selling agent if you plan to submit an offer.
Do not peek into closets, cupboards, pantries, or drawers if the hosting agent indicates are off-limits. Your agent can arrange an in-depth viewing if you’re the property is one you’d like to pursue.
Take note if you smell deodorizers and air fresheners. They could be masking pet odors or could indicate something more serious. If you’re interested in making an offer, ask your agent for help identifying the source before moving forward.
Respect the seller's privacy by not taking photos without the host’s permission.
Questions related to making an offer and other negotiations should be funneled through your real estate agent. If you’re interested in the property, ask your agent to arrange a follow-up viewing. Make a list of all your questions and follow up with your agent as soon as possible especially if you want to make an offer on the property.
Buying a home is a very detail-oriented process, and there's a lot of important things you can overlook if you're not organized.
Home buyers generally have the opportunity to do a last-minute inspection of the premises to make sure everything's up to standards prior to closing on the property.
A real estate buyer's agent can accompany you on the final inspection or provide you with advice on what to look for.
If you've already visited the home a couple times and had the house professionally inspected, you're probably well-acquainted with any major malfunctions, flaws, or repair issues. In many cases, home buyers may reach an agreement with the seller to fix, replace, or make allowances for mechanical or cosmetic problems. While real estate negotiations and sales agreements are as varied as the people and properties involved, there are typically dozens of things buyers need to check on before they sign the final documents and accept ownership of the property.
Final Walkthrough Tips
As you're doing the final walk-through of the house, it's necessary to remember or have notes on the condition of the home when you last looked at it. You'll also want to have a clear idea of what appliances, fixtures, and window treatments are supposed to be remain in the house after it's been vacated by the seller. Depending on how close your final walk-through is to the actual closing, that has probably already happened.
If there's anything missing that the seller agreed to include in the sale, then that's an issue you'll want to discuss with your real estate agent or attorney. Any property damage that may have resulted from moving furniture and other belongings should also be discussed before final papers are signed. The same thing would apply to landscaping changes that appear to be inconsistent with the sales agreement. Your buyer's agent and/or lawyer can serve as intermediary in getting these issues clarified and ironed out.
To make sure your final inspection is thorough, it's a good idea to have a "final walk-through checklist" to help keep you organized and focused. You'll want to take a last-minute inventory of items that are supposed to be included with the property sale, such as appliances, lighting fixtures, furnishings, window treatments, children's play structures, hot tubs, and anything else that was agreed to in the sales contract.
Other items you'll need access to may include garage door openers, manuals for appliances and mechanical systems, warranties, invoices for repairs made, and remote control devices for things like ceiling fans, alarms, and other systems.
Your checklist and final walkthrough should focus on a variety of items, including the working condition of appliances, the electrical system, plumbing fixtures, and the condition of walls, floors, ceilings, doors, windows, and landscaping features. For a complete checklist, look online or consult your real estate agent.
Real estate agents sell homes -- but the agent you choose should offer you a comprehensive lineup of services and assistance. If your agent is just a "set it and forget it" seller, you're missing out on the level of service you deserve. Ask any prospective agent about what they have to offer, and compare it to the list below to ensure you are in good hands.
Present the Home Accurately & Well
From the language used to describe your home in listings to the photographs and level of detail attached to the listing, your agent needs to be able to create a compelling listing package that appeals to the right buyers. Simply grabbing a few pictures and picking a price is not enough; they should be able to fully relay how amazing your property is. If they do not have the right approach to listing and presentation, all the marketing in the world won't help. Your agent should also properly qualify buyers -- so you don't end up with a steady stream of visitors, but no actual offers.
Have a Robust Marketing Plan
Marketing means more than just listing the home and putting up a sign; your home should actively appear in listings online and in print. You should see your home on the agent's website and in their social media feeds. Open houses, agent viewings and other events should be part of the plan. If your prospective agent can't tell you how they'll market your home, they may not have a plan at all.
Deliver Bad News
If you're a buyer, your buyer's agent should let the sellers know what issues are preventing you from making an offer, or why you've chosen the figure you have. If you're selling, your agent needs to be able to let you know the things you should change before you list -- or fill you in on agent and buyer reactions to your home. If they can't communicate these details, then you might miss out.
Negotiate on Your Behalf
Your agent needs to be able to negotiate with other professional agents to arrive at a fair price for your home, whether you are the buyer or the seller. Unless your agent is a skilled negotiator, you could come out with less money for your home -- or overpay for a new property. Two skilled agents working together can come up with a solution that works for everyone and ensure you have a seamless transaction.
Listen to Your Concerns
Your agent should fully understand the factors that matter to you most, whether you are buying or selling. From the bottom line amount you have to get from your home to the safeguarding of your pets when the home is shown your agent should listen to you and answer your questions fully. If you don't feel like you are being heard or the agent isn't responding to your needs, you likely need a better match.
Understanding the roles your agent can play and what they should offer you can help you evaluate a REALTOR® and ensure you find your perfect match. You'll be working together for a while, so taking the time to find an agent who cares and delivers will have a huge impact on your home selling or buying experience.