We know, buying or selling a home is a lot to take in. Like, a lot. We get all kinds of questions – seriously, nothing shocks us anymore – but we’ve answered some of the most common ones below. If these still leave you confused or curious, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
How early is too early to start looking?
It’s never too early! But seriously… If you’re just looking to window shop, get an understanding of the market, or feel out which types and sizes of homes are available in which area, then we say about a year ahead of time makes sense. It takes some time to really figure out what the best match is between your needs and what the market can offer, where, and at what price. In terms of actually starting the process in a more tangible manner, we generally say that at 6 months out you should start speaking with lenders and getting approved, establishing a more solidified budget, getting your finances in order, etc. Of course, we’re happy to do a buyer consultation with you as early as you like! But generally, if we meet a year ahead of time, we’ll revisit most of those bigger topics closer to your actual purchase date. Honestly, it’s one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll make in your life. Which is not to say “freak out!!” but you should take as much time as you need to make sure you’re comfortable when the time comes to actually take action.
Why does Zillow say my house is worth $X???
You’d be shocked how often we get this question, and we don’t blame you. Zillow is an incredibly popular tool, but accuracy is not its strong suit. Zillow values can be wildly inaccurate because it’s algorithm can’t take into account market trends, up and coming neighborhoods, community culture, or pretty much any other factors other than sales data from the area. If you’re looking in a big subdivision where every house is the same, then it might be pretty accurate. Other than that, it’s tough for Zillow to take more local factors into account. For example, just within the Fan District, the home values on Hanover and home values on Grove, just one street over, are incredibly different – a market preference that Zillow would never really be able to reflect properly. Plus, it’s not uncommon for houses to be advertised on Zillow that have already sold, sometimes years before.
That being said, if you proceed with caution and use it solely as a window shopping tool, it can be very helpful to get a sense of what types of homes are in which neighborhoods, the seasonality of pricing and inventory, what features you may or may not want, etc. So go ahead and use it (it’s fun and convenient, we get it!), just don’t run too far with the numbers it might give you.
Foreclosures – good idea or bad?
Of course we’ll preface by saying that everyone’s situation is different. There are some people for whom a foreclosure can prove to be an great financial investment. But often what buyers find is that the recent trendiness of foreclosures causes bidding wars that drive up prices to a premium. The appeal of a fixer-upper is only strengthened by the popularity of HGTV shows like Property Brothers and Flip or Flop, which make home buyers feel that renovating a home is always cheap and always pays off in the end. The effect of this? The market for foreclosures has become so hyper competitive that prices are bid through the roof, causing people to pay high values for a low quality product that they then have to invest additional money into renovating. Again, it depends on the time constraints of the buyers, their experience with renovations and “flipping”, and the bidding environment surrounding the home, but generally it’s best to just spend the extra $5,000 – $15,000 on a home that doesn’t require the financial or time investment of renovating.
How do I know if I’m paying too much for a home?
Richmond is experiencing incredibly low inventory right now, which means that our clients often feel pressured to pay more than they might otherwise be willing just to secure a winning bid on a house. It’s tough, especially when you’re in a rush to buy or aren’t sure if something similar will become available anytime soon. While it’s our job to act in whatever way you’d like us to, we pride ourselves on keeping clients in check when it comes to bidding for homes and potentially reaching deeper in their pockets than they’d originally planned. It’s important to establish both what you’re looking for in a home, as well as how much you’re willing to pay before you begin looking to avoid making a heated decision and overpaying. Advocating for you is our number one goal, and we will always offer our professional opinion if we feel that a bidding war has taken the price above what our client is comfortable with or what we feel the home is truly worth.
How are the schools in this area?
For our clients with kiddos, schools almost always come up. And rightfully so – it’s an important decision! Every time we get a question about the quality of the schools in a particular neighborhood, we always encourage our clients to do some research on their own. Each family and child is different, and what someone thinks is a great school might not be viewed as such to the next person. It’s a unique decision that must be made according to the needs and expectations of each individual client and what they want for their children. There are tons of great resources, such as GreatSchools.org, that serve as awesome resources for our clients.
How safe is this neighborhood?
Much like the schools question, we encourage our clients to do some investigating on their own. Of course everyone you talk to will have their own opinions on the matter (and they probably won’t all be the same!), but the only way to know how comfortable or safe you’ll feel in a particular neighborhood is to do some exploring. It’s not uncommon for us to take clients door to door meeting neighbors, or if that’s not your style, we encourage you to just walk around, hang out at the local park, or check out the nearby restaurants to get a feel for the area. Want to dive a little deeper? There are some great crime statistics resources online or you can chat with someone at the local precinct if you feel that you still need more information.
What are the main steps in the process and what should I be prepared for as a first time home-buyer?
This one is a little tough to answer in this format. Generally, we like to sit down with people and spend about 45 minutes to an hour just going through each step along the process, what they can expect, what curve balls to be prepared for, etc. We’re currently working on getting this step by step process up on our site, but for now, we encourage you to reach out to us if you’d like to know what the home buying process looks like in detail, from day one to closing. While every transaction is different, knowing what to expect can save you from a lot of stress and confusion along the road.