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    Tell me how this “buying a home” thing works! A Guide

    You can’t find a rental you want to call home.  The property management companies won’t let you have your two large dogs.  Rental prices are SKY HIGH.  You need more space.  There is a six week waitlist for on post housing.  Or maybe you owned your home at your last duty station, and find it hard to enter back into the world of renting.  Whatever your circumstances may be, have you considered buying a home?

    Ahhh!  Buying a home?!  Scary!  Too much!  What if we have to move?!  So how does this “buying a home” thing work anyways?

    Find a realtor.  Lucky for you, we don’t have to go over this part, because you found The Group!  Just kidding!  I will give you the nitty gritty anyways, because informed consumers stimulate the housing market, which in turn stimulates our economy, and even if you don’t choose us as your super duper, most awesome real estate team in Clarksville, we still want you to have a fortuitous real estate experience.

    So, find a realtor that you can communicate with easily.  Find one who will answer your phone calls, or return them at least.  Someone who will encourage you to ask questions and not rush you.  Someone who is enthusiastic about their work and is confident with the process.  Find a realtor who explains things to you, even if they have to do it over and over again until you understand completely.

    Do not drive around or search online, find a pretty home, and call the number on the sign.  The agent on the sign is the listing agent and works on behalf of the seller.  You see, with any real estate transaction, there are two sides; the selling side, and the buying side.  You want to find someone to represent you and your best interests!  There will be an Exclusive Buyer’s Representation Agreement – aka what we call a Loyalty Agreement – which says that you agree to work with your realtor for a certain, mutually agreed upon, amount of time.  If you decide you do not like your realtor, once you have signed this agreement… if you go out and do the deal on your own… you may still be responsible for paying your realtor a commission, even if you did all the work on the side.  Make sure it is a good fit before you sign.  Read the fine print and remember that everything is negotiable until it is in writing!

    One more word to the wise;  just because someone says they have been doing real estate for 15 years does not mean they are the best fit.  Sure experience is important!  They need to know the ropes, and understand the market.  But you also want someone who is eager, enthusiastic, and up to date with the market.  They need to be up to speed with the latest technology, social media, and community in general.  How cool is to find a realtor that utilizes text messaging, or Facebook?  Yeahhhhh, come on out of the stone ages!!  The Group sells over 150 homes each year and the average agent according to the National Association of Realtors sells approximately 10 homes A YEAR!  We are good at what we do.

    Find a lender.  They don’t bite, I promise!  The amazing realtor that you choose will help you with this.  We have the inside scoop.  Consider a local lender who has a good working relationship with your realtor.  Sometimes large banking institutions that are not housed locally can be difficult to communicate with.  In turn, document production is slow, return calls may be slow, and your closing can ultimately be delayed.   Not to mention someone could buy your chosen home while you are waiting for a response. Your local lenders want your business, because they may see you again.  The face to face contact is important in this day of virtual everything.

    Your lender will be able to tell you what sort of loan you qualify for and which one may fit your personal circumstances the best.  Just because your friend Johnny Joe got a loan for a $150,000 home and pays $1500 each month in mortgage does not mean you will!  There are several options and many individual factors that come into play!    They will tell you what the interest rates are and what you should expect to pay each month in mortgage.  You may qualify for more than you expect.  The lender will tell you what your buying power is, so that you are fully aware of what range to look in.  And one really important thing to remember is that you are not bound to them because you have inquired about getting a home loan.  There is no hidden umbilical cord by finding out what you are qualified for, so never fear!

    If you happen to be planning to use a VA loan, you do not have to navigate the process on your own!  Talk to us, and your lender, and we will walk you through step-by-step.  There are a lot of rumors surrounding the VA loan process, so do not fall into that trap.  Your lender will help you to get your VA certificate, and your realtor will guide you the whole way.

    Happy home hunting!

    This is the fun, and sometimes a bit overwhelming part!  Your search begins.  It is a good idea to take just a couple of pictures and brief notes at each home you visit.  Remember, you can always go back and see it again!  It may also be beneficial to limit your viewings to six (at the most) per day.  Over time, they will begin to blend together, you may get frustrated and tired, and that doesn’t do anyone any good.

    It is customary (and just a polite thing to do) to arrange a time block with your realtor and stick to it.  Realtors work long hours with multiple clients at a time.  We do not get paid for any of our work until the closing occurs.  We want to help you find the home that you love, but it does take time and planning.  Sometimes we have multiple appointments arranged in a day or over a weekend.  There are times when we go a month or more with no days off.  Just like you will be able to settle into your new home, take a deep breath, and relax, it is important for us to have time to rest between clients as well.  That way we come back to you alert, refreshed, and able to give you the best of service!

    If you are searching from a distance, and are comfortable putting a sight-unseen offer in, some realtors may be willing to go out to homes, take additional pictures and do video tours.  The advantage to doing this is that you may have a home to walk into when you arrive in town, but it does take a lot of trust in the realtor you have chosen!  This is something you may want to ask in the beginning during your realtor search.  If you are not comfortable putting an offer in long distance, then it really is not beneficial to do more pictures or video tours because you will likely want to see the property for yourself before writing an offer anyways.

    Make an offer.  Real estate is different from state to state, and even from town to town.  This is where your super-sonic-realtor-choosing-ability is of the utmost importance.  You must be able to trust them, their knowledge of the area, and their experience with real estate.  Your aunt who had her real estate license 10 years ago in Anchorage, Alaska, may not know the recent Clarksville, Tennessee market.  Your brother who has investment properties in Killeen, Texas may not be able to advise you on a residential sale in Oak Grove, Kentucky.  Realtors are trained in real estate law as well as contracts for the particular state they are licensed in.  That is why each state requires a real estate professional to follow the particular state’s licensing procedures in order to practice.  Your realtor will also be familiar with the averages and past real estate transactions in the area.  So trust your realtor to make an offer based on what you desire.  Your realtor will want to explain each document to you, and then you will have an opportunity to review everything before it is submitted.

    This is a bargaining process which is something that may feel unnatural to you.  We don’t normally go to the grocery store and say, “I’ll give you $4 for that $5 bag of apples.”  The grocer will look at you like you are crazy, and certainly would never think of responding back with, “I can’t take $4, but let’s compromise with $4.50!”  Sold!  But that is how the real estate market works.  It is a give and take.  Almost everything is negotiable for the right price.  You want that privacy fence around your new construction home?  Ask for it!  Are you absolutely not willing to buy a home that does not have blinds installed?  Then ask for them!  The worst they can say is “no”, and then you can decide if it is a deal breaker or not.  However, there is often an unspoken etiquette.  You probably will not get a builder to come $10,000 off of the list price of his new construction home.  If you are asking for all repairs, and coming in with an offer that is 10% under, do not expect for the seller not to counter back.  A good listing agent (their representative) would never advise either sellers to accept that sort of offer.  If you have any questions or desires, ask about them and then ultimately the offer is yours to make!  No part of the offer is binding until it has been accepted by both parties.

    Contract to close.  Take a deep breath, sit back and relax!  This is where all of the behind the scenes work will take place between your lender and realtor.  Remember above when we talked about a local lender who has a good business relationship with your realtor?  This is where that part is so very important.  There are many time sensitive parts of a real estate contract.  How long do you have to get your home inspection done?  When will the appraisal be ordered?  How long do you have to come to an agreement with the seller about repairs that need to be made?  Who will order and pay for the Home Warranty?  Your realtor will help to keep everything and everybody on track for the big day… You walk into that quiet office with the big, long, shiny oak table.  The moment that has caused such excitement, and so many anxieties at the same time.  The big moment of…

    Closing.  This is the day you have waited for since you first decided that you would take the leap and buy a home.  It may take about an hour (sometimes more and sometimes less), and the closing agent will walk you through each document step by step.  They will want to make sure that you understand everything and are entering into the agreements of your own free will.  They will ensure that the estimates you were given in the beginning are close to the final amounts.  Then you will sign about 5,000 pieces of paper… ok, maybe not that many, but there are a lot!  If you are signing by Power of Attorney, bring an ice pack for your hand!  I’m only kidding, but tell your partner they owe you big time!  And then the contract is closed, you accept the property as it is currently, and your realtor will hand you the keys to your new home!

    Congratulations!  Not only will you save money over time, but you will be able to take pride in joining the ranks of the 60-something percent of Americans who currently own their homes.

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