Note: This is the third of a multi-part series about buying a house. Read Part 1 and Part 2 before this post.
If you decided to use a real estate agent, you can skip this post.
Ok, if you’re still reading, let’s get to the real work of purchasing a house. First off, let’s figure out how much you can save by not using an agent, so you can decide if the extra work is worth your time. When you buy a house, 5 – 6% of the purchase price goes to the real estate agents involved, and it’s typically divided in half. So you can plan on saving an extra 2.5 – 3% by doing this work yourself.
So, now that you’ve determined if it’s worth your time, let’s do some work! Now that you’ve hopefully stepped foot in quite a few houses, you should have a good idea of the build quality and features of the house you’re planning to purchase compared to others in the same price range. Using that knowledge, take a look at the houses that have sold in the past 6 months that fit in that range on sites like zillow.com and trulia.com. At first, try to pull in properties just within the same subdivision. If you can’t find enough to compare it to (I try for 5-7), expand out to surrounding subdivisions that might have a similar resale value as the neighborhood in which you’re looking.
Once you find a few houses that fit the same criteria, look at the price the house sold. Then look at all the features between that house and the one you are going to be making an offer on. This is where the magic of a real estate agent comes in. You need to be able to figure out how much money you can attach to different items within both the house you’re looking at and the one you’re comparing it to.
For instance, if you see that a house you’re comparing has an updated kitchen, and it looks like they used middle-of-the-road products to redo it, you’ll need to know if that was a $5,000 difference or a $15,000 difference. Once you can determine that, you’ll need to subtract from that amount off the sale price of that house to determine what that feature should bring in the house you’re looking at. If the house you’re looking at had the upgrade, add it to the sale price of your comp. Do this for all the important features, such as kitchen and bathroom remodels, basement additions, one or two or three car (or none) garages, decks (both covered and uncovered), square footage, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.
Once you feel that you’ve got all the major differences between the two houses down, you can add/subtract the numbers from that comp to determine what the house you’re looking at should be priced at. Do this for 5-7 houses, and you’ll come up with 5-7 different prices for your offer. Average that amount, take off the 2.5 – 3% for the real estate agent, and you have what you should pay for that house.
When making the offer, work with the seller’s real estate agent. Tell them that you want to work directly with them, and that you want the buyer’s agent’s commission taken right off the price of the house. Knowing what you should be paying for the house based on your research, make an offer that’s lower than that. The price should be based on whatever strategy you want to do. You should be able to feel out the buyer’s agent to give you an idea of how much flexibility you have. You can offer something much lower than your magic price, but I wouldn’t recommend paying more than that price. You can always find another house. Don’t overbid!
Hopefully you can get to a price you can both agree on. At that point, you can follow the advice of the seller’s agent for all the closing documents. If that’s the case, congratulations! You just got your offer accepted. But you’re not done with the process of buying a house just yet.
Now that you will be signing a contract, you’ll want to get an inspector to look over the home and make sure there’s nothing major you’ll need to do to it. Lots of things could be wrong with the house that you won’t find out until after you live there for a while. Always get a home inspection done! I’ll cover that and more in Part 4. Stay tuned!