This was originally published on Monday, January 18, 2016, in the Pacific Daily News. Click here to subscribe to the PDN.
Whether it is your first home or you are a seasoned home buyer, you need to have an agent or realtor with whom you can trust and feel comfortable. Of course you can go online and look for available properties and call the seller’s agent, but their priority is the seller’s interest. That interest is selling the home for top dollar. This conflicts with what you want, which is getting the best value for your dollar.
When choosing an agent, find someone who is familiar with home trends, understands your needs/wants and is readily available. The agent should be flexible to show you houses when you are available. You may want to ask friends and family about their agents and their recommendations or precautions.
Most agents will ask you to sign an exclusivity contract. This is very normal. The contract protects the agent who should work tirelessly for you. It would not be fair if they put hours of hard work into finding you a home, and you leave for someone else. Some of these contacts can be as long as ninety days and as short as thirty days. Decide on a length that you are comfortable with. Maybe start off with a thirty-day agreement and work your way up. By taking the shorter contract you are not committed to paying someone who completely misses the mark. Some agents can represent both the seller and the buyer. Be careful, that could put all parties involved in situations that most would like to avoid. Your agent should be pleasant but a good negotiator of your interests. If your agent helps close on a house, the seller usually pays your agents fees.
Now that you have an agent, list exactly what it is that you want in your home. Be realistic. Unless you are building the home from the floor to the ceiling, not every house will have exactly what you want. Your agent should be honest with you and let you know if those expectations are within your budget. Your agent will start looking at homes that fit your demands. Of course you are more than welcome to search as well. Today’s access to the Internet gives you the opportunity to look as well. Get online and search “Guam MLS.” The MLS is the multiple listing services. Many major real estate companies will have a link to it on their website.
To make your search easier, the MLS has questions to refine your search. You can choose your location, price range, number of bedrooms and bathrooms and even special amenities such as a view of the ocean or on a golf course. Choose as many filters as you like and the website will show you what is available. Take note that too many filters can reduce the number of available homes to you. Many of the homes have pictures and video of the property. If you see something that you like, let your agent know.
Once you decide to look at a home, your agent will arrange a time to meet with you. Do take into consideration that not all homes that are for sale are vacant. Many of them have the sellers still living in them and you may have to work around their schedules as well.
Once inside try to keep an open mind. Don’t judge the house by the furniture in it. It is almost certain that you and the current owner do not have the same taste.
Take a look at the flow and functionality of the home. Imagine your furniture, wall colors and your family living in the home. Do not harp on the little things. Many of those can be included in the selling negation if you decide to buy it. Be sure to ask questions. Does it have a septic tank or is the house hooked up to the sewage system? Have any major renovations taken place? If so, ask why. Does the home have extra fees like monthly common area fees? By looking at many different homes you may decide that what you wanted in the beginning may have changed. Be sure to tell your agent.
Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at http://www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.