The best time of the year to be a home buyer is fast approaching. “When is that time?” you ask. Specifically, it begins on Thanksgiving Day and extends through New Year’s Day, or even until Super Bowl Sunday in many communities.

This is the slowest time of the year for home sales. But it’s the best time to buy a home because there is little competition from other buyers. Only very serious house and condo sellers list their residences for sale during the holidays.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

NOW IS THE TIME TO GET READY TO BUY YOUR HOME. If you want to buy a home in 2004, or perhaps in early 2005, now is the perfect time to get prepared. Today, a house or condo purchase is not just the acquisition of your own home. If you do everything right, you will probably buy your best investment ever.

In other words, a home purchase should be both a place to live and a great investment. For most people, their home purchase is their largest lifetime investment.

But many home buyers make major costly mistakes. Here’s how to avoid the most significant errors:

HOME BUYER MISTAKE #1 – SHOP FOR A HOME BEFORE YOU SHOP FOR A MORTGAGE. According to a recent National Association of Realtors survey, more than 70 percent of today’s home buyers start their search on the Internet, usually at www.realtor.com. Those searches lead to contacts with local real estate agents.

Another way many home buyers begin their quest is visiting weekend open houses held by listing agents. Buyers also contact realty agents about homes advertised in the newspaper.

While it’s fun to shop for a home using these methods, the smartest home buyers first shop for a mortgage to finance their purchase. Then they know the maximum home loan they can obtain. Surprisingly, many home buyers can afford to buy a better home than they anticipated.

Mortgage lenders are eager to issue written pre-approval letters or certificates to prospective home buyers. Usually, there is no charge. The reason is lenders know after you have their mortgage pre-approval, you are unlikely to shop among other lenders.

Expect the mortgage lender to carefully check your loan application, including obtaining a credit report, FICO (Fair, Isaac and Co.) credit score, and checking income before issuing a mortgage pre-approval. Most pre-approvals are contingent on (1) appraisal of the home you want to buy and (2) re-verification of your credit and income.

But don’t confuse a written mortgage pre-approval by an actual lender with a pre-qualification, which is just an opinion that you probably can get a mortgage. Pre-approvals are only issued by actual mortgage lenders, such as banks and mortgage bankers, but mortgage brokers can obtain these pre-approvals from a variety of lenders.

HOME BUYER MISTAKE #2 – RUSH TO BUY A HOME WITHOUT CAREFULLY RESEARCHING THE LOCAL HOME SALES MARKET. Real estate agents love working with out-of-town home buyers who are in a hurry to buy a home to relocate for employment. These buyers often make quick decisions, to their later regret, because they didn’t carefully check neighborhood alternatives, school district quality and local crime rates.

HOME BUYER MISTAKE #3 – BUY A HOME WITH AN INCURABLE DEFECT. Whether you are considering a brand-new house or condominium, or a resale home, no residence is perfect.

I learned that truth many years ago from a city building inspector. After we became friends, he revealed some of the defects he saw in brand-new houses, which weren’t building code violations so he had to approve those properties.

Fortunately, most homes don’t have incurable defects. These obvious problems (called “economic obsolescence” by appraisers) include a bad floor plan, poor location (such as near a noisy freeway or adjacent to the city dump), heavy street traffic, and lack of adequate parking.

HOME BUYER MISTAKE #4 – FAILURE TO HAVE YOUR OWN BUYER’S AGENT. Most home buyers don’t understand the importance of having their own real estate agent looking out for their best interests.

Many buyers meet a home listing agent when they inspect a weekend open house. If they purchase that house, the listing agent obviously represents the home seller, although the agent can also act as a “dual agent” for both buyer and seller. But that is an inherent conflict of interest.

A far better alternative is for each home buyer to have his/her own agent looking out for the buyer’s best interests. Any licensed real estate agent can act as your buyer’s agent (unless that agent works at the same brokerage as the listing agent). Some buyer’s agents require signing an exclusive buyer’s agency contract. However, most do not.

HOME BUYER MISTAKE #5 – DON’T BOTHER TO INSIST YOUR BUYER’S AGENT PREPARE A COMPARATIVE MARKET ANALYSIS (CMA) BEFORE YOU MAKE YOUR PURCHASE OFFER. Before making a home purchase offer, the smartest home buyers insist their buyer’s agents prepare a written CMA.

This form shows recent sales (not asking) prices of comparable neighborhood homes, asking prices of similar nearby homes now listed for sale, and even the asking prices of recently expired listings of neighborhood homes which didn’t sell (usually because they were overpriced).

The CMA form is the same information the seller was presented by the listing agent when the asking price was set. But the local market values may have gone up or down since then. You can be sure, when your purchase offer is presented to the home seller, your buyer’s agent will use the new CMA to justify your offer price.

Without the facts in an updated CMA, any purchase offer you make is a blind guess. It might be above market value, or it might be below current market value.

HOME BUYER MISTAKE #6 – FAILURE TO INCLUDE REASONABLE CONTINGENCY CLAUSES IN YOUR PURCHASE OFFER. Some home buyers, especially in a very competitive local market, are told by their buyer’s agents not to include any contingency clauses in their purchase offers. This well-meant advice can be very risky for the buyer.

At a minimum, home buyers should include in their written purchase offers contingency clauses for a (a) satisfactory appraisal of the home for at least the offered purchase price, and (b) professional home inspection. Additional contingency clauses might provide for customary local inspections, such as a termite (pest control) inspection clearance, building code compliance, energy efficiency, and radon test.

CONCLUSION: Buying a house or condominium is a major personal purchase as well as a long-term investment. Home buyers who understand how to avoid major mistakes will feel confident and make sound decisions. More details are in my brand-new special report, “Robert’s Realty Rules: How to Avoid the 10 Worst Home Buyer Mistakes,” available for $4 from Robert Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, CA 94010 or by credit card at 1-800-736-1736 or instant Internet download at www.bobbruss.com.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center
).

***

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