Perhaps you’ve decided to buy your first Silicon Valley home before the end of the year, or that you want to make it a New Year’s Resolution for this upcoming winter. It’s a really exciting, but also somewhat scary, thought. It’s harder if you are going it completely alone…and also harder if you have 10 or 20 people giving you advice the whole way through.
How much sharing is helpful, and at what point will it bog you down or make things worse?
It’s not only helpful, but imperative to get solid advice from a very experienced, local real estate professional, ideally a Realtor. Real estate is local, so if your advice is from a friend or relative in another state, it simply may not apply here. (For example, in many parts of the U.S., it is normal to involve an attorney or to get a survey, but not here. And in those areas it may not be common to worry about earthquake fault areas or drainage to protect your home from expansive clay soils. The final signing of paperwork is different, as are the contracts, as are the ways school district boundaries are drawn, as are the disclosure requirements!) You can check to see how long your real estate licensee or broker has been licensed. That is not going to tell you everything, but it’s a good starting point.
It is critically important that anyone financially involved see all the homes you see. Whether it’s parents helping with the down payment or a busy spouse who doesn’t want to spend time for most of the house hunt, my experience is that the odds of success are lowered significantly if these financially involved people do not go through the process of seeing what you see.
Why is that? If you slog through 10 or 15 homes and pick one to write a contract on, it’s because you saw the others (plus dozens more online) and you have gotten educated on the market. If your spouse or parents do not have that same market education and see only the one you select, odds are good that they will veto the house, pointing out its many flaws and defects. (Every house, town house or condo has something wrong with it, for the record.) What they don’t have is the understanding that you passed over homes with bigger problems. And they won’t know unless they accompany you on the home search. On rare occasion, the busy spouse or uninvolved parents helping out will not block a purchase due to lack of experience in your process, but I would say this is in the minority of the time.
It may be very helpful to have a friend or two (or relative or two) accompany you while house hunting. Home buying is stressful, and it’s even more stressful if you are doing it without some close personal friend or family member walking that journey with you. This person or these people should be willing to see the properties that you see, and be willing to wade through some of your big questions: should this be my next home or not? how much to offer? are the needed repairs too much? do I want to be in a Home Owner Association? how important is location? In other words, this person or these folks can’t just swoop in after you’ve made a thoughtful decision – they have to be willing to really go through the process with you. It is even better if these close people have bought a home themselves.
Over sharing your home buying process can backfire
It can be so tempting to tell all of your family and friends that you are planning to purchase your first San Jose area home, and it’s even easier now that social media can spread that kind of news like wildfire. If you love to share, here are some things to consider and some areas to proceed with a bit more caution:
Getting ill advice from people who are not experts in what you are buying – this is the #1 problem you’ll face if you pull a lot of people into your home buying efforts. We sometimes call this “over the cubicle wall” advice. Those people haven’t been doing your search (online or in person), they haven’t read as many disclosures and inspection reports as you, etc. Please qualify the advice you will accept. Uninformed but well intentioned people can sow “fear, uncertainty and doubt” when you need it least, causing you even more stress.
Open houses are great for anyone coming through to check out the home. Be aware, though, that right now there’s very little inventory, and the more of a perceived interest there is, the potentially higher the sales price may be. If you were to visit a condo in San Jose over by Lake Almaden, for instance, perhaps 3-5 couples might come through per hour, and of them, 1 or 2 would be serious. If ten of your friends descend on that open house, and the serious buyers saw them there, the serious buyers could decide that the only way to “win” is to submit a really high offer. This is a great help to the seller! But if you want to buy that unit, you may have caused it to sell for more than you would have had to pay – or perhaps price yourself out of the market! So do NOT bring a ton of your friends to open houses, or have them go at all unless that property has been on the market awhile. They can look online, they can drive by, but for your own sake, do not have a lot of your people visit it in person.
Open house behavior: Also at open houses, if your friends’ behavior is not stellar (such as saying bad things about the home that the listing agent and other visitors can hear), you may go into the “undesirable” list of potential home buyers. The impression you make needs to be positive, and your troupe’s behavior reflects on you.
Want to chat about this some more? Please call or email me, and we can set up a time to discuss it – or buying your first home in Santa Clara County!