Thursday, April 2, 2009

House Hunting: Finding the Right People

I think it’s fair to say we’re actively beginning the search for our first home. We haven’t discussed potential mortgages with any banks yet (we plan to do this soon), but we have set up an appointment with a financial advisor. It’s basically a meeting to discuss our financial future, but he’ll also be able to provide us with some good advice as we begin our house hunt. That way we’ll be more educated when we meet with potential lenders. We like to make smart decisions (who doesn’t?) and we want to go into the meeting with our A-game.

I didn’t have a problem identifying a financial adviser to help us navigate the early stages of our house hunt, but I have no idea how to find a good lender. Any advice?

It would make sense – I think – for us to start by picking a reliable establishment. One, for example, that hasn’t been in trouble in recent months. Choosing our current bank is probably our best option, but finding an individual within the bank is where it gets tricky. I read somewhere that choosing your lender is as important as choosing your Realtor. What qualities do you look for in a lender? Is it reasonable to interview several potential lenders who represent the same bank (because that’s what I think we’re planning to do when we look for our Realtor)? What questions do you ask them? Is it reasonable to bring your parents with you to the meeting? Just kidding about that last question, although it would be really nice to have some people who have experience working with lenders in the room with us to offer their good guidance.

It’s much easier for me to think about the qualities we’re looking for in our Realtor. We obviously want to work with someone who clearly understands and represents our interests and needs. I don’t think I’d have much tolerance for someone who tries to make us compromise on what we consider really important. Personality will also be important. The more aggressive, the less likely we’ll choose him/her to be on our house hunting team. We’ll also want someone who offers honest, well-informed opinions about properties – someone who knows the materials used throughout the home, information related to renovations, what the neighborhood is like, etc.

Over the last few weeks we’ve made an effort to visit a few open houses on the local Parade of Homes tour. We weren’t interested in any of the properties, but we thought it would be fun to look at the homes and to get the experience of talking to real estate agents. And it was a good experience. There were several people we met who we’d probably be happy working with and others whose aggressive personalities just don’t work with our approach to house hunting. Over the next few weeks we’ll keep an eye on the open house ads for the neighborhoods we’re interested in and make a point of attending showings for properties listed in those areas. I think that might be our best way of finding an agent.

Next Thursday, I’ll start describing what we’re looking for – those things we think are absolutely necessary, tolerable, and detest. I have a feeling we’re going to be hard clients.

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