Joanna purchased a home using a realtor who didn't necessarily have her best interests in mind.
What to Know Before Hiring a Realtor and Buying a Home
people found Joanna's experience helpful.
After living in a dark, cramped rental home for nearly a year, my husband and I were at our breaking point. We had recently relocated to the White Mountains of New Hampshire from Baltimore. After selling our beloved home and saying goodbye to friends and family members, we were already experiencing some culture shock. Living in a house we both hated was exacerbating a challenging situation. Thanks to the serendipity of selling our Baltimore home just before the housing crash, we were well-positioned financially. What we didn’t have was perspective, which led to a series of hasty, uninformed decisions which placed us where we are now, nearly 10 years later: stuck in a home for which we paid too much and that doesn’t meet our needs.
The Realtor Relationship
The first mistake we made was in choosing - or failing to choose - our realtor. Based entirely on the recommendation of an acquaintance, we hired our realtor via email, and to this day neither of us think she had our best interests at heart.
Every single home we considered - except for the open house she sent us to at the 6,500 square foot mansion that was three times above our budget - we found ourselves on the internet. When we did hone in on our current choice, our realtor gave us no comparables, and failed to disclose some critical legal details related to the zoning of the property. While we felt sympathetic toward her due to some health struggles she was experiencing, in retrospect we realize that our realtor's personal problems then resulted in our personal problems now. And we paid her for this legacy.
The fact is that your home search is only as good as your realtor. If you choose unwisely -which we did - you may be paying someone not only to do very little, but to ultimately do more harm than good. Had we interviewed realtors, researched their backgrounds and made an informed decision, we would likely be in a different place right now.
Be Your Own Advocate
As inferior as our realtor might have been, ultimately the responsibility laid with us to make sure we were making the right decisions. Both my husband and I are fairly timid by nature, and we were often worried about inconveniencing our realtor, the sellers or other people throughout the process.
For example, our realtor was also representing the sellers. Had we not been worried about offending her, we would have inquired about the potential conflict of interest. Certainly, we would have questioned her insistence that we bid over the asking price because we would otherwise lose out, or that it was acceptable for the sellers to be present at the walk-through.
We also agreed to a deal in which the sellers would rent back the home from us for a month after closing. Not only did this delay our “urgent” desire to move, but also resulted in an unexpected consequence: we had no recourse on moving day when we discovered the prior inhabitants had not only left the house filthy, but also full of their unwanted junk.
Consider Your Priorities
We’d left behind a house in Baltimore with high ceilings, beautiful old bones, and plenty of character. I wanted to find the same attributes in New Hampshire but failed to take into account that our circumstances had changed during that time: we were now parents to a baby and expected our family to continue to grow. We were so focused on regaining what we’d left behind that we neglected to assess what we might need in the future.
While we did at least consider the school system, we failed to think about the necessity of choosing a home that would grow with us - from a safe street where our kids could play outside to enough storage space for all of their ski gear.
In other words, as your life changes so do your needs. Failure to realize that what may have worked for you in the past may not work for you in the present or future can lead to frustration.
Time, Time, Time
Which brings me to a different point: time. Because we were so unhappy about our rental situation, we prioritized finding a new home beyond anything else. Rushing the home buying process is unwise and unnecessary. While buying a home is not a life or death situation, it is a huge decision. It’s critical to take the time to understand all of the related factors.
As we celebrate our 10 year anniversary in our home, we are grateful to have had so many healthy, happy times under this roof. But we also paid exorbitantly for these memories. We are unnecessarily underwater and locked into staying here - at least until the market rebounds. The takeaway is this: while a home does have emotional value, the purchase of a house is an investment - and one of the biggest that most people make in a lifetime - so it pays to be judicious throughout every step of the process.