Common Questions from Buyers

And The Answers!

Our Buying Process

Q: In my search to buy, do I need a buyer's agent?


What you want is an agent who understands the market, the home-buying process, and your needs. A good buyer's agent will do the following:

Track the market and alert you to new listings of interest.

Preview properties upon request and arrange showings by appointment.

Complete a market analysis of any property of interest to you.

Prepare and present your offer(s).

Communicate with you on a regular basis and remain engaged in your search from start to finish.

Guide you through the transaction process from offer to purchase & sale to closing - and beyond.

If you are searching in more than one area, have your buyer's agent in your primary area refer you to a reliable agent or agents in the secondary markets you are also exploring or searching in.

If you are signing a buyer's agency agreement (which is a good idea, by the way, with a good buyer's agent), be sure to review the terms and conditions of the agreement. Understand if you have the opportunity to exit the agreement - in my view, this is always a good idea, in case the relationship is not working out and/or the agent is not doing his or her job.

Some people think there is an advantage in bidding directly through the listing agent for the seller. In my experience as a top agent since 1999 in Cambridge and Somerville, I have not found this to be true. Most all real estate transactions involve two agents - the listing agent for the seller and the buyer's agent for the buyer. A buyer benefits by the insight, advice and counsel of a good buyer's agent.

It's important to remember that your relationship with your buyer's agent is a partnership. Both the buyer and the buyer's agent have responsibilities. A good buyer's agent makes known to you what you need to do and reminds you along the way. A good buyer's agent helps you understand the decisions you are making. If you are more aware and more informed as you proceed forward, your real estate experience becomes more meaningful and less stressful. 

Q: How much should I offer ?

A: The short answer is this: Offer an amount you are comfortable and capable of offering, and be prepared to make your best offer.

This is a loaded question. No two properties are the same. No two markets are the same. No two buyers are the same. I am going to answer this question today in terms of the Cambridge and Somerville market that I work in. Since about the middle of 2012, the Cambridge and Somerville market has been hot, hot, hot. Average sale prices in both Cambridge and Somerville are over the asking price. In the last twelve months, Cambridge sales are averaging 105% of the list price and Somerville sales are averaging 103% of the list price. Mind you, these are averages. Some properties are selling for a great deal more over the asking price. Bid deadlines and multiple offers are very common. It's not unheard of for someone to bid $100,000+ over the asking price - and come up short. As I said - hot, hot, hot.

Q: Is a second showing necessary?

A:The short answer is that a second showing is not necessary but a very good idea if time allows.

Since the middle of 2012, a large number of Cambridge and Somerville listings have been listed for sale on a Thursday or Friday, with open houses held on Saturday and Sunday, and bids due on Monday or Tuesday. That is a very fast track. And on such a fast track, a second showing is not always possible, given a buyer's schedule and the times the property can be seen. That being said, a second showing is a very good idea if time allows.

When you visit a property for the first time, everything is new. There is a lot to take in. If you like the property, you could forget to look at certain aspects or details in the flush of excitement about liking the place. Or there could simply be so much to take in that you simply cannot process everything on the first visit.

A second showing is a chance to notice things you missed the first time around. It's also a chance to check in with your feelings. Maybe you were on the fence after your first visit. A second showing might help you understand if you are leaning towards making an offer or towards taking a pass. And there could be all sorts of variables that have changed, such as the time of day, the quality of light, or the number of other people in the property when you are there visiting. More often than not, the second showing is very clarifying. For sure, there are buyers who don't need a second showing. And then there are other buyers who need three or more to know their mind. That being said, it has been my experience that most buyers really benefit by two showings. It tends to make for a more informed decision regarding whether or not to pursue the property.

Q: What ought one pay attention to when visiting a property for sale?

A:The short answer is that, first and foremost, pay attention to the things that matter the most to you. There is a lot to take in when visiting a property, especially for the first time. Buyers often ask me what they ought to pay attention to when visiting a property for sale. There really is no right or wrong answer here. That being said, it is a good idea to pay attention to the things that matter the most to you. For example, let's say that the things that matter the most to you are the following:

Ceiling height
Quality of natural light and
Outdoor space

Well, if those are your big three, you may do the following:

1) You might literally measure the ceiling height. I myself carry a laser measuring device; you may just raise your arms and get a sense of the height from an action as simple as that.

2) With regard to the quality of natural light, you may accurately discover what direction the house is facing by employing a compass app on your smartphone. Having established the direction, you may consciously spend time in different rooms considering and noting the quality of light. Obviously, the time of day of your visit and the weather will influence this.

3) As for outdoor space, check it out carefully. Maybe walk off the back yard to measure it. Sit down on a deck chair and study the site lines. Locate the grill and see how that is. If you have a pet, imagine how it might work for your pet to be in the space. Examine how the space interacts with the neighboring spaces. Consider the privacy or lack thereof.

These actions all require you to FOCUS. This is not always easy in our day and age. Your cell phone is ringing when you are there and your boss is calling. You are visiting the house with a child who needs your attention. Perhaps it is an open house and you are distracted by conversations taking place around you. Got it. Get it. Been there. Do the best you can do.

I have been a Realtor since 1999. Since then, I have visited THOUSANDS of properties in Cambridge and Somerville. I still aim to FOCUS each and every time I visit a property. Generally speaking, I am seeking to process the overall condition, comprehend the layout, and note any particular aspects about the property.

An informed listing agent is a valuable asset when visiting a property. If the listing agent can share accurate information about a property during your visit, you gain. For example, the listing agent may report the following:

I measured the ceiling height and it is 8'-2" on the main level and 7'-10" on the bedroom level. The house faces east. I have visited the house in the morning and the afternoon and the early evening. The light is middle of the scale in the morning and early afternoon, and brighter on the back side in the late afternoon and early evening because of the unobstructed western exposure on the back side of the house. The owners have a medium-size dog who enjoys the fenced yard.

OKAY, then, now that information is very useful to you. Always ask the host what they know about the property.

Of course, when an experienced contractor or licensed home inspector visits a property, they are seeing the property in terms of their own training and knowledge, noting age of systems and the quality of the built environment, etc. These professional observations are a separate matter. We are talking here about what you ought to pay attention to when you visit a property for sale. For sure, over time in your search after visiting many properties, you may become more observant of items a contractor or inspector may one day review on your behalf. Experienced house hunters can often develop very sharp eyes!

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