Purchasing a first home is an investment generally associated with many long-term benefits — personal, emotional and financial. Homeownership offers an unprecedented sense of security, accomplishment, success and perhaps most importantly, personal freedom.
But before you begin to look at homes, it is a good idea to first shop around — not just for the house, but for a real estate professional who is compatible with your needs and understands your buying goals. Most novice buyers do it the other way around: They see a house they like, call the phone number on the yard sign and immediately enter into a professional relationship entrusting the most important financial decision of a lifetime to whoever happens to pick up the phone.
Jeff Hammerberg, the founder of GayRealEstate.com, counsels a cautioned approach.
“Nearly every first-time buyer admits to understanding little or nothing about the real estate business as they enter the real estate arena,” he says. “As newcomers, they are suddenly confronted with complicated choices that carry powerful legal and financial consequences. They often encounter sellers who have the upper hand thanks to prior experience in the real estate market. And the potential for ‘silent homophobia’ in the real estate industry can present an invisible obstacle for LGBT buyers, and is a legitimate and potentially frustrating concern.”
Here are some of Hammerberg’s tips to help you make an informed choice:
1. Employ a specialist. “If you are relocating through your employer, you may want to work with a broker who specializes in relocation work, because they will have the experience required to help you locate the right property, at the right price, within your window of opportunity and according to the parameters outlined by your company’s relocation program. Similarly, if you are looking for rural property or farmland, there are brokers who specialize in that area, as opposed to others who are expert at finding you a city dwelling close to the nightlife. And if it is investment property you want, you may decide to choose an investment property specialist. Once you have found someone who specializes in the kind of property you’re looking for, you can narrow down your search by selecting a broker within that niche of the industry.
2. Determine the legal roles and responsibilities of brokers in your particular area. “Depending upon where you live, the real estate laws will dictate the responsibilities and roles of real estate agents and brokers. Some states allow real estate professionals to serve clients in a dual capacity, and these ‘dual agents’ will represent both the buyer and the seller at the same time, during the same transaction. They negotiate and mediate on behalf of both parties. In other jurisdictions, agents represent either buyers or sellers, but not both. Check with the local Realtors’ association to find out what rules apply in your area, before you begin interviewing brokers.”
3. Check their credentials, and also see if you feel comfortable working with them. “As with any professional you hire, you will want to look for experience, a proven track record, a stellar reputation for customer satisfaction, and the ability to communicate with you and answer all of your questions in a way that inspires your confidence and trust.
Once you have a qualified and trustworthy real estate professional on your team to help you find a house, negotiate on your behalf, and inform and guide you each step of the way, you can relax and enjoy the adventure of shopping for your new home.”
Jeff Hammerberg is the founding CEO of GayRealEstate.com, the largest online LGBT realty network in the world.