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2012-09-11 16:34:20
5 ways to help your agent find your dream home


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The vast majority of homebuyers like -- even love -- their  agents; in the National Association of Realtors' most recent survey of  homebuyers and sellers, more than 96 percent of those who recently bought homes  said they liked their agent, and 85 percent said they would work with  that agent again.

But, as always, there are exceptions to this rule: buyer-agent  combos that seem to be full of friction.

In those exceptional cases, a common complaint is that  buyers feel their agent simply doesn't understand or listen to them, as  evidenced by the disconnect between their vision for their home and the homes  the agent shows them. And no one likes to be misunderstood, especially when  trying to get professional help making wise decisions about the financial,  location and brick-and-mortar property characteristics that will shape many  areas of one's life for years to come.

Most often, in my experience, this is an issue of a  disconnect between a buyer's fantasy home and the reality of what their budget  can buy on the market. The agent shows the buyer homes that the buyer sees as  falling short of his location, size or stylistic standards, but in fact, the  agent is showing the best homes that the buyer can actually afford. (This is  otherwise known as having champagne wishes on a beer budget.)

Other times, though, there is an even deeper communication  issue: The buyer hasn't been clear, or the agent truly hasn't heard him out. To  avoid this issue and make sure your agent is picking up what you're putting  down, in terms of your preferences for your home, here are a few tools for  vividly communicating your vision to your real estate agent:

1. Digitally. If  you want to communicate your style and aesthetic preferences to your agent,  consider creating a digital notebook on the Web application Springpad. Here's the thing: You can  start keeping this notebook as soon as you start thinking about buying a home --  you don't have to wait until you have an agent to do it.

2. Show your agent listings/homes that you like. Do this: As you're ramping up for your house hunt,  start online, looking at listings that you love; if you're not the type to save  images digitally, print out the listing and keep a file folder collection of  them. Better yet, run your numbers (down payment, etc.) in an online mortgage  calculator to get a very rough idea of your price range, then get out into the  world and start attending open houses that come up for homes that are similar  to what you hope to buy. Collect the fliers of the homes you visit and like, to  show to your agent, once they are engaged.

3. Let your agent show  you what she thinks you are saying you want, irrespective of price. This  can be especially helpful for people relocating to a new area, or first-time  buyers who are still trying to wrap their heads around what kind of home they  can get at various price points. If you are concerned that your agent is not  listening to your wants and needs, but she insists that she is, ask her to show  you at least one house that she thinks reflects your vision as she understands  it, irrespective of the price at which that home is listed.

4. Write out your  vision of home. I've long encouraged buyers to do a writing exercise at the  very beginning of their house hunts, something I like to call the Vision of  Home exercise. More accurately, though, what I'm proposing is that you set  aside an hour and actually write down your vision of the life you want to live,  once you are warmly ensconced in your home. It should cover everything from:

Family: Who will  live with you in the home, throughout the time you plan to own it -- any  parents or extended family members? Any kids that you think will move out?

Work: Where will  you work? And how much or little do you want to work? How will you get there? What  does your commute look like? What does your income trajectory look like for the  time you expect to be in the home? Do you have -- or plan to have -- any side  jobs or businesses? Do you ever work at home, or want to?

Activities: What  does everyone who will live in the home need to be able to do there? Are there  any hobbies, work or other activities that require space at home, inside or out?  Do you spend your weekends walking to the corner yoga studio and brunching, or  do you spend it hitting up Lowe's to prep for your DIY-home improvement  handiwork?

5. Good, bad, ugly feedback  sheet. Once you're actively working with your agent and viewing properties,  you might need to fine tune and course-correct your agent's understanding of  what you're looking for.

One of my favorite tools for doing that is to simply give  written feedback for each property, bucketing that into the good, bad and ugly (i.e.,  deal breaker-level disadvantages) of each home, as you see it. Then, at the end  of every property tour, you can more readily remember what you liked and  disliked about each property, even if you saw five or eight or more, and you  can communicate those likes and dislikes in a way that empowers your agent to  constantly uplevel the listings she shows you in terms of her alignment with  your wants and needs.

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of 'The Savvy Woman's Homebuying Handbook' and 'Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions.' Tara is also the Consumer Ambassador and Educator for real estate listings search site Trulia.com. Ask her a real estate question online or visit her website, www.rethinkrealestate.com.

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2012-09-11 16:34:20
5 ways to help your agent find your dream home

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