6 things real estate agents know that house-hunters don't, according to the country's top experts

Farnoosh Torabi

  • Farnoosh Torabi is a financial expert, bestselling
    author, TV personality, and host of the So Money podcast.
  • She’s interviewed over 600 celebrities, athletes,
    inventors, entrepreneurs, and millionaires on her
    podcast.
  • She’s spoken with six of the country’s top real estate
    experts, all of whom offered helpful tips for first-time
    buyers.
  • The right time to buy is when it’s the right life stage
    for you. But if you are planning on making an offer, do it at the
    start of the week.
  • Visit Business
    Insider’s homepage for more stories.

By age 15, I’d probably been to more open houses than school
field trips. My parents moved multiple times when I was growing up
and always took me along the house hunting ride with Eileen, our
esteemed realtor (and fancy lady) from Century 21.

That experience introduced me to the value of walk-in closets
and eat-in kitchens and how to rough estimate the price of a home
based on square footage and comparative sales in the
neighborhood.

As I grew older, my interest (read: obsession) in real estate
furthered. I bought my first home in my early 20s and subscribed to
the weekend New York Times, mainly so I could receive the Real
Estate section hot off the presses each Saturday morning. 

It’s no surprise then that when I began my personal finance
podcast So Money, I
invited a number of real estate pros onto the show to offer their
insights. Over the years, their advice has helped listeners (and
me) with real estate transactions and strategizing our next
moves.

Here are some of the highlights from my guest conversations that
I think are especially useful for first-time buyers.

SEE ALSO: I’ve
interviewed over 600 entrepreneurs and millionaires on my podcast,
but the best piece of business advice I’ve ever heard came from a
director on ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

1. Get your financial ‘passport’ in order

Kathy Braddock, a managing director at William Raveis NYC, urges
all first-time buyers to have all their financial ducks in a row
before making an offer. “Get your
financial passport in order
— talking to a bank, talking to a
mortgage provider and really figuring out what you can afford,” she
says.  “Be careful, because you have to take into account all of
your lifestyle expenses.”

Sometimes a bank will pre-qualify you for a mortgage that is
more than you can afford, Braddock cautions. “If there’s something
special you’re saving up for, you need to put those numbers into
the equation because the bank or the mortgage company is not going
to do that. And you never want to end up being ‘house poor,’ where
you don’t have enough money left over to do the things that kind of
make your life more interesting or that are special for you.”

2.. Focus on your life stage

When is the best time to buy? For home buyers who are looking to
settle down in a particular region or area, a recent guest
explained that it has less to do with season or whether it’s a
“buyer’s market” and more about your current life stage, what you
can afford, and your needs.

“I work in strategy for a real estate company and swim every day
in the data of what’s going on in the real estate market across the
country with mortgage rates and inventory and home prices. My advice to
homebuyers is to ignore all of that,
” says Eric Chesin, Head of
Strategy for Realogy, which owns big real estate brands such as
Century 21, Coldwell Banker, and Sotheby’s International Realty,
among others.

I recently partnered with the company in its announcement of a
new home buying program in collaboration with Amazon called
TurnKey. It matches home
buyers with top agents who are affiliated with one of Realogy’s
trusted real estate brands and upon closing on their home, Amazon
delivers a complimentary Amazon Move-In Benefit, which includes
$1,000 to $5,000 of Amazon Home Services and fully-installed smart
home products.  

Adds Chesin, “No matter what economist’s advice you get, there’s
no macro answer that will tell you the right answer [of when to
buy] locally. And, I just think that, personally, you don’t time
life choices by trying to time the market, whether it’s real
estate, stocks or anything else. The best thing you can do as a
homebuyer is to get the support and advice of a really great real
estate agent that knows your local market and can understand what’s
right for you.”

3. Follow job growth

If you are interested in a home in the next “hot” part of the
country, keep your eyes peeled to job market news, says Tami Halton
Pardee, CEO and founder of Los Angeles’ #1 real estate company.
She’s sold over $3 billion worth of real estate in her career.

An uptick in employment is a sign of vitality and an increasing
population in the area, which tends to fuel the real estate market
and long-term price growth. Many cities in Texas, including San
Antonio-New Braunfels and Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington are among the
fastest-growing in the country
on this list
.

“I try to read everything to see what companies are moving in.
If
there’s any big tech companies moving in [to the town or city]. I
just do a ton of research.
I read, read, read, read, read, and
see what companies are going in, because the jobs are going to
bring in the people, right? I think it’s important to have a leg up
on that.”

4. Target the sweet spot

Location can be, as we just read, very important to a home’s
value, but Sidney Torres, a real estate entrepreneur and host of
CNBC’s The Deed, says buyers are best off targeting areas that are
a few miles away from the nicest section of town. 

“Sometimes to get a better deal, you want to go a little bit
further away from the super nice neighborhood. You’ve got the
hot spot and the fringe, and you always want to be right in the
middle — in the sweet spot
,” he told me. “You have so much
more opportunity for your equity to grow within your asset …
within your first home purchase, if you buy in an area that’s in
between that really hot spot and not too close to the fringe.”

5. Make your offer earlier in the week

While trying to time your purchase right can be a tough move,
making an offer earlier in the week can sometimes earn you a better
deal, says Scott MicGillivray, Host of HGTV’s Income Property.

“Go shopping on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. If you’re
shopping for real estate on a Saturday and Sunday, you’re not
getting deals,” he says.
“A seller is much more difficult to
negotiate with on a weekend than they are on a weekday. During the
week, they’re distracted with work, the kid’s routines, and they’re
probably not getting a lot of other offers on a Monday, Tuesday, or
Wednesdays. Chances are, they’ll very quickly and efficiently
entertain your offer.”

6. Have an exit strategy

If you’re interested in making a real-estate investment, as
opposed to a long-term purchase that you will primarily live in,
know that there are risks involved and have a plan in place in case
you need to offload the property sooner than later. Josh Altman,
star of Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles told me that, “In good markets
or bad markets, you always have to look at what your exit strategy
is in a worst case scenario.”

He adds, “When I buy a property now to develop, I don’t go off
of the number of what everybody else’s saying it will be worth. I
go off of the number that I know that I can literally get rid of
this property tomorrow for this price if I fire sale it. And I need
to be okay with that.”

Farnoosh Torabi is a
financial expert, hooked on helping Americans live their richest,
happiest lives. She is a bestselling author, sought-after speaker,
and television personality. Her podcast So Money has been downloaded
over 10 million times.

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6 things real estate agents know that house-hunters don't, according to the country's top experts