Expert Tips from Realtors: What You Need to Know While Looking for Your Dream Home

Expert Tips from Realtors: What You Need to Know While Looking for Your Dream Home

(If you’re looking to purchase a home, RiskBlock has provided consumers with a free ebook [ADD LINK TO “RiskBlock Ebook”] that can guide you step-by-step through the process, including tips from realtors, attorneys, lenders, and RiskBlock insurers.)

At RiskBlock, our advisors specialize in helping our clients find the best coverage at the most affordable rates. When it comes to buying a new home, insurance [ADD LINK TO “pamphlet INSURANCE tips”] is certainly on your mind, but when it comes to finding the best realtor, we leave it to the experts.

In this case, we’ve asked several NY-based realtors, Sunny Pyun and Paul XXXXXX, for the best steps when you’re looking for your dream home.



Sunny: “My name is Sunny Pyun, a former construction litigation attorney turned real estate agent. I work with sellers, buyers, investors, and developers. My construction litigation experience gave me a unique perspective and understanding of real estate issues other realtors might not have.”

Paul: “A few years ago, I made a leap of faith and became a real estate agent after many years of practicing law in Manhattan. I’m very fortunate now to help friends, both new and old, through the incredibly important process of buying, selling, or leasing residential real estate. I always try to bring a high level of professionalism, transparency, and diligence to my work for clients. If you want someone who will not only guide you to your goal successfully, but also help you understand the process along the way, I’m the agent for you.”


Q: What’s the first thing someone should do when they first decide to look for a new home?

Sunny: “First off, find a good realtor! S/he will save you tons of time by connecting you to the right professionals along the way, including a mortgage lender, real estate attorney, house inspector, and insurance broker.

“Getting pre-approved for a mortgage early on is key so you understand your buying power from the start. Buyers usually pay at least 20% of the purchase price (the “down-payment”) themselves. Smaller down-payments are possible, but can cost more per month and be difficult to get approved. Larger down-payments, e.g. 25% or more, can be attractive to sellers and can be necessary in hot real estate markets.”

“Once you and your agent know your budget, figure out what type of property works best for you. Are you leaning towards a single- or multi-family house, or do you prefer to live in an apartment building? Discuss your priorities with your agent, such as location, light, size, rooms, and layout. Then start seeing properties with your agent and don’t hold back with any questions you have along the way.”


Q: What should I look for in a real estate agent?

Sunny: “You want someone who is responsive, patient, honest. Also you want someone who cares about you.”

Paul: “In addition, a good agent should be a good listener and have your best interests in mind first.”


Q: Where do I find a realtor?

Sunny: “Many buyers start their property searches by looking up listings themselves online and going to open houses alone. They quickly realize things get complicated after you consider making an offer. Every co-op/ condo apartment has a unique set of financial requirements a buyer needs to satisfy and this is when a real estate professional’s service can be really beneficial. Buyers usually ask friends for referrals, do search online or visit a real estate office to find a realtor they want to work with.”

Paul: “Start by asking someone you trust for a recommended realtor whom they trust themselves. A solid trust-relationship is crucial for both you and your agent to make the process of buying your home a pleasant and successful one. If asking around for references doesn’t work, look up realtors in your area, preferably someone involved with local real estate associations, and interview a few before choosing the one with whom you feel most comfortable.”


Q: What should buyers look out for when seeing homes?

Sunny: “You buy the neighborhood as well as the home. Your life style should work with the area.”

Paul: “In addition, take your time and try to imagine your life in the space. Don’t just look, but listen, smell, and feel too. Look at rooms from multiple angles and imagine how things will look at other times of the day. Ask your agent any questions to ask the seller/listing agent on your behalf.”


Q: What are some tips and tricks for seeing homes?

Sunny: “Don’t just focus on your current needs and instead imagine your life 5-7 years ahead. So if you can afford one bedroom, buy a one bedroom apartment instead of a studio.”

Paul: “If you’re seeing a home together with someone, split up and see the house separately first and then walk around again together to discuss what you noticed. You’ll catch a lot more that way, not just in terms of concerns you might have but also what you would like about the home too. If you find a home that you like, ask to visit again at a different time of day.”


Q: What are some tricks that sellers use to get me to fall in love?

Sunny: “Strategic lighting, painting, cleaning, re-positioning of furniture to make the place seem bigger.”

Paul: “Brightened photos can make a space seem brighter and larger. Clearing out closet and kitchen clutter can also make a home feel more spacious. Sellers also sometimes pick their open house times carefully, sometimes for when the home gets the most natural light, or when the streets outside or neighbors might be quietest.”


Q: How can I help you help me make this process easy?

Sunny: “Ask questions if you don’t understand something. A good realtor is like a good math teacher. S/he should be able to answer your questions in clear terms so you know exactly what’s happening at all times.”

Paul: “Be honest about what you like, don’t like, and even what you don’t know. Communication and feedback is essential to working together successfully.”


Q: What kind of information will help you help them find a house faster?

Sunny: “Tell your realtor about all the changes in your life and your financial situation.”

Paul: “If something is really important to you, make that clear. Buying a home almost always involves prioritization of wants and needs of some sort, regardless of budget, so make sure your agent knows what you’re flexible about as well as your must-haves.”


Q: How long does the buying process usually take?

Sunny: “3-4 months after you sign a contract if you’re buying a co-op because of a co-op board interview. It can take a lot less if you’re buying a house or a condo.”

Paul: “Once you’ve found your future home, you want to reach an accepted offer and get into contract signed quickly before someone else jumps in to the fray or the seller has a change of heart. Have a good attorney with local real estate experience ready when you make your offer and know in advance if you’ll need an inspection before or after contract signing, according to the typical practices in your area. If you’ve been pre-approved for a mortgage, your lender will probably need no more than 30 days to underwrite your loan application and provide you with a conditional commitment letter.”

“From that point, if you’re buying a house, you might be cleared to close immediately, while condos run by a management company may take an extra two weeks or more to close, and co-operative apartment buildings (co-ops) can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months for the building’s board to review and approve a purchase application for closing.”


Q: How often are homes sold, should I make an offer on a house I like or wait for other options?

Sunny: “This market still lacks inventory under $1M. A colleague of mine saw over 200 apartments and I saw 5 apartments before we decided on our current apartments. It’s about where your comfort level is. One of my buyers said a home buying process wasn’t what she expected at all. She romanticized the process and expected 100% happy experience from beginning to end. In reality, buying a home brings a lot of challenges such as losing bids oftentimes, getting a loan, locking in an interest rate, and passing a co-op board interview. It can be stressful. If you’re looking for that perfect home, you probably won’t find it. But if you have 10 -haves on your list and the apartment you saw last week fit 7-8, that’s a winner. What is really important is how you make the new apartment your home.”

Paul: “A lot depends on the state of your local market. In a hot market, buyers don’t have a lot of room to be overly choosy, while in a slower market you may have more time to explore your options. Move at the pace you feel comfortable. Ask your realtor if the house is priced to generate multiple offers or if it’s priced on the high side. If it’s priced low you may not have time to wait before other buyers bid the price up to market value. Whether the asking price is high or low, there’s no harm in being the first to offer. At best you might land the deal, while at worst you might be outbid by a subsequent offer but should hopefully have the chance to match or exceed the higher offer.”


Q: How does one make a reasonable offer? How do I know that I am not over paying or under paying?

Sunny: “Your agent will do research on comparables in the area. Property prices are always going up, and some properties are priced just under market value to attract buyers. Your agent will explain these subtle differences. Also think about the potential for property appreciation if you think you’re overpaying.”

Paul: “Over-paying and under-paying are relative terms. Real estate does not carry any specific intrinsic value. Its value at any given time is simply what the market at large, with you included, is willing to pay for the property then. Even from a technical perspective, there are multiple ways to assess the value of a property. Don’t worry about whether an outsider would say that you’re over or underpaying for a property.”


Q: Who do you represent if I was your client?

Sunny: “You as a buyer’s agent”

Paul: “As your agent, I represent you. In New York City, the majority of real estate deals are co-brokered, with one agent representing the seller and one agent representing the buyer and both agents have fiduciary duties to their respective clients.”


Q: What are some things that clients should not do?

Sunny: “Don’t travel when you’re making an offer! In today’s market, the seller expects the buyer to sign a contract within a week after the offer is accepted. This is a bad time to travel after your offer gets accepted and you can possibly lose the deal if you delay signing.”

Paul: “Be open and straightforward with your realtor about your deal and any potential situations. Just like your realtor should be transparent about the process and your deal with you, s/he needs you to be the same way back so that any issues are anticipated and small things won’t turn into crisis situations.”


Q: Will you help me negotiate a deal or what is your duty as my real estate agent?

Sunny: “As a buyer’s agent, I will negotiate a deal for you, get your offer accepted and contract signed, get the home inspected, help you get a loan. Basically from beginning to end, I will be there every step.”

Paul: “Yes, as your agent I will both counsel and advocate for you through the negotiation process. Sometimes people worry that their agent will push them to increase their offer so that the agent’s final commission will be higher, but there’s less incentive for agents to do this than those folks probably realize. Broker’s commissions are usually split several times before your agent receives a fee for closing your deal, and a happy new home owner is much more valuable to a good realtor thanks to referrals than clients who feel underrepresented by their agent.”


Q: What should I do before I make a down payment or sign a contract?

Sunny: “Get the home inspected if it’s a condo or a house. Also your attorney will perform due diligence to see if the apartment building is in good financial shape.”

Paul: “In New York, it’s customary to do a home inspection before finalizing the contract and paying a contract deposit. This gives the buyers the opportunity to make sure they know what they’re buying, and mitigates the risk to the seller that the deal might fall through.”

“You should also discuss the property with your mortgage broker and attorney to make sure the house or apartment will be approved for the loan by your lender.”


Q: Should I hire my own inspector? How much does that usually cost?

Sunny: “Hire an inspector if you’re buying a condo or a house. The inspector will check to see if the home is in working condition and let you know if there are issues that need repairs.”

Paul: “Yes, hire an inspector and do the inspection promptly once you have an accepted offer. There’s no reason to delay. Make sure to attend the inspection too, and ask questions about anything that worries you or that you don’t fully understand. Inspection reports can often be difficult for the average person to read, and can look scary even for homes that are as clean as they get. A good inspector will explain to you just when and why potential future repairs might become necessary, and how much they’d probably cost. They’ll also help you to understand the difference between major and minor issues. You just have to ask!”

Author: Liam Dai
Lead Insurance Advisor for RiskBlock. Disclaimer: This Blog/Web Site is made available by the author or insurance agency for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the insurance coverage, not to provide specific insurance advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no professional advice and professional client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for professional advice from a licensed professional insurance agent in your state. All scenarios are different and unique to the situation.