Profile picture for user7864328

First time homebuyer- need to find a realtor

This is my first time buying a home by myself.  The last home I owned was chosen by my now ex- husband and had a predatory loan for a mortgage. I didn't even get to see this house first, I just signed papers.  We just settled with BofA for the bad mortgage in January and the mortgage along with any delinquencies was ordered by the Court to be removed from my credit.  

That said, I am finally looking to buy another home in the Minneapolis area in the next few months; however, I have no idea what I'm doing.  I currently live in another state and will be relocating to Minnesota for law school.  Having never been to Minnesota for any length of time, I need to find a good neighborhood for a single mom.  I am afraid of another sleazy realtor, inspector and process again.  How do I avoid that? If financing is not an issue that I need the realtor to work on, do I even need a realtor? Or an inspector? If so, is there any way to tell the difference between a good realtor and a bad realtor? How about a good or bad inspector? The inspector of our last house was charged seperatelly for taking payments under the table to pass houses that otherwise shouldn't have passed. How do I avoid this? Any advice would be most appriciated.
  • October 02 2013 - Minneapolis
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Be a Good Neighbor. Be respectful and on-topic. No spam or self-promotion! See our Good Neighbor Policy.

 
 

Answers (16)

All great questions.  I will be happy to send my blog of the 10 questions you should ask when interviewing Realtors including ask for references and check them.

In our brokerage, our screening process is extremely rigorous for hiring a Realtor, so tight that in 2012 after interviewing over 100 Realtors we brought on one.  And she is terrific!  

You had a terrible experience and should be wary.  Our first time home buyer professional Realtors will lead you through the process step by step.  The entire transaction is transparent so you see everything and are a part of everything.  You do need a team to purchase including a Realtor, finance officer, and inspector.

Our company is one of the busiest relocation companies in the area and we can assist you with any facet of your move.  Please call / email if you would like information.  Thank you.
  • October 02 2013
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Profile picture for Joe Houghton
Wow!  I am so sorry you had such a bad experience.  I would definately be dilligent in hiring a realtor and an inspector.  I have a few wonderful inspector recommendations, but it is important to do the research on your own also.  I always tell people to google the agents names that you are considering working with and make sure they have several references and no complaints.  I have a ton more advice, but have to put my little guys to bed.  Please feel free to visit my profile here on zillow which will also have a link to my website.  My website has a ton of other links to other profiles and references, and I am happy to answer more of your questions in greater detail.  Please call me at your convenience or email me a private reply for more tips and tricks on choosing the right realtor and avoiding the pitfalls of home buying.
  • October 02 2013
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Profile picture for TEAMJERNELL
Well that sounded like a horrible encounter. If you are ever in the area and are interviewing agents. We would love the opportunity to sit down with you and have coffee to discuss your options. In the mean time please check out our website for questions and concerns. Call of Text anytime if you are looking for advice. Thank you for posting. It has been a pleasure.
  • October 02 2013
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Oh my, I am so sorry you had those horrible experiences!

First of all, we are not supposed to promote ourselves or our services on this forum, so I won't do that.

I will provide you with some good resources though...

This first one is a bit outdated, but it comes from the Minnesota Attorney General's office and is specific to Minnesota.  The forms have changed a little bit, but it is still a very good resource: http://www.ag.state.mn.us/Consumer/Housing/HMBuyers/Default.asp

This next one is from REALTOR.com® and is more up to date, but not specific to Minnesota: http://www.slideshare.net/pattiann/home-buyer-guide-26805910

Due to fair housing laws, we have to be careful when speaking about specific neighborhoods and normally a good source for that kind of information would be the Census Bureau, which is closed at this time due to the government shut down.  But here is the link (I hope the won't be closed too long) so that you can check that information in the near future - the American Factfinder section is very handy: http://www.census.gov/

You'll want to make sure you check the MN Dept of Corrections if you are concerned about sex offenders: http://www.doc.state.mn.us/

You may also want to check with a local police department.  Most of them have some information online, but you may need to call them for anything specific that you are interested in.

Compared to some others, Minnesota is a fairly "consumer friendly" state and we have some disclosures that are specific to Minnesota.  The most important one you should be aware of immediately is the Agency Relationships in Real Estate Transactions disclosure: http://www.slideshare.net/pattiann/agency-relationships  This document explains your rights as well as the fiduciary duties of agents and brokers.  It's a short document that outlines the choices you have for representation.  It would be very helpful if you can read it and ask questions about it when you interview agents/brokers.

If you do not select a REALTOR®, you will basically be working with the listing agent of whatever house you choose to purchase.  Just remember the listing agent must work in the best interest of the Seller and not necessarily in YOUR best interests when it comes to things like price and terms.  Most of the time, it will not cost you anything to hire a Buyer's agent.  It may be a little bit of a gamble for you to "go it alone" since you are not familiar with Minnesota and as you say, "have no idea of what you are doing".

You will likely want to use the internet to seek out agents and I would suggest you interview several over the phone and pick one that you feel is the best for YOU.  Not everyone is going to "click" with you, but use your best judgement and do you homework and you should be fine.

Once you have an agent, you might want to let them suggest an inspector or two, but then choose a couple on your own and interview them as well.  Inspectors in Minnesota are NOT licensed, but there are several trade groups that endorse inspectors, like ASHI, AHI, and others.  Make sure they can provide a PDF file of the inspection, ask them how much time they spend inspecting a home, what they check, what their warranty is like (if they have one), and ask lots of questions.  My favorite inspector takes several hours to inspect the home and then spends another hour or so with the prospective buyer to go over everything.  They will charge a separate fee, but when you are purchasing something as big as a house, you'll likely want to protect your interests and get a good home inspection.
 
That should get you started...

Just remember to do your "due diligence" and ask lots of questions.  If something sounds too good to be true, it most likely is...

I hope that helps and I wish you well.
  • October 02 2013
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I have a couple of options for you...We have a First Time Homebuyer Seminar. I'd post the link, but I think zillow might black it out. Otherwise, you can find my site under my profile. 

The other option is to meet over coffee and have a Q&A Session. I do this for anyone that signs up for my website, etc.
  • October 03 2013
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We are in the customer service business, so I personally believe the BEST way to know the difference between a good realtor and a bad one is to look at testimonials.

That is one of the good things about Zillow. They have an agent directory where you can check out our profiles and the testimonials of previous clients. You can also do a google search like someone else suggested, because I for example have profiles on different websites with even more testimonials (like Trulia). It is a way for you to research a Realtor upfront. 

If a Realtor does not have testimonials that should tell you something. Most part-time Realtors do less than 3 transactions a year and never get testimonials. Make sure you choose a full time Realtor that has great reviews!  

Good Luck!
  • October 03 2013
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Hi First Time Home Buyer,

It sounds like you had a terrible experience the first time around. I'm sorry about that.

My suggestion to you this time around is to interview a couple of agents and work with the one you feel the most comfortable with. By interview, I mean call up three or four agents and ask them to show you ONE house. Grade them on how responsive, prepared, knowledgeable and personable they are. Most of us are competent and will be able to help you to find a good home, inspector and will ensure that you get down payment assistance or any other programs you deserve as a first time home buyer.

Your home buying experience should be enjoyable. If it isn't, most likely your agent is a bad fit for your needs. Don't sign a contract with the first agent you meet. Give yourself the change to develop some rapport. Trust your instincts and ask for references.

Welcome to the Twin Cities! It is a great place to live, work and go to school.

Sincerely,
Amy Williams

  • October 05 2013
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Profile picture for TeamBorden
I would say asking for references would be a great start when trying to choose a realtor.  You do have to be careful when choosing a home inspector because I have met some that are in and out of a home in less than an hour.  A good inspector will take the time and document all issues of the house and answer any questions that you might have and tell you how to maintain a home.  I recently had an inspector that discovered an issue with moisture in a house in the basement (lookout).  His moisture reader verified elevated levels of moisture which could be growing mold.  Ultimately the buyer backed out of the contract and moved onto the next property because this particular property would have cost the buyer an additional 10-15k in rehab and remediation costs.  This brings up another reason why you should use a buyer's agent.  A buyer broker representation agreement legally obligate's your realtor to upholding 6 fiduciary responsibilities.  Your agent should protect you from getting into a bad situation.  Your should have several contingencies such as home inspection, financing, appraisal, etc.    If you do not have a signed contract for representation with the seller's broker, that agent must legally disclose any information they find out about you to their seller's.  We as agent's/broker's have ethical obligations to our community and most follow these standards.  Beware though, you do not want to jump into a shark tank unless you are protected by a cage (your realtor).
  • October 07 2013
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I would definitely get a realtor and a good inspector.  I like southwest Minneapolis.  Or Longfellow is nice and is close to most law schools in Minneapolis/St Paul.

You want a realtor that doesn't try to sell you a house.  Find one that will tell you what houses not to buy.  That is what I do.  [Content removed by Zillow Moderator. Please see our Good Neighbor Policy]
  • November 08 2013
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I work on a team where we have specialists to help you in your home search. Our buyer specialist works specifically with first time home buyers.

We are located in Roseville, Minnesota and are experts in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area. 

We would love to sit down with you and go over any questions regarding your home search. 

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  • November 22 2013
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Profile picture for Ben Ganje
Zillow and Trulia have put some additional data on their agent pages which detail another interesting metric: past real estate sales. 

Buyers and Sellers should weigh in the years of experience, sales history and also feedback from past clients.  All of this data can be very helpful in making an informed decision.

Lastly interview a few agents to ensure who will work for you! 
  • November 25 2013
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Call me.  I will help you.
  • November 30 2013
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Hi.  I would love to chat with you about this.  Please give me a call and I will restore your faith in the process and help you find a perfect home.
  • December 18 2013
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I am so sorry to hear about the unfortunate events with your previous home.  There was a lot of that happening a few years back.  When working with clients, co-workers or anyone in general, we always trust our gut.  Buying a home is such an emotional process and you need to feel 100% comfortable with who you choose to work with.  

3 Things that may help.

1.  Check out the agent online.  Look at reviews, websites, type their name in google and see what comes up.  This should give you a little more information on whom you are dealing with.
2.  Ask for referrals of past clients and call them.  Ask open, honest questions and see if they will mesh with your personality.
3.  Interview the agent.  Working with an agent is about creating a synergistic relationship that has to work well together, it is a team effort and if you don't click - that is okay too.

Best of luck in your search!

Thank you.

Shawn Korby - Keller Williams Roseville, MN
  • January 03
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  • April 03
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  • May 29
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