3 Negotiation Tips for Homebuyers

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For those with the means, the housing market seems ripe for the picking.Rampant unemployment, excessive debt and uncertain financial futures turned hordes of prospective buyers off to the market this year. But for the lucky few not facing such hurdles, the good news is it’s a buyer’s market.  

To help you take advantage of the ongoing housing slump, we rounded up three negotiation tips that will help you get the most for your money. You may be busy with a million different things, but if you’re serious about buying a home, then following these rules are really the bare minimum. If you’re not prepared to do this, then maybe you should be renting.

Rule #1: Get pre-approved.

This should go without saying, notes Victoria Schtainer, the New York-based senior vice president of Prudential Douglas Elliman. But many homeowners skip this crucial step, sacrificing their credibility, and dream home, in the process.

“When you go out and look at properties, the best course of action is to have your finances in check,” Schtainer says. Get your tax records, credit report and employment information together first, even before you’ve started to look. “That shows a serious buyer,” she says, and will help you assess your finances so you know what you’re bargaining with.

Getting pre-approved by a mortgage lender sets a homeowner’s expectations by telling you whether you’re financially able to afford a home, and how much you’ll be able to spend. It can also provide a glimpse of future mortgage payments, as well as the maximum mortgage for which you might qualify.

Rule #2: Get a trustworthy broker.

You wouldn’t befriend anyone you don’t trust, so why would you buy a house through someone you think is a bit shady? Find a reputable broker who you feel you can depend upon during negotiations. Your broker will be there to see you through the process, and ideally should be someone with “experience, motivation and the right credentials,” says Jorden Tepper, director of sales for Century 21 New York Metro. “You only need one, but make sure he’s qualified; in New York, he should be on the real estate board with a reputable company that’s also on the board,” Tepper says. Find someone “with experience in the market that you’re looking in and check out his sales history and neighborhood,” just to make sure they align with your goals.  
To find a great broker in your area, verify the person’s license through your municipal Department of Real Estate Records, or simply ask to see his or her credentials.

Rule #3: Don’t take it personally.

All realtors recommend leaving emotions out when your broker begins the negotiation process. "Put on your investor's cap,” Tepper advises, and try to regard the process as a business transaction, nothing more.

Andy Gagliano, president of Gagliano Mortgage, agrees. He tells potential buyers not to be afraid to walk away, and never pay more than a pre-established ceiling. “In today’s market it’s not an issue, you can find another house down the street.”  

Remember, your broker is motivated by a commission, and the broker only makes money when you buy. Set clear expectations for what you’re willing to spend, and make sure your broker respects them.

In the market for a mortgage? MainStreet explains how to avoid four common traps.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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