For the home buyer, finding a home and getting your offer accepted is only the first step. On some transactions, much of the work happens after the offer is accepted as issues come up. Below I've shared six examples, to give you a sense. Really, each property and transaction has unique elements and steps, which makes it much more complex than, for example, buying a car, and it's why I have a job. Most clients buy or sell only a handful of homes in their lifetimes, so when challenges inevitably arise, I try to share my perspective from dozens of transactions and best advice.
Choosing a bad home inspector. I once attended an inspection where the inspector refused to answer questions! He found it too distracting to explain his findings to the client. This is why, when I'm working for a buyer, I provide a list of reputable home inspectors from which to choose. You're never obligated to take my recommendations, but it can certainly save you a headache. You want an inspector who will be thorough, answer your questions, and help you differentiate between significant issues and minor deficiencies.
A fight over home inspection results. It's common for buyers to request from the seller a credit or repairs to address certain deficiencies identified in the home inspection, which of course results in a new round of negotiation. As in all negotiations, it's important to separate the people from the problem in order to find a solution, and to understand your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA). Sometimes this can be difficult for buyers, who may be stretching financially and emotionally for the purchase, and for sellers, who have an emotional attachment to the property and may be feeling "nickle-and-dimed" by multiple new requests. I give you my best advice and lay out alternatives, but ultimately each move is your decision. I then make every effort to communicate professionally and clearly with the other side (for which I've often been thanked by the agents on the other side, who have even told me my communication was very helpful for coming to a satisfactory resolution.)
Problems with negotiated repairs. After a home inspection, the seller might agree to provide a credit to the buyer for some deficiency. In some cases, however, it makes more sense for the seller to make the repair immediately, for example, in the case of an active leak that may cause further damage. I've seen this in a couple recent transactions. After the repair is made, the buyer, of course, should re-inspect that item. In one recent transaction, in the process of making the agreed repair, the contractor caused other damage! That's why it's important to "trust but verify."
New assessments from a condo association. The seller of a condo must disclose to the buyer any current or upcoming assessments from the condo association. What if, after a unit is already under agreement, the association decides to raise a new assessment that had not previously been disclosed because it was not planned? If that happens, the buyer is notified of the new assessment, and the buyer and seller will need to come to terms over how much each will contribute. What is fair will depend on the situation. The buyer might be upset, but it's important to remember that the seller did nothing wrong (since they can't disclose something that didn't exist yet). In some ways, it's lucky for the buyer when this happens, because before the closing there is an opportunity to negotiate for the seller to contribute some amount to the new assessment, whereas after the closing the cost would be borne entirely by the buyer.
Mortgage commitment not ready. When a buyer includes a mortgage contingency in their offer, it comes with an expiration date, for example five weeks after the offer is accepted. If the buyer receives a rejection from their mortgage company prior to that date, they are able to receive their deposits back. Getting a mortgage commitment is between the buyer and their bank. What if the buyer does not receive a clear commitment from their bank by the deadline? In that case, an extension will have to be requested through your attorney, and the sellers will have to agree. The sellers usually do agree, but this can be nerve-racking, especially if it is needed more than once. Some banks in particular are notorious for providing pre-approval letters without verifying documents, not meeting deadlines, being unresponsive, and even pulling their commitments. Some savvy sellers will even discount pre-approval letters from certain banks. To my clients, I recommend reliable lenders that I have seen meet their commitments, and I try to advise my clients to avoid the worst banks. If you do go with a lender known to cause issues, it's okay, but you will really have to stay on top of them, and even then you should be prepared for frustrations.
Title not recorded. Even after the closing, you're not out of the woods yet! We can't give you the keys until the deed has been recorded at the county Registry of Deeds. This can be done electronically by the closing attorney, and usually happens within about an hour. Sometimes, however, there is a delay, for example, at the end of the month when there is more volume. If you have a closing late in the day on a Friday at the end of the month, there is a good chance that it won't be recorded before close of business. When that happens, the seller might be willing to let you move in anyway so that you're not living out of your car for the weekend, but they also might not! That's why I generally recommend doing closings earlier in the day, especially if it is the end of the month.
Almost every transaction will have some challenges, and some transactions will have many; it's how you deal with them that is important. The above list was just a sample of what can go wrong, and why you want an experienced hand on your side to offer advice. (Of course, what you do with that advice is up to you.)
Questions? Email me and let's set up a time to discuss your real estate needs.
AVI KAUFMAN is a top Realtor who lives and works in Brookline, Massachusetts, assisting buyers and sellers of residential property. He is building a unique practice dedicated to serving the best interest of his clients - see how he's different.