Why You Should Never Buy A House Near A School, And 32 Other Secrets, Stories, And Useful Pieces Of Advice From Realtors
"Places where things like murders have occurred are known as 'stigmatized properties.'"
In recent years, a lot of people — i.e. millennials — have become interested in the complicated world of home-owning. To get more clued in, we asked the real estate agents of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us their surprising secrets, stories, and pieces of advice from working in their field. Here's what they told us!
1. Places where things like murders have occurred are known as "stigmatized properties" and each state has its own rules on disclosure.
"We are legally required to disclose any defects that we are aware of. In many states — but not all — we're also required to disclose things like murders."
2. Realtors don’t get paid unless a home or rental closes.
"So all those showings, open houses, follow-up phone calls, texts, and emails morning-till-night? We don't get paid for that."
3. Beware of buying near schools.
"Morning and afternoon car lines can prevent you from entering/exiting your subdivision or even your own driveway. This can happen even several blocks away."
4. Online real estate marketplaces can be great, but they can lead to lots of "looky loos."
"Realtor.com and Zillow can be good resources for matching agents with buyers and sellers, but a lot of people click 'contact agent' with questions or showing requests that have no real intention to buy. They expect us to spend half a Saturday (or a holiday even!) showing them homes so they can be looky loos. We pay hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars for those leads each month and it’s really annoying when it’s just people clicking. Now, most of us require a loan pre-qualification letter or proof of funds."
5. Clients should check an area's police records if they're concerned.
"In my state, we follow caveat emptor, aka 'buyer beware.' So, yes, lots of googling, but that isn’t done by me as that could be a massive liability on my part if I miss something. I advise clients to personally check local police records as well as the sex offender list for that area if they have concerns."
6. Sit in your car with the engine off for a long time and just listen to the neighborhood.
"Is it noisy? May sound weird, but you wouldn’t buy a car that sounds like shit."
7. Realtors have to disclose if there are dead bodies on the grounds...that we know of.
"At least that we're told about! If we weren’t told by current homeowner, then we’re not liable to disclose."
8. Agents are regularly targeted by super-creepy fake clients.
"It’s a very dangerous job. I always require new clients to meet me at my office first, or text me a copy of their license. I let them know that this will be held on record with my office and that they check in with me during appointments and showings to make sure we are safe. Being alone with strangers in a vacant home is at the top of the list of things we were taught to never do when we were kids."
9. And a lot of realtors and agents carry pepper spray and stun guns because of it.
"I once was at a listing appointment and the guy selling told me 'he didn’t expect me to show potential buyers a good time in the master bedroom' to get it sold. He also made a comment about me showing the house in a bikini. I immediately left the listing appointment and didn’t take his calls anymore. We all carry pepper spray and stun guns for that reason."
10. When buying a house, don't borrow more than you can afford. Just don't.
'Google 'mortgage calculator.' Plan to spend no more than half of your net monthly income (after taxes, and after retirement contributions). Work backwards from that number to figure out how much you can borrow. That number is your ceiling, not your floor.'
11. If you ever need a good handyman, electrician, roofer, or anything house-related, ask a real estate agent for recommendations.
"We have the hookups with all the best and most affordable people in town who we know will show up and do a good job."
12. If you're selling your home, be sure to install security cameras.
"If your home is for sale and you still have belongings in there, I recommend having interior cameras in place. Even with an agent there to watch over people during showings, I’ve seen people snoop through personal stuff. I’ve even seen agents snoop through closets."
13. Hiring a professional real estate photographer is a must.
"When I see bad photos for a listing, I immediately know that the agent is either new, cheap, or horrible to work with. You want that sweet, sweet wide angle lens, colors that pop, and lighting that makes every space feel open and welcoming."
14. Look at what the house could be, not what it is.
"A lot of homes are staged, so look beyond how it's set up and look at the footprint of the house. Paint and fixtures can be changed and updated. Hell, some walls can be knocked down."
15. When trying to sell, don't leave anything out that you don't want people to see.
"Specifically, put your drugs away. We know who owns the house, and if we see that, we are required to tell the management company or owner."
16. Don't buy the fanciest house in a just OK neighborhood. Buy an OK house in a nice neighborhood.
"It's better to have your home's value uplifted by the neighborhood than to have it weighed down by it."
17. Do the commute before committing to it. A half hour drive can be 2 hours at rush hour.
18. Google the address first and see if any news articles come up.
"That house with wonderful features in a great neighborhood that is significantly less expensive than everything else around it might just be the one where the previous owner killed his wife and children in the main bedroom. If this doesn't bother you, fine, but for some people it's a dealbreaker."
19. Beware online descriptions that say something like "cozy house with countless possibilities...or build your own dream home!"
"The 'build your own dream home' part is code for 'this house is such a piece of shit that the land is probably worth more than the house is worth fixing up.' Do not go to visit that property unless you are seriously wanting to start from scratch and build your own place. Mold, plumbing problems, pests, hoarder owner/sanitary problems are common in these cases, and are often way beyond fixing."
20. One of the most common mistake is getting legal advice from a realtor instead of calling a lawyer before signing the contract.
"By the time it gets to the lawyer, it's too late for anything but damage control (at best) or a lawsuit (at worst)."
"We can advise on certain contract issues and real estate issues but that’s about it. We get asked about financial issues and liability all the time. Many realtors in my industry advise on matters when they should not."
21. Realtors get our hands dirty.
"On TV, they make it look like all Realtors do is get dressed up, show houses, and talk on the phone. In real life, I’m constantly doing lots of hands-on dirty jobs to get a house ready to sell. I'm always checking stuff out and getting things working."
22. Pretentious Million Dollar Listing wannabes are a thing.
"It's not uncommon for Million Dollar Listing wannabes to call and rip your listing a new one, or try to tell you what you’re doing wrong or why it won’t ever sell. They’re just trying to get you to budge on the price or be more willing accept a lowball offer."
23. Realtors can't tell you if a house is in a “good” school district.
"We can only direct you to where you can look at the statistics for yourself."
24. Beware of cat owners.
"It's amazing how poorly some cat owners will clean before a showing. Our practice is we ask the owner to take the cat with them (so it doesn't sneak out a door as someone is entering/leaving) and we ask them to empty the litter box. I've shown up before our showings to find totally full litter boxes, cat throw up on the rug, or fur balls rolling around the house. I always bring a 'Cat Cleanup' toolbox with me to any house that has a cat."
25. Don't believe everything people comment on Facebook listings.
"People who haven't been inside a home or have no knowledge of the market or local real estate prices LOVE to leave their two cents in the comments on Facebook. I work near the coast and the best is when people comment 'Oh, that for sure floods. No one should buy that, it's money down the drain' type stuff. Check the flood maps honey, it’s not in a flood zone and it's been there for 50 years and never seen water. Bye Felicia."
26. Title insurance is worth it. You only buy it once no matter how many times you refinance.
27. Bring a tape measure and blank paper. Measure the rooms.
"Will your furniture fit in the bedrooms? People can stage houses with small furniture to make a room feel bigger."
28. Always get pre-approved.
"I know so many people who make an offer before finding out what the bank is willing to lend them. You lose the house to bidders who could pay their offer and you waste time by not doing this."
29. 10% of agents do about 90% of the business.
"It's relatively easy to get your real estate license — in most states in the US, it's a 100-hour course followed by a 60-question multiple choice exam — but the workload and competition to actually be a productive agent and make any money AT ALL from it is extremely difficult. The majority of real estate agent licensees drop out of the industry within their first two years of being licensed, and only half of those licensed ever sell even ONE property."
30. Being a real estate agent comes with a cost.
"There are more costs associated with being a real estate agent, and especially a Realtor (which is a trademarked professional organization that you have to pay for separately from getting your license) than most realize. Between license fees, realtor dues, MLS fees, splits/desk fees with your brokerage, and marketing materials, it's pretty difficult to even make a living as an agent, let alone get rich."
32. Do NOT get emotional about buying your home.
"Remember, this is first and foremost a business transaction. When you get emotional, you get irrational."
33. And lastly, it sounds obvious, but if an agent is showing your house, DON'T 👏 BE 👏 THERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 👏
"I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked in on people in their underwear in the middle of the day watching Game of Thrones on the couch!"
What do you wish YOU knew before buying or selling a home? Tell us in the comments!
Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.