What Can We Expect In 2021 For New Smyrna Beach?

2020 is over, and it was… well, an interesting year, to say the least. Not just in general either – it was one of those years for real estate that made experts walk back prior predictions and caused economists to burn more than a few of their white papers. Despite everything that happened, against all expectations, the housing market remained incredibly resistant to the issues of last year and looks to remain strong going forward. To say real estate had a benchmark year against all odds is kind of underselling it. 


So what happened, and what can we expect in 2021? I’ve addressed the peculiarity of 2020 in previous blogs, but the long and short of it is that housing prices remained high because of A.) the market’s position of relative strength at the beginning of the year, B.) already-low inventories that still fell short of demand, and C.) low interest rates and a softer-than-expected economic blow from the pandemic. For us in New Smyrna Beach, we also have the constant flow of Orlando buyers and sellers already owning or wanting property here, not to mention the fact that the pandemic has increased demand for the beach, water, and boating lifestyle. 


All of that added up to a resilient market and a strong floor on prices. As the pandemic looks to be drawing to a close, what are the predictions for this year? 


For starters, 2020 is going to echo into 2021. What I mean by that is nothing in real estate occurs in vacuum; to a certain extent, all of this is connected, and what happened last quarter affects the next three months. So the three factors I mentioned earlier are going to have an effect on what we see moving forward. 


If you’re selling, that’s good news. The reality is that there are far more buyers than there are homes available, and that was only exacerbated by the pandemic. I know that sounds counterintuitive because we’d ordinarily expect economic hardship to have the opposite effect, but while the pandemic didn’t have much of an effect on buyers searching for homes, what it did do is put occasional halts to construction, sometimes for months. This means that the balance of buyers to sellers remained largely unchanged; if anything, the supply is a lot lower relative to demand. 


Because of this, prices remain high and we’re definitely in a market that favors sellers. But what if you’re looking to buy? Are conditions against you? Not necessarily. The reason I say this is due to another factor that increased the number of buyers entering the market, which has in turn increased competition: low interest rates. I’ve written about this before as well, but when interest rates fall, mortgages become more affordable and more buyers find themselves in a position to buy homes. While this increases competition, it also makes conditions a lot more favorable for first-time buyers in particular. 


This means that while buyers may have to go through several offers and even outright bidding wars before they find their new home, ultimately they’ll save several thousand dollars on their mortgage and build equity more quickly. Some buyers I’ve worked with were even able to buy homes that would ordinarily be out of their price range precisely because of how much they saved on their loan. A few percentage points doesn’t look like much on paper, but it amounts to thousands of dollars in savings for borrowers, and interest rates are at historic lows. Most buyers do the math and decide to enter the market. 


So on a macro scale, that’s more or less what’s going on with the market as a whole, and while these factors are at play all across the United States, real estate is all about location. In other words, local markets behave differently based on – you guessed it – their location. As a real estate agent in central Florida, I’ve seen these general conditions play a role in our market while noting its own distinct behaviors. 


Assuming all of the things we’ve talked about so far still apply, how does New Smyrna Beach stand out? For one, central and south Florida never really have an “off season.” For a large part of the country, sales slow down in the cooler months after peaking in the summer. For us here in Florida – especially on the coasts – condos and tourism tend to keep the market hot year-round. Because of retirees looking for their “golden years” home, vacationers looking to rent beach houses and condos, and snowbirds from up north buying their winter getaways, New Smyrna Beach is constantly active in terms of real estate. 


Unsurprisingly, this also means New Smyrna Beach has a healthy tourism market, and because of this, investment is ramping up. Some of you who follow me on social media have noticed an uptick in the price of commercial properties recently, and that’s not a coincidence. The people that are already heavily invested in New Smyrna continue to do so by way of selling to purchase a larger condo or home because they are now accelerating their future plans or spending much more time here as the pandemic shifts habits. For some, these shifts are permanent and have had an enormous effect on the market here.


With heavy demand for both rental and purchased property, commercial interests have been taking note and investing heavily in Florida over the past few years, the pandemic notwithstanding. Tourists and vacationers mean money spent in everything from bars to chartered fishing, while residents appreciate their usual favorite brunch spot. And how are you supposed to go kayaking without the proper equipment? All of this adds up to businesses setting up shop and a lot of money being poured into New Smyrna Beach from both retail and commercial sources, and neither shows signs of letting up any time soon. 


Thinking of buying or selling this year? Let me know how I can help! As an agent in New Smyrna Beach for the past ten years, I know this city inside and out and can get your home sold or help you find your next one! You can find me on Instagram, or email me here!


  • Matt 


Matt Guarro is a REALTOR in the New Smyrna Beach, Edgewater, and Port Orange areas of Central Florida.

What You Need to Know Before Buying a Condo (That Nobody Ever Told You)

As a realtor in Florida, a large portion of the transactions I’m a part of are those involving condos. It just comes with the territory (we are, after all, right on the beach). I’ve been doing it long enough to know exactly what most buyers have in mind – and what they don’t know – when they approach their first condo purchase.

Most of us know the basics of condos, but there are two distinguishing characteristics about transactions involving them that are regularly left out of the conversation.

So this week, I wanted to touch on a few crucial aspects of condo purchases that you absolutely need to know if you’re considering buying one as the season heats up.

You NEED an agent who has experience selling condos, because these are uncharted waters for you. In a word: contingencies.

Selling or buying a condo is an entirely different animal than selling or buying a single-family home. This is mostly due to the fact that a condo’s purchase contract carries a whole new set of contingencies that most single-family homeowners are going to be unfamiliar with. There are different contingencies than the common contingencies that are in a residential purchase and sale contract.

For example, as a buyer, there should be a separate addendum used in conjunction to the sales contract prior to closing. This addendum generally states that you understand and agree to the association rules and regulations and should give you an opportunity to review the bylaws, FAQ’s, and the budget just to name a few.

However, as a buyer, you may want to attach your offer to a set of your own contingencies, and again, these are unique to condo communities. You can, as a buyer, make your offer conditional on a review of those same community regulations and bylaws, and whether or not they’re A.) reasonable, and B.) satisfactory to you.

You can also make your offer contingent on a review of the minutes of the association’s meetings, a submission of their budget (because you’ll be paying fees and you have a right to how they’ll be managed), repair and renovation receipts, permits, assessments and the list goes on. This actually helps protect you as a buyer in case new information comes to light after you’ve put forth an offer.

Because of this, it’s important you work with a real estate agent who has experience selling condos! They’re going to know exactly how these things are done and will have the experience of past transactions – including buyer, seller, and association demands – to handle the unique complexity of the sale. They’ll also know how to guide you through the process and ensure important documents aren’t overlooked.

Financing is going to be a lot different than what you may be used to. It may not even be available at all from some lenders!

Financing of a condo isn’t the same as what you might typically encounter for an average single-family home. Some things still apply, obviously: it’s still important to get pre-approved prior to looking at properties. Obtaining financing can be tricky when it comes to purchasing a condo because some lenders and loan products don’t allow condo purchases.

Of course, you can still obtain a private mortgage for a condo purchase but that’s going to come at a higher cost to you one way or another, either in the form of higher interest rates, PMI (private mortgage insurance), or a larger down payment. The last is the most common scenario, and many private lenders will require a minimum of 20% down on a condo purchase. So if you don’t have a substantial amount of money saved for a down payment, buying a condo may not be the best fit for you.

Condos are often purchased with cash or higher down payments due to the regulations of lenders and programs. Down payment amounts are a big factor in the approval process of condo financing. Believe it or not, the amount you put down on a condo purchase determines whether the lender does a limited or a full review of that condo. This is done with what is called a condo questionnaire, which must be filled out by the association manger and asks for information like occupancy ratios, full-time vs. part-time owners, and budget questions. These things can make a big difference when purchasing a condo. So please stay in the know and call, text, or email me if I can help you navigate this complex buying process.

Condos can be a great investment for the right buyer, but they’re not for everyone. If you want to know more, leave a question in in the comments or email me using the sidebar to the right!

– Matt

The Fundamentals of Making an Offer on A Home

What’s the best way to go about making an offer on the home you’ve decided needs to be yours, after months of searching? The short answer is, not without knowing what you’re doing.

For one, you want to have an accurate picture of the fair value of this home. For another, your finances need to be in order. Then there are the practical transactional things like making your offer more compelling, negotiations, and finally money transfers and protection. Every step of the way, your real estate agent will be there to guide you through the process, so lean on their expertise while taking the time to understand exactly what’s going on.


Know both the market and the seller.

This is basically a half-and-half assessment here. You need to be able to offer a competitive price that’s comparable to other nearby homes on the market, but you also want to understand a bit about the seller’s psychology and motives in order to make the best offer with the greatest chance of being accepted. Start by researching local selling prices for homes comparable to the one you’re looking to buy. This will give you an idea of the fair market price.

But that’s not the full story. Check the history of the property, and pay attention to when the seller purchased it, and for how much. A seller who bought a home several years ago and has seen some appreciation in its value may be more willing to negotiate on price than a homeowner who purchased a home more recently.

Finally, take an objective look at things. Is the seller trying to sell quickly? They might take a lower offer. Do they need flexibility to find a new home, and could you rent the home to them while they look after you purchase it? That might make your offer stand out among those of other buyers. Speaking of other buyers, how hot is the market? If there are a bunch of buyers and relatively few sellers (such as now, but this varies by location), then the seller has more leverage and you may not be able to move them much lower than their asking price.


Get pre-approved for the amount you want to offer.

Most of us are going to need to take out a mortgage to buy a home, and sellers justifiably want to be assured that you can get one. When you are pre-approved by a lender before you submit your offer, you have a guarantee that they are willing to lend you a certain amount under specific terms and conditions. A seller will take an offer from a buyer who’s been pre-approved more seriously than one who hasn’t.

This is different than being pre-qualified. Being pre-qualified doesn’t really carry any weight, and it doesn’t guarantee to the seller that you’ll be able to get financing. Pre-approval is a laborious (and invasive) process where the lender will find out your creditworthiness as a borrower and assess the level of risk you present to them. In other words, if being preapproved is like having a driver’s license, being pre-qualified is like you just bought a unicycle.


Lean on the professionals.

Your real estate agent will be your primary confidant and counsel here. There’s a lot of legal jargon and a surprising lack of universality across different locations in terms of laws and regulations. You want to make sure that your written offer meets legal requirements, and they vary from state to state.

When it comes to what a formal offer itself should include, the basics are the date of the offer, the address and description of the property, the price offered for the home, finance terms such as loan details and the amount of the down payment, escrow details (more on that in a minute), closing date, actual possession date, and any contingencies, which would allow you to cancel a contract without penalty.

A good example of a contingency might be your right as the buyer to have the home appraised and inspected.


Protect your money

You’ll want to arrange to have the deposit held in an escrow account so that your money can be returned to you if the offer falls through. This is important because it’s how both parties ensure a smooth transfer of funds and physical property, not to mention other things like maintenance issues that come to light during inspection that may require the seller to leave some money in escrow.


Be prepared to negotiate.

At some point, you’ll have to deliver the offer to the seller or to their real estate agent. Ideally, they’d accept it. I can tell you from experience, and so can most homeowners, that it’s almost never that simple. You need to be prepared for the possibility that they’ll reject it outright, or come back with a counteroffer.

What would a counteroffer look like? They normally include changes like a revised sale price or closing/possession date. You can accept the counteroffer, or submit one of your own. In a sellers’ market, this is a little less likely to play in your favor, especially the longer the process drags on. In any case, it will continue until you and the seller both agree, or until the offer is rescinded. Once an offer is accepted by both parties and signed, it becomes a binding contract, so it’s absolutely imperative that you stay involved throughout the process and understand the offer’s contents before signing.


Buying a home is a tricky business, but it’s well worth your time and effort to be up to speed on things. If you need help buying a home, drop me a line in the submission form to the right, and I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.


– Matt

Why Curb Appeal Matters, And What It Means In The Digital Age

In this day and age, curb appeal is a little more crucial than it used to be, largely thanks to the Internet. Before, a prospective buyer might drive to your home and still give it a look even if something about the exterior turned them off because, hey, they made the drive and they might as well check the place out since they came all this way. These days, most buyers do their home shopping online, and if they’re not hooked in a matter of seconds (often less), they click over to the next listing.

First impressions have always mattered. After all, you only get one chance to pull them off. But they’re now more important than ever in a world increasingly driven by instant gratification with an ever-shortening attention span. If your listing doesn’t grab a buyer’s attention right away, they’re going to move on and forget about it forever.  

Before we get into how to adapt the term to the world we live in today, let’s revisit exactly what curb appeal means. It’s one of those phrases that have become a familiar part of our lexicon but when asked to define them precisely, a lot of people would be hard-pressed to do so.

Curb appeal is, in broad terms, how impressive a home looks from a casual observer’s point of view. In the past, buyers would absorb first impressions of homes while standing in the street or driving by, or what we can reasonably consider a curbside vantage point. Their initial impression from that point of view would usually determine whether or not they would go for an actual showing.

So sellers spent a lot of time to get that buyer up to the front door. They would be cleaning the exterior, adding things like shutters, repainting the front door, and landscaping and seeding their yard. The rule was that if the home didn’t appeal from the curb, buyers would move on to the next house, and curb appeal was therefore viewed as the single most important piece of the home sale puzzle.


Curb appeal is still crucial – but in a different way.

Today, since most buyers form their first impression from a home’s online photos, curb appeals matters in a slightly different sense. One could argue that it’s not just important in a different way, but that it’s even more important than it used to be.

Buyers will be scrolling through photos online as they go through dozens of listings per hour. This effectively lowers the perceived value of each choice they have. They’ll click over to the next listing if they don’t like what they see.

Further, buyers expect to see interior photos as they view your listing. So it’s not just about a home’s exterior anymore when it comes to first impressions; you effectively have to open up the entire place just to convince someone to drive to the address, let alone set foot in the door.

In other words, web appeal is the new curb appeal. And if your home doesn’t photograph well or isn’t properly staged, then curb appeal won’t even make a difference.


You need an agent who’s in step with the times.

Even great staging won’t help if you don’t present your home in the best possible light – inside and out – and that generally means professional photos. Buyers have become used to a certain standard, and that standard is a pleasing, well-shot set of viewable photos. Your listing should answer most questions a buyer might have before they even think to ask them, and that’s harder to do than it sounds.

You’ll want to get a seller’s agent who understands this, and lean on their expertise. I’ve written about this before, but your agent’s marketing makes all the difference in the world. They need to understand the importance of web appeal, and have methods that put that understanding into practice.

For example, homes with aerial photos sell 68% faster than those without. Homes with video listings sell 50% faster than those with just images. These are huge differences precisely because they deliver on the expectations that most buyers have. Your agent will know that neither you nor they can change the market’s expectations, but you can meet them in order to make the sale.

Unfortunately, this means you’re going to have to work a lot harder than you would have 15 or 20 years ago. In our ever-more-visual society, buyers make snap judgments about a home within seconds of clicking on the listing. The abundance of listings available on the web – even in a sellers’ market with low inventory – means that each listing has a lower perceived value and has more competition since other listings are a mere click away.

You only have one chance to make a good impression. The traditional definition of curb appeal still applies, but in order to get a buyer to view your home in person, your listing needs to look great on the web.


Are you thinking of selling your home this year, and wondering how you can use techniques like staging, professional photos, leading-edge marketing, videos, and aerial photos to get your home sold quickly and for the best possible price? Drop me a line in the comments or in the form on the right, and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have.


– Matt

Buyers: Between Your Initial Offer and Closing, Maintain Your Credit

One of the most common questions I encounter, especially with first-time buyers, is if lenders are going to pull that buyer’s credit more than once during the purchase process.


The short answer is yes, and they’re going to pull it at least twice. It’s pretty much the standard for lenders to pull borrowers’ credit in the beginning of the approval process, and then again just prior to closing. This is why as agents, we always emphasize that our clients shouldn’t get a new car or open a Kohl’s credit card during the purchase process.


It sounds like conventional wisdom, but you’d be surprised by how many buyers don’t understand this. Let’s say you have outstanding credit and you passed the initial check for preapproval with flying colors and netted yourself a good interest rate. Be proud about that, because you worked hard for it. It doesn’t mean you’re done with credit checks, though.


Make no mistake, I get it: navigating the purchase of a home is overwhelming if you’ve never done it before (and a lot of my job is guiding buyers through the process). There’s a lot to keep track of and lenders basically put you under a microscope at the same time, requiring documentation of seemingly every detail of your life. So let’s walk through what happens and why it’s important to maintain your credit in that window between preapproval and closing.


The initial phase of acquiring a loan is pre-qualification, where you’ll self-report financial information. Lenders are going to want to know details, and they’re going to scrape down to bare metal while doing it. They want to know your credit score, social security number, marital status, history of your residence, employment and income, account balances, debt payments and balances, confirmation of any foreclosures or bankruptcies in the last seven years, and even the sourcing of a down payment. That’s not even all of it, either!


The next step is preapproval, and it’s here that lenders will actually verify your financial information. To do this, they need documentation to confirm the information you submitted in your application. At this point, they’re pulling your credit history for the first time. This is the first credit check, and you may be required to submit a letter of explanation for each credit inquiry in recent years, such as opening a new credit card, and for any derogatory information in your history, like a missed payment. Yes, a late utility bill payment is probably going to come up.


I’m going to pause for a minute here and draw a distinction between pre-qualification and preapproval because they’re very different things. Pre-qualified means that a lender is reasonably receptive to the idea of taking you on as a borrower based on information you’ve volunteered. Nothing has been verified, though, so actual approval is contingent on that information being accurate. Preapproval, as we just saw, is when the lender has seen documentation and approved you for a loan for a given amount at a given interest rate.


In most markets in the United States, there are fewer homes for sale than there are buyers. This means you’ve got a lot of competition as a buyer. A buyer who’s only pre-qualified is going to have a weaker negotiating position than one who’s preapproved, because with the latter a seller has more confidence that the buyer can follow through. In other words, if you’re serious about buying a home, you need to go through the preapproval process before even looking at homes.


So, once you find a home within budget and make an offer, be prepared to submit additional or updated documentation. Underwriters then analyze the risk of offering you a loan based on the information in your application, credit history, and the property’s value.


It can take time for your offer to be accepted, and for your loan to pass underwriting. Many lenders pull borrowers’ credit a second time just prior to closing to verify your credit score remains the same, and therefore the risk to the lender hasn’t changed. During this window between preapproval and closing, you want to avoid any new incidents on your credit report. For example, if you were late on a payment and were sent to collections, it will affect your loan. If you acquired any new loans or lines of credit and used those credit lines, your debt-to-income ratio would change, which can also affect your loan eligibility.


If the second credit check results match the first, closing should occur on schedule. However, if the new report is lower or concerning to the lender in any way, you could lose the loan. The alternative is that the lender may send your application back through underwriting for a second review, which lengthens the timeline on closing and may reduce what you can actually afford due to changes in loan terms like interest rates.


Here’s the kicker, though: even hard inquiries will show up on your credit report and can affect your loan. This is because loans are complicated instruments and they require a lot of actuarial calculations on the lender’s end. With all of those moving parts, it’s kind of like the engine on your car: if one component goes out, the entire car may not be drivable. Loans work the same way. It’s a balancing act, so do what you can to not upset it. Don’t open that Macy’s card just to get 10% off your next purchase.


– Matt Guarro is a Realtor in the Central Florida – New Smyrna Beach area

Your Realtor’s Marketing: It Makes a Difference

In my last article, I discussed the qualities that all good agents possess and what you should look for when choosing an agent. If you’re selling, remember that your agent is going to be the one responsible for bringing interested buyers to your home.


Precisely how they go about that is the difference between your home selling for your asking price within a few weeks, and your home languishing on the market for months until you lower your price.


The best agents are ninjas when it comes to things like staging, showing your home, fielding offers, and representing your interests in negotiations. That’s kind of the bare minimum here. The agents that are truly a cut above are marketing wizards, and again, their techniques make all the difference in the world when it comes to getting your home sold quickly and for top dollar.


So what techniques do good agents use? What should you be looking for? As I mentioned in my last article, you should be checking out prospective agents’ previous listings to ascertain things like the amount of time they spent on the marketing and making sure their sale prices are commensurate with other comparable homes in the area.


Checking their previous work also gives you a window into that agent’s marketing techniques, and that’s what we’re going to delve into today.




It’s almost 2018, and at this point there’s no excuse for an agent to not at least consider using drones for aerial shots. It used to be that if you wanted impressive aerial photos, you had to pay for a helicopter and a photographer. Given that most agents don’t operate with the budget of a Michael Bay movie, this wasn’t always practical.


These days, though, drones have made these views of your home less cost-prohibitive, and as that cost comes down, aerial photos are becoming more of an expectation than a novelty.


For example, homes with aerial photos sell 68% faster than those without. That’s a huge, huge difference. If your agent isn’t using aerial shots or at least willing to consider them, then find one who is, because you can bet that if your neighbor has that realtor, their home is going to sell faster than yours.




Videos are another medium that have been shown to increase sales or, more correctly, decrease the time a home spends on the market before selling. Much like aerial photos, listings that use videos sell 50% faster than those that don’t.


So check and see if the agent you’re considering uses them. If not, it may be worth putting a few others in the running.


In this day and age, the agent you work with needs to be up to speed and current with how buyers like to experience homes they’re looking at, especially for the first time. Much like a great staging gives a one-time first impression that lasts, a good video will warm a buyer up to your home before they even approach the front door. The psychological effect here is powerful, and if you want your home to sell quickly, your agent needs to work that effect.


Social media


The Internet has revolutionized the real estate world to a greater extent than just about anything else in the last thirty years. Starting with the early 2000’s, buyers began showing a strong preference for viewing homes from the comfort of their own. Online listings were in, while driving around and flipping through classified sections were out.


Social media is probably the most consequential evolution wrought by the Internet in recent years. With the advent of Facebook’s marketplace, things like Craigslist became almost obsolete overnight.


The best agents these days have a coherent marketing strategy that takes social media into account. Why? Because most interested buyers spend several hours a day on social media, so if you want to find them, that’s where you look.


It’ll be obvious if the agent you’re considering posts their listings regularly, and maintains a network of buyer’s agents and their clients through social media. What you’ll want to ask, though, is what their other strategies are. Do they post listings to relevant groups, and do they advertise their listings on social media? The latter is especially important: advertising on social media is several times more effective and precise than just putting up an ad in the paper or a sign on a street.


Ask your agent about these things. If they’re worth their salt, they’ll clue you in and give you a rundown of their strategies. If they stammer or stare blankly, then they probably have no clue how to properly market your home. If you want to know more or you’re looking to sell your home, drop me an email in the sidebar! I love answering questions and helping people get their homes sold quickly and for top dollar.


Matt Guarro is a Realtor based in New Smyrna Beach, Florida

The Seller’s Guide to Choosing a Real Estate Agent

As a home seller, it’s pretty normal to start looking for a real estate agent after you’ve decided to move out of your current home. You might have received a job offer out of state or maybe just outgrown your space, but whatever your reason, you’re probably going to need to find the agent who can sell your home both quickly and for the best possible price.


A good seller’s agent will have the proper experience in handling the entire sale process as well as preventing any possible complications that may arise. Real estate transactions, as you probably know from purchasing your home initially, are ridiculously complex and involve a lot of legal jargon and terms you’ve never heard of. The agent’s job is to get you through this process and be your advocate throughout it.


What to Look For


A good seller’s agent is pretty easy to spot. From their communication skills to their market expertise, it’s easy to see why you should hire an agent during the home selling process.


Communication skills are critical in a good seller’s agent, as they will be the communication between you and the potential buyer or buyer’s agent. You will need this during negotiations and for any possible offers made on your home. Make sure they respond promptly and articulately in your initial contacts with them; this is an indicator of how they’ll present themselves to buyers and their agents.


Market expertise helps with not only pricing your home, but also when trying to make your home visible to potential buyers through the MLS, for-sale signs, internet advertising, etc. Make no mistake: creative internet advertising is absolutely crucial in this day and age. An agent who’s not on the ball here is lagging behind when it comes to keeping up with how consumers prefer to browse homes. Look for agents who use videos, virtual tours, Facebook ads, and group postings to get your home in front of as many people as possible.


A good track record is important. Don’t be afraid to request the asking and sales prices for an agent’s past home sales. You want to see how long their listings were on the market (long listings could indicate overpricing or poor marketing), and whether their sale prices were comparable to similar homes in the area around that time. It’s even better if you can find examples of listings that are similar to your home.


What to Avoid


The probability of selling your home quickly and for a good price rests heavily on the skills and knowledge of your seller’s agent, so you need to treat this relationship as an important one.


Look at their track record. A poor one means that either the agent hasn’t sold a lot of homes or the homes sold for far less than the initial asking price. These are bad signs either way. At best, the agent is inexperienced. At worst, they’re prone to overpricing at first or poorly marketing/staging the home to the extent that a lower price has to be accepted. Either way, you want to aim higher.


There are obviously economic conditions that might influence how real estate has performed in your area over the years, but you want to look and make sure a potential agent’s performance isn’t an outlier or beyond the scope of reasonable economic factors. Again, ask how long their past listings were on the market. That can tell you a lot.


Make sure your agent is experience in selling homes. There’s a difference between a buyer’s and seller’s agent, which is why we did two different articles on the subject. Just because someone is an agent doesn’t necessarily mean they have experience in selling homes. No experience selling homes similar to your specific house can also be a warning sign. An easy way around this is to ask about the qualities of the homes they’ve sold in the past, and for how much, to determine the sale of your home.


The First-Time Home Buyers Guide to Choosing a Real Estate Agent

Heading into the new year, you may be seriously considering buying a home as a major goal (last week, we talked briefly about how 2018 could be your year). If you’ve run the numbers and calculated that you can afford to buy a home, then finding an agent is the next step.


If you’re a first-time homebuyer, it’s best to start looking for a real estate agent after you get preapproved through a mortgage lender. With your letter in hand, you’re coming in knowing exactly how much home you can afford. This lets the agent know you’re serious and have done your homework while helping them get a starting point in terms of properties to explore with you. From there, you can determine the criteria you’d like in a home and your priorities for a home, based on you preapproval amount.


Once they understand what it is you’re looking for and your price range, the buyer’s agent will set up appointments on your behalf and relay information on potential properties that may be of interest to you. In other words, your overall house hunting experience is going to depend greatly on your agent, which in turn means that finding a good agent is almost as important as choosing the right home.


What to Look For


Finding a good agent sometimes means finding someone who’s right for you rather than someone who would be a good fit for everyone. That being said, talented and capable agents all tend to have a few universal qualities. You’ll want to work with someone who not only knows the real estate market in general, but also has a good understanding of the local market in particular. This is an important distinction to make, because it’s one thing to understand the real estate market in the United States in the abstract; people who spend their time there are economists, not real estate agents. You need someone who knows the local market.


A good agent will be able to tell you about the current homes for sale, including location, demographics, school system and anything else that may be of interest to you. Moreover, you should be able to verify their track record in the area. How do the sale prices of their previous listings stack up to comparable homes? How long do their listings typically stay on the market? Even though you’re buying and not selling a home, this still clues you in to an agent’s understanding of the area and their competence in getting deals done.


Negotiation skills to actively negotiate price and terms as well as assisting in property inspections and providing advice for improvements and repairs. A good agent will be in the buyer’s corner throughout the entire home buying process.


Don’t be afraid to ask for references, either. A confident agent will have no problem sending you to a few previous clients. Any agent who hesitates is at best inexperienced and at worst not very good at their job. Credentials, such as Accredited Buyer Representatives (ABR) or Certified Buyer Representatives (CBR). Perhaps the most important credential, however, is the REALTOR, meaning they’re a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and adhere to its code of ethics.


What to Avoid


With so much of your house hunting experience dependent on the competence and aptitude of your agent, there are a few red flags you’ll want to avoid.


Part-time real estate agents may have limited availability, and even more limited experience in the field. You’ll want to be sure to ask the agent if this is their full-time job before proceeding.


Ensure that your agent has your interests in mind. Look out for any conflicts of interest, especially relationships with the seller. Even though dual agencies are illegal in my home state of Florida now, it’s wise to look for an exclusive buyer’s agent and be aware of the laws in your own state.


I said earlier that you shouldn’t be shy about asking for references, but do your own homework as well. Look for reviews and testimonials. Google is your friend here. Bad reviews can be a telltale sign of an agent’s work ethic or ability to get things done.

Are You Thinking About Buying Your First Home? Here’s What You Need to Know

For most of us, buying a home is as much a symbol of the American dream as it is the most significant financial investment of our lives. It’s an incredibly big deal and a nerve-wracking experience, because real estate transactions are some of the most complex on the planet.


If you’re a first-time homebuyer, you’re probably going to find the process daunting and fraught with uncertainty. Not only is it probably the biggest purchase of your life, but the process is complicated and fraught with unfamiliar lingo and surprise expenses as well.


Because of this, it should go without saying that you need an experienced buyer’s agent. Before we go any further, though, it’s important to underscore the fact that a good agent is absolutely indispensable to you as a buyer.


Hiring an agent should be your first order of business, mostly because they’ll save you a lot of time and confusion. An agent can send you listings directly from MLS that fit your parameters, and they usually know of new listings coming up that are not yet on the market. An agent can generally spot overpriced listings and advise you accordingly, and they’ll know when you need to walk away or look elsewhere.


When it comes down to the complex legalese and real estate jargon that comes with the sale of property, you’ll be leaning on your agent to interpret it and steer you through it while making sure you understand what’s happening every step of the way.


Next, make sure you’re in a financial position to come up with a reasonable down payment, and make sure your credit score is reasonably good – both of these can save you thousands over the course of a mortgage term. It’s common to put 20% down, but many lenders now permit much less, and first-time home buyer programs allow as little as 3% down.


If you can only afford a 3% down payment, understand that you’ll wind up paying for much more than the home’s asking price over the years, and you’ll probably incur extra costs like interest points and private mortgage insurance (which is fairly common for down payments under 5%). You might try saving up for a down payment by setting aside tax refunds and work bonuses, setting up an automatic savings plan, and using an app to track your progress.


Even if you can offer a 20% down payment, a lender will still treat you as a high-risk borrower if you have a poor credit score, and this again can cost you thousands over the long run. When you’re taking out a mortgage loan, your credit will be one of the key factors in whether you’re approved, and it will help determine your interest rate and possibly the loan terms. So check your credit before you begin the home buying process. Dispute any errors that could be dragging down your credit score and look for opportunities to improve your credit, such as making a dent in any outstanding debts.


As you shop around for loans, don’t open any new lines of credit. Not only do hard inquiries affect your score, lenders don’t necessarily like to see new applications on the reports of potential borrowers. It’s not a good look, so don’t apply for that Kohl’s credit card just because the cashier promises you 10% off your purchase that day.


Finally, when you know how much house you can afford, and your finances are in order, go ahead and get preapproved for loan. Most people get prequalified, which is just an estimate of how much a lender may be willing to lend based on an applicant’s income and debts.


As you get closer to buying a home, it’s wise to get a preapproval, where the lender thoroughly examines your finances and confirms in writing how much it’s willing to lend you and at what terms. Having a preapproval letter in hand makes you look much more serious to a seller and can give you an upper hand over buyers who haven’t taken this step.



Are you looking to buy your first home, or do you have questions? Contact me here for your Florida real estate needs!

Matt Guarro is a Realtor based in New Smyrna Beach, Florida