As some of you may have noticed, I haven't posted as much lately, and I'm sure the speculation as to the reasons for that is currently a hot topic of discussion on internet message boards in 40 languages. I want to clarify that it is not because of an extended drinking binge or a Dog the Bounty Hunter Marathon on A&E. The ladyfriend I often call my wife and I have been looking at buying a house, and as anyone who has gone through this process can tell you, it's not exactly conducive to having a life outside of looking for a house. It takes every moment of your life.
During this process, we eventually found a great realtor who is currently helping us through negotiations on what will hopefully be our house in a few short weeks. Much like girlfriends, however, you rarely meet the best realtor the first, second or forty-fifth time out. You must wade through a cess pool of greedy, fake assholes to find the right greedy, fake asshole.
Realtors, as a group, are on the same level as used car salesmen and subsequently only one level above those who sexually assault the elderly in my book. Here are some rules I learned from dealing with several different realtors:
1) Every Realtor is a "expert" at the neighborhood or part of the city you're interested in buying in. Even in cases where the realtor has never been in or heard of your neighborhood, expect them to tell you that they sold 50 houses in that zip code since January. It's only when they get lost trying to "lead" you to some potential homes in that neighborhood that you get the idea that maybe the guy was completely full of shit.
2) Realtors that work open houses are losers. This is even more true if the open house in question is for another agent's clients. Our agent that we ended up working with made a good point that if a realtor is worth their salt, particularly during peak sales months, they don't have time to spend a whole afternoon babysitting a house so the whole neighborhood can see the inside of their mysterious neighbors' house. Open houses are a great way to see a lot of houses without much at stake, but beware of the agents that lurk at these events.
3) Don't listen to a realtor's advice when making a bid. Make them show you a market analysis that will help to guide your offer. One agent we talked to said that you should never offer less than 10% of the asking price in an initial offer. Another said 6%. Our agent researched houses that had sold recently with similar square footage and amenities in that neighborhood in the past 6 months and determined that our offer should probably be in the neighborhood of 20% less than the asking price. Beware of agents who tell you to only bid a certain amount less than the asking price, since this strategy would have ended up costing us a lot more on the house we ended up with.
Or you could always sell everything you own and move to Costa Rica so you can live on the beach, get high, and play with spider monkeys all day long.