My husband and I picked the wrong Realtor for the first house we bought.
At the time, we thought we were making a good decision. We were in our early 20s, and we decided to contact the bank we trusted because we heard they had a program where we would receive cash back at closing for working with a Realtor they selected. It seemed like an easy way forward: After all, they were going to do the legwork of making sure we were matched with a good agent, right?
Not exactly. “Good” is a relative term when it comes to selecting a Realtor, and not every agent is the right fit for every client … and not every client is the right fit for every Realtor.
I didn’t know this at the time, though. I didn’t realize that the demanding and hyper-analytical personality mix between me and my husband would be a terrible fit for the poor, unfortunate, relationship-oriented, people-pleasing agent we were matched with.
Referrals and 'military-friendly' promises aren't enough.
We had that poor guy show us almost every house in the city. We looked at condos, single family homes, homes with pools, homes with no pools, older homes, new construction, homes with land, and homes across a wide range of budgets. I had absolutely no business looking at homes with pools; I don’t even swim, let alone want to maintain a pool.
We did this for weeks on end. We had absolutely no idea what we were looking for, but we knew (or rather “felt,” but us analytic-types don’t like to associate that word with absorbing massive amounts of data) that we could make the best financial decision if we just saw absolutely every single option. I don’t think this poor guy even asked for a pre-approval letter.
In the end, we picked a house based on some random data analysis that I probably couldn’t even begin to make sense of now. We submitted an offer and signed the final contract, and the Realtor promptly disappeared. I think he was just so glad to see the back of us. There was no sight of him at our inspection or closing, and I don’t really blame him.
We’ve learned a lot since then. By the time we bought our fourth house, and before I became a Realtor myself, I knew how to narrow down exactly what I want to five houses, and have those based on specific exit strategies for the property. Most importantly, though, we learned two things:
1. You don’t need to work with an agent that isn’t the right fit for you, and especially not for the illusion of a discount when a good agent can help you find that money you’re looking for through a local lender or in negotiations.
2. Not all Realtors are the same.
In a future post, I’ll address what you as a military family home buyer should be looking for when it comes to buying your home. Hopefully you’ll be wise enough to learn from some of my mistakes.
Karina Gafford is a military spouse (seven-time PCS-er), mom of two boys and co-founder of MilHousing Network, a nationwide real estate platform for military families that works to combat military spouse unemployment. She oversees the platform’s flagship real estate team in San Antonio. Learn more about MilHousing Network here, or via Facebook.