Why you need to choose  an Agent

Finding and buying a home is a process. One rarely decides to purchase the first home they see. It takes time, effort, patience and diligence (not to mention a pinch of hope and a ton of faith) to find the home of your dreams. Your Realtor should be there for you from the beginning, getting to know you and what your needs are in order to fulfill them. Your Realtor will stick with you through the search, the offer, the inspections, the details and finally the close. It takes a lot to get from A to B buying a home, but it is worth it in the end because this is your LIFE we are talking about, right?

All that being said, I would love to be YOUR Realtor, and I will give you 110% of my attention and effort!

How to Buy a House

If you’ve been thinking about joining the homeownership club but you have no clue where to start, this crash course in Home Buying 101 is for you…
1. Figure out what you can afford
Sit down with a mortgage calculator to get a baseline idea of how much house you can afford. Keep in mind: Even if a calculator or your lender indicates you can afford a $300,000 mortgage, that doesn’t mean you can afford the monthly payment in addition to other routine expenses.
2. Hire the right people
Ask friends, neighbors and family for recommendations of real estate agents and lenders they’ve used, then research those people online. Meet with them, feel them out and decide if you can entrust them with the largest financial transaction you’ll ever make in your life.
3. Get pre-approved for a mortgage
Flex your financial muscles to sellers by having a mortgage pre-approval letter in hand. Work with your lender to submit necessary financial paperwork — pay stubs, bank statements, W-2s, financial account documents — so you can make strong offers quickly and efficiently. You’ll also up your chances of getting the best mortgage possible.
4. Narrow your options
Decide what you want (and don’t want) in terms of home features and amenities, and which items are must-haves. Keep in mind that you can always remodel down the road, but you can’t change things like an undesirable school district.
5. Make an offer(s)
When you find “the one,” your real estate agent will submit an offer on your behalf. Include an earnest money deposit — usually about 1% of the asking price — and a preapproval letter with your offer. You might need to negotiate terms, so make sure your agent keeps you in the loop. Be sure to get a home inspection to ensure there are no major defects that need to be addressed before closing.
6. Seal the deal at closing
Once you’ve cleared underwriting, it’s closing time (yay!). After signing all the paperwork and getting those coveted keys, you’re officially a homeowner. Congrats!

What your Realtor can’t tell you…

Fair-housing laws prevent agents from talking about neighborhood demographics, and they often don’t want to discuss other details, such as crime stats. Luckily, the Web picks up where agents leave off.
By Amy Hoak, MarketWatch
Steve Roddel was walking through a house in Fort Wayne, Ind., when he wondered aloud whether there were any sex offenders living in the neighborhood.
Instead of commenting on her own, the real estate agent showing the home quickly pulled out her cell phone, connected to its Web browser and brought up Family Watchdog, a national sex-offender-registry Web site. Little did she know that she was standing with the site’s founder and CEO.
A real estate agent can be a wealth of information about a house. So a homebuyer who asks what crime is like in the neighborhood might be surprised when the agent defers the question, directing a client to the Web or local police instead.
“The Realtor will be the one that has the most contact from beginning to end. Because of that accessibility, the consumer feels that they can give them all the information that they need,” said Alex Chaparro, the president of the Chicago Association of Realtors.
But there are some pieces of information that an agent simply can’t speak about due to fair-housing laws, including demographic statistics. And they often prefer to leave some characteristics, such as the quality of the school district or crime stats, answered by other sources.
The conservative approach is often taken in order to avoid a lawsuit popping up in response to frank neighborhood talk, said Ralph Holmen, an associate general counsel of the National Association of Realtors. Agents are forbidden from giving information that could be considered “steering,” directing a client toward or away from a particular property in a discriminatory manner.
Some of this information will make or break a decision to buy. The quality of school systems, for example, has long been of importance to home-buying families. Fortunately, there are a variety of sources buyers can use to get at the information on their own.

Checking on the schools

Unless a realty agent has hard data at his or her fingertips, the agent may decline to answer school-district questions. Even if the agent is willing to share some information, a prospective buyer might want to do additional fact-finding before deciding on a home or which neighborhoods to consider.
A national database of school demographic information can be found on the National Center for Education Statistics Web site. Click on the “School, College, & Library Search” tab at the top in order to view data including a particular school’s student-to-teacher ratio or enrollment by race and ethnicity.
For a snapshot of academic performance and to compare schools, a prospective homeowner might browse the School Matters Web site, a service of Standard & Poor’s.  “People who are really attracted to (School Matters) are people who are moving,” said Susan Shafer, the director of marketing and communications for Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services. “It’s a good starting point,” she said, but it still isn’t a substitute for an actual tour.
Another site, GreatSchools, offers similar tools. Some school districts and state departments also post information online. It might be worthwhile to look at an individual school district’s site, especially for large systems.
Learning the demographics
If agents don’t shy away from any other question, they most likely will when it comes to those regarding demographics — and for good reason. Fair-housing laws forbid issues of race or ethnicity to be a consideration in the minds of real estate agents, who mustn’t steer a client toward or away from a particular area based on the neighborhood’s makeup.
When Anne Kennedy, an agent in Austin, Texas, turns down a question about neighborhood demographics, clients “completely understand,” she said. She suggests searching the U.S. Census Bureau’s Web site for statistics about an area’s demographics; the bureau’ Quick Facts page breaks down the information easily, by city and county.  “That would also show general socio-economic data,” she said.
“Walking” the neighborhood
Finally, even though there’s a wealth of information online, there are some questions best answered by walking or driving around the area and making a note of your observations.
In rural New Hampshire, which is most of the Lakes Region, most areas are not really considered “neighborhoods”, so it is more practical to plan to drive.
Several trips past the home at various points of the day, noting whether there are special parking restrictions marked on the street, will probably provide a more informed answer.