If there is one skill that military families are famous for honing, it’s moving. My family, for example, averages less than two years in a given location before having to pick up and find a new nest. Anyone having that much practice with moving has learned some valuable lessons along the way. Chief among them: if you’re buying a new house, a good Realtor like Rachael Johnson of Levin Rinke Realty is worth her weight in gold.
Born and raised in Pensacola, Rachael has a literal lifetime of experience with our stretch of the Emerald Coast. She has loved real estate for as long as she can remember, and has been investing in Pensacola properties since 2004. Rachael was kind enough to sit down and talk with me about her top five tips for prospective buyers planning a move to or within the Pensacola area.
1. Get pre-qualified with a lender.
According to Rachael, Pensacola is a very competitive market for buyers. We’re not seeing any slow-down in buyers, so properties are in high demand. Getting pre-qualified for financing is a great way to make sure that you are a competitive buyer, especially in a multi-offer situation. In fact, Rachael says that some sellers are requesting to see proof of funds or loan pre-approval before even agreeing to show their properties. This assures the seller that the buyer is serious and qualified to purchase the home. Having this information in hand is also a smart move for buyers to make sure they’re less at risk of a contract falling through due to a lack or loss of financing.
Rachael suggests starting by figuring out what type of loan program you’re planning on using. Military families using VA loans, for example, sometimes have the option of putting down as little as 0% at closing whereas conventional loans typically require a down payment of roughly 20% of the purchase price. Once you know which kind of financing you’re looking for, talk to your Realtor about potential lenders. This can save you a lot of time and research by narrowing down your search to lenders who are most likely to fit your particular needs. Rachael prefers to work with local lenders who really understand the dynamics of Pensacola-area real estate, so having her expert advice in that area can be a huge benefit.
2. Ascertain your priorities to help narrow down your search.
So many variables factor into each home buyer’s housing decisions! For parents, this might include anything from school district choices to proximity to playgrounds, daycare, or even the beach. Your Realtor will want to know what type of home and features you’re looking for: a condo with a gym? The pool you’ve always dreamed of? How about a neighborhood that allows a backyard chicken coop? Leave nothing out!
It will also be helpful to discuss with your Realtor just how much effort you may be willing to put into renovations. Do you want something turnkey or does a fixer-upper get your creative juices flowing? With Hurricane Sally still fresh in our minds, you may want to talk to your Realtor about how much risk you’re willing to accept by looking at factors like flood zones and home features like hurricane shutters. The more you can hone in on your personal preferences and their relative weight, the easier it will be for your Realtor to find you your perfect fit.
3. Go see houses that meet your criteria.
Once you’ve hashed out what you’re looking for, it’s time to check out some properties! In our current Covid climate, Rachael stresses that there is more than one way to see a house. She offers traditional walk-throughs with her clients but is also more than willing to do virtual showings. This is a great option for house hunting while social distancing and can also be a lifesaver for those buyers trying to purchase a house from afar. As someone who once had a Realtor and a friend walk me through a house in Rhode Island via video chat while I nursed a baby in a hotel in Ukraine, I can truly appreciate that level of service and flexibility!
Rachael says it’s important to keep an open mind when looking at prospective homes. Some properties may surprise you! But equally as important is to continue to refine your priorities as you go through this part of the process and to clue your Realtor in so she can accurately filter her search. What may have seemed like a deal breaker at the outset might begin to feel less important as you see more properties. It’s always possible, too, that looking at more homes makes you aware of something you hadn’t factored in before. Let your Realtor know!
4. Be ready to put in an offer.
Rachael says that in this market, buyers should be prepared to act quickly once they find a property they want to pursue. This is where the negotiations and contracting come in, so having an expert in your corner to guide you through these decisions is essential. Are there repairs you should think about negotiating? How will you handle inspections? Should you ask for a home warranty? These are all questions to work through with the advice of a great Realtor.
Realtors like Rachael really understand the ins and outs of contracting and negotiating and can help put together a compelling offer, which will both entice the sellers and protect the buyers with good parameters to support them in the home buying process. Rachael also has a good handle on current timelines for things like repairs and inspections, so she can make sure you allow for adequate time in your contract to ensure that things go smoothly.
5. Sign a contract, and let your Realtor handle the rest!
Thanks to HGTV, many people think that a Realtor’s primary purpose is to be a sort of personal tour guide. While they are certainly there to walk you through that portion of the process, Rachael says its after you sign the contract that the Realtor really gets to work. This is when she will navigate the process for you to make sure you are bringing in the right, trusted people and covering all of your bases to get you to HOME plate. Rachael wants her buyers to feel included in the process but not burdened by it. That’s her job: to hustle through all of the behind-the-scenes work get you to closing and hand you your shiny new keys.
If you’re planning a move to the Pensacola area, WELCOME! And if you’re planning a move within the area, CONGRATULATIONS! In either case, Rachael is here to help you find your way home.