Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Top 6 Tips On Finding A Great Realtor®

By: Naomi Thorne

Years ago when Katherine and I wanted to purchase our first home, we were at a loss for how to choose a Realtor® - we literally had ZERO idea where to begin.  Nobody had ever marketed to us - we never received a flyer from a Realtor® in our rental apartment mailbox and all of our twenty-something friends were even more confused.  

I wish someone would have given us the below list.  Through randomly walking into an open house we connected with an amazing Los Angeles based Realtor®, Derick Vallance who helped us buy and sell our first home.  He held our hands through our first two transactions - and with the patience of a saint!

Get out there and find your perfect match!  (or ask us for a recommendation - we can recommend Realtors® all over the country thanks to our wonderful network!)

Tip #1: Ask For A Recommendation
Social media can be extremely helpful when it comes to finding an excellent Realtor® - especially since you probably don’t know exactly who to, throw it out to everyone in your sphere!  Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are wonderful networking tools for us to share information - not just cat photos...though we do love cats: Hello - Adele Cat Parody!

You’ll be surprised by who knows a hard-working, knowledgeable Realtor®.

Tip #2: See If You Jive Over A Cup Of Joe
Ask several Realtors® out for coffee before deciding who to work with.  Get to know them - both on a personal and professional level - and ask what their plan of action is for you.  Do you enjoy their company?  Are they knowledgeable?  Do you believe they’ll do a good job?  

Remember you’ll be spending quite a bit of time with this person and it’s important your personalities jive - also remember real estate can be tricky and legally sensitive, so make sure you choose a serious and educated Realtor®.

Tip #3: Interview At Open Houses
Go to open houses and "soft-interview" agents - Realtors® know they'll meet potential clients when they hold properties open and are prepared to have a conversation with you.  Ask lots of questions - test their market knowledge and see if you like them.

This is a GREAT way to meet tons of agents on one day in a non-committal way.  When you meet someone you like, give them your contact information and they'll take it from there.

Tip #4:  Find Someone Who Is Committed
There are plenty of wonderful part-time Realtors® - but if you can find a full-time committed Realtor® you’ll benefit from the flexibility in their schedule.  Since their livelihood is completely dependent on property sales, they’ll have the extra motivation to find you the perfect property in a timely manner - and if you’re selling a home, they’ll have the available varying hours it takes to get your home on the market and to host open houses.  

Whether you’re buying or selling, it’s important to find a Realtor® who is willing and able to devote the many hours it takes to help you.  Remember - real estate agents do a ton of time consuming behind-the-scenes work.

Tip #5: Stalk The Talk
Professional Realtors® have a rich online presence - they’re on all the standard social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter - they sometimes even have YouTube Videos: Thorne Home Team On YouTube - AND they have profiles on the most popular real estate sites such as Zillow and  Make sure they also have a personal page where you can search their MLS for homes - this will come in handy if you’re buying or selling.

You can also sometimes read past client reviews (not always) - but check to see if they have any.  Read their biographies and get a sense of who they are and what they’re putting out there.  Remember - it’s extremely important to have a Realtor® who’s internet savvy as most homebuyers search for properties online and if you’re selling a home you want to make sure yours is properly marketed.  If you’re buying, you need a computer literate agent because the MLS - where other Realtors® list the homes they’re clients are selling -  is only online.

Tip #6: Ask Realtors® You Know In Other States For A Recommendation
Realtors® belonging to large brokerages can recommend top agents all over the country - and sometimes all over the world.  If you know a Realtor® in a different state, ask him/her to recommend someone - they can generally recommend someone wonderful and also follow your entire you’ll be able to ask your Realtor® friend who lives in another state questions about your sale during any part of the transaction.  

Monday, January 25, 2016

5 Rules For Choosing An Investment Property

By: Naomi Thorne

The UGLIEST Investment Property We've Bought

Katherine and I ran a successful real estate investment company.  We bought several homes, fixed, and flipped them - through this we achieved financial freedom and took back our corporate usurped lives.

Some people like to say we were “lucky” - or that the market was “on our side.”  I think for any venture to be a success, you need a little bit of luck - but the real reason for our success was having a formula we stuck to.  We never purchased a property because we “fell in love” with it, or just “went with our gut” - we chose our target properties based on several characteristics.

Today, I’m going to share the investment rules we follow in hopes that you too get closer to both your financial goals and that tropical vacation your boss will never let you take.


Investment Rule #1 Look Before You Leap...
...or you may break your neck!  How much does the target property cost - including closing fees?  How much will the renovation cost - including all materials and labor?  How much are the monthly holding costs - including all bills, insurance, and property tax?  Add these up BEFORE you submit the offer - this is the FINAL COST of the property.  Use excel to stay organized and find how much specific renovations cost - go to Home Wyse for installation and labor estimates.

Figure out what a renovated home with similar square footage and number of bedrooms and baths has sold for within the past 6 months and 1 mile radius of your target home.  Get the average price per square foot - 3 comparable homes are enough.  You can ask your Realtor or get this information from Zillow.

Subtract the FINAL COST from the amount you expect to sell the home for once it’s renovated.  If the final number is positive and large enough to justify your time and effort, submit an offer.  If it’s not - “Bye Felicia.”  Don’t waste any time pining over a vampire house that’ll suck your time, energy, and money.

Investment Rule #2 This is not an arranged marriage...
...get to know the neighborhood REALLY WELL before buying.  Most of us date before we marry - we get to know the person and their friends.  Knowing who someone chooses to be surrounded by says a lot about their character - same thing goes for houses.

If you don’t know the neighborhood, don’t buy.  If the target property is located in an undesirable, unsafe, or economically declining area - MOVE ON.  Reselling and renting will be much harder in these types of neighborhoods - and keep in mind you’ll have expensive remodeling supplies lying around that you won’t want stolen.  If you’re thinking of renting, you’ll want to make sure you’re in a low crime area as you don’t want shady applicants.

Choosing a neighborhood wisely will save you a great deal of money in the long run!  Don’t listen to Uncle Joe-Schmo when he says “trust me, the neighborhood is great” - trust only yourself after you’ve done your homework and spent quality time in the area.

Investment Rule #3 Have A Home Team...
...without a team you can’t win the game!  You MUST have a circle of professionals you know, like, and trust on your side.  Real Estate can be very complicated and legally sensitive - you’ll need an excellent Realtor® to advise you, provide contracts, and be your advocate.  It’s also important to have a great Escrow Officer - someone you personally know who will work to provide you the proper title insurance, and has the skill and knowledge to effortlessly manage your transaction.

Keep in mind - you’re playing a different game when buying and selling investment properties.  You’re moving large chunks of money around for not only the purchase, but also the renovation.  You’re paying individual contractors large sums of money, buying materials, and racking up holding costs.  It’s SUPER IMPORTANT to keep track of all your spending. Consult an accountant on the best way to buy - you may want to create an LLC or an S-Corp instead of purchasing in your individual name.  This can be advised and set-up by your accountant.

You’ll also need a great Mortgage Broker - someone responsive, hard-working, and with many options at their fingertips.  Get coffee with your mortgage broker and get to know them - make sure you like them and that they’ll be a great advocate.  Getting a loan on an investment property can be more complicated than getting a loan on a property you intend to live in.  Make sure you have a broker who has worked with investors before and can provide you with the type of loan you need.

Lastly, make sure you have an experienced general contractor to oversee the renovation. The best type of contractor is someone who does most of the work themselves instead of hiring others out - you can save a lot of money this way because there aren’t any middleman costs. BEFORE making an offer, have your trusted contractor look at the property to assess damage and estimate renovation cost.  

It’s “all about the Benjamins baby” - if you won’t make enough on a specific property, move on!

Investment Rule #4 Have Imagination
Our mantra is “ugly homes, not Broken Bones.”  The best you can hope for is an ugly property that needs little to no structural work.  Face-lifts are quicker and easier than mending broken bones - though on occasion you may have to make slight structural fixes.  

Remember - the reason why you’re getting a good property at a good price is because NOBODY ELSE WANTS IT.  Home buyers generally shy away from places grandma lived in for fifty years - and they really don’t like places that are dirty and smell bad.  BUT - stinky, dirty, outdated places make for the best investments.  

Focus on neighborhood, square footage, and number of bedrooms and bathrooms - these are the most important money makers.  See past the grime and to the myriad possibilities!

Investment Rule #5 Don’t Listen To Naysayers
Everyone will have an opinion on your new business venture.  “Debbie Downers” and “Negative Nancy's” will come out of the woodwork to play their sad trombones.  "Party poopers" will rain on your parade and “kill-joys” will try to take all the wind out of your sails.  IGNORE THE HATERS!

Believe in yourself and trust that you’ve done the necessary homework to become successful. Remember, success comes from sticking to a formula.  YOU’VE GOT THIS!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Real Home Buyer Questions Answered

By: Naomi Thorne

My brother & sister's lovely front porch!
As we approach the end of HOME BUYING TIP WEEK I want to share with you several questions I've answered this week. These are really great frequently asked questions that we find clients are often too scared to ask - they worry they'll sound "dumb" or "don't want to bother us." Remember Home Buyers - you all have very similar questions and the only "dumb" question is the one that goes unasked. Also remember that your Realtor® is here to be your advocate and it's our job to make sure you understand the entire home buying process. Good Realtors® are there for you every step of the way - and are happy to explain any questions you have!  

Keep your questions coming!

Q: What credit score do I need to buy a house? 
“We are trying to buy a house, and we have been paying our collections and our credit scores have gone up.. right now mine is at 572.  We are waiting for March to see how much it has changed (btw im first time buyer) and i don’t know if i have to be at 700 to be able to buy a house.”

A: You don’t need a perfect credit score to buy... need a good score and a GREAT mortgage broker with many options at their fingertips.  I've worked with Brokers who provided great rates on mid-600 scores.  I'd recommend getting in touch with a mortgage broker and having them tell you what you qualify for - everyone's specific situation is unique.  A pre-approval from a mortgage broker is generally 100% free - so you have nothing to lose.  Let me know if you'd like a great mortgage broker recommendation.

Q: Will The Bay Area housing market become more affordable?
“What are your thoughts on the crazy housing market in The Bay Area?  When will the prices become realistic?”

A:  The market is cyclical... goes up, down, and back up again.  Nobody can accurately predict what's going to happen - just remember that the best time to buy is when you can.  You may not be able to afford your dream home right now, but I urge you to buy whatever you can afford - even if it’s a studio apartment.  Prices will most likely keep climbing and if you own a small piece of property it will appreciate along with the rest of the market - and it will also be a forced savings account.  You’ll be able to sell down the line and trade up for a property you like better - but for now, I say get out of the renting market as prices there are also soaring.  If you own a home your payment will be locked for 30 years - meaning it will NEVER change.  Don’t be discouraged, be proactive and contact a Mortgage Broker today to see what you qualify for!

Q: Is Zillow an accurate place to search for homes?
“I am a homeowner and looking for another home - I never thought that the information on Zillow might be wrong...but now that I have noticed a friend's home - sold several years ago - the listing information is totally wrong and misleading - which would affect the price and personally affects my trust in Zillow.”

A: Yes and No... 
From my experience, Zillow on occasion has wrong information - or isn't updated as quickly as the MLS.  I would recommend connecting with a Realtor® and asking them to give you access to search their MLS (multiple listing service) for homes on the market.  The MLS is updated in real time and here you'll find the most current and accurate information.  Zillow sometimes takes several days to update and in most markets where homes go pretty fast, it can be frustrating.  That said, Zillow is a great tool to use along with searching the MLS - on Zillow you can find agent reviews, and mostly accurate property tax information including lot size, square footage, year built, and previous sales.
Q: I’m a first time home buyer - where do I start?
“Hello my husband has purchased a house in the past but I haven't. . We have a growing family and we need to get out of our townhome before May and we would love a house I just don’t know where to start and my husband works all the time.”

A: Check out our 10 tips for first time home buyers.
Hey there! A first home purchase can be daunting - here's a list I give to all of my first time home buying clients: 10 Great Tips For First Time Home Buyers. I explain how you shouldn't move money around, get pre-approved, how to bid - and other pointers great for first time home buyers.

Q: Why don't realtors call back?
“Several different realtors, different houses, and they NEVER get back to us. Why? Aren't they interested in selling?”

A: Good Realtors® call back - bad ones don’t. 
I apologize for my fellow Realtors® - there's no excuse for people not calling you back.  That said - if a Realtor® is unresponsive...good riddance!  You DO NOT want to start a relationship with someone who doesn't have time for you.  The great Realtors® will always call you back, follow-up, and make sure they have happy clients who are heard and respected.  I can recommend a great Realtor® to you in your area through my Coldwell Banker network - I will MAKE SURE he/she calls you back.  Don't let rude people get you down!

Q: Is it worth it to get a home inspection that includes estimates?
“We are considering a home inspector who is also a licensed contractor, and he will include estimates, but the price is $1000 ($750 without estimates) versus other home inspectors which run about $450. The house is a small 2 bedroom fixer from the 50s.”

A: It’s great if they don’t charge extra for estimates.
In my personal opinion and experience as a Realtor®, $1,000 (or even $750) is too much - I have been involved in purchases in Los Angeles, The San Francisco Bay Area, and South Florida and the most I've seen charged is $600.  That said, ask your local Realtor® as he/she will have a better pulse on inspection fees in your area.

For my clients, I recommend a general home inspector - which runs $500-600 in Marin County, CA.  We then take the inspector's findings and have local licensed business people: i.e. electrician, plumber, contractor come to the property - they look at the damage and give a written quote.  These professionals are trying to earn your business and 9 out of 10 times will give you free quotes - my clients generally use someone who has given a quote for their repairs.  I recommend getting 3 quotes per major issue.  

When it's negotiation time, your Realtor® should submit the inspection report along with the quotes.  If you'll be asking for money back at close, ask based on the quotes you've received from professionals.  It is my opinion that if you're asking for money back based on problems with the house that the best way to be taken seriously is to have 3 professional quotes per issue - the home inspector's personal opinion on how much a professional will charge probably won't fly.

Here's a great list of Negotiation Secrets to use: 5 Best Kept Negotiation Secrets.  You're in the phase of the home buying process where these tips will come in handy. 

Q: Do you think I should rent or sell my current house?
"We bought a house in San Diego for 325K 3 years ago, recently got it appraised at 440K- based on comps, we believe it would sell for between 420-440 We owe 275K on it. We want to move out of state, somewhere with a very low cost of living where we do not need to sell the SD house to afford an out-of state home.  We're also worried about Capital Gains Tax.  We could make some fast cash selling it, but if we rented it out, we could hold on to it and make passive income as the same time. People rent out houses like ours for 2000-2300 and our mortgage is only 1650, which includes insurance and taxes.  I'm sure there's not one right or wrong answer, but I'd love some insight."

A:  If you're able to hold onto the property - my vote is to rent it out.
Contact your accountant or tax attorney about Capital Gains Tax - I believe you need to hold onto the property for 2 years.  If you sell the property after 2 years, you don't need to pay the Capital Gains Tax (i.e. all the profit is tax free and goes into your pocket) - this is the timeframe I believe to be correct but please contact your accountant or tax professional before deciding to sell this house and again, everyone's situation is different so have a pro look at yours.

It can be scary to rent in one state and live in another - do your homework.  Make sure to take your time choosing a tenant - along with checking their credit scores, employment history and finances - also do a background check and ask for references.  There's no guarantee your tenants will pay on time or keep the property in great condition, but by choosing carefully you'll have a better chance at having a successful rental situation.  Your San Diego home will most likely continue to appreciate and will therefore be a wonderful growing savings account for you - and adding the monthly profit to your new mortgage will feel fantastic.  I vote to rent the SD place if you can afford to carry both mortgages!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Home Buying: Top 5 Power Moves To Get Your Offer Accepted

By: Naomi Thorne

You just found out your dream home is everyone else’s - the listing agent tells your Realtor® she’s expecting multiple offers.  Your heart sinks...

FEAR NOT disheartened home buyer!  There are a multitude of things you can do for the best chance at getting your offer accepted.  Katherine and I have lived through bidding wars - and by using the below power moves we’ve won homes for both our clients and ourselves.

Go get that house!

Power Move #1:  Cash Is King - So are Mortgage Brokers
The good news for those needing a loan is that when escrow closes, the seller always gets CASH - bank loans and personal money wires provide THE SAME THING.  Make sure you have a responsive, hard-working Mortgage Broker who is willing to be your advocate.  Most people submit offers along with pre-approval letters - make sure you do this.  FOR YOUR OFFER TO REALLY STAND OUT, ask your Mortgage Broker to write a personalized letter letting the seller know they have “verified your down payment and closing costs,” that they will work tirelessly on your behalf to close the loan, and that the listing agent can contact them anytime to follow up on the loan status.  Letting the seller know you have a great Mortgage Broker behind you strengthens your offer and makes you a strong competitor against “all cash” offers.

Power Move #2: Make Them “Read It And Weep”
Write an emotional and very personal letter to the sellers - submit it with your offer.  Let them know who you are and why you’re the best candidate to be next owner.  Include specifics on what you love about the home and why it works so well for you - sellers usually feel an emotional bond with the home and want to make sure it’s sold to someone who will feel similarly.  If you’ve lost bidding wars, let them know the heartache it caused - pull at their heart strings and make them root for you!

Power Move #3 Respect The Seller's Timeframe
Before submitting an offer, ask how long the seller’s want the escrow period to be - some want a short escrow and quick close, while others want a long escrow and lengthy close. Remember these are people like you with individual life situations - show you respect them by taking their timeframe into account.  

For a quick close - do a short inspection period: 7 days if possible, and ask your mortgage broker how quickly they’re able to close your loan.  Loans generally take 21-45+ days to close.  If your current mortgage broker isn’t able to do a quick close, try to find someone who can.  Write a quick close (i.e. 21 days) into the contract you submit.

For a lengthy close - a standard inspection period of about 14 days is fine, and ask your mortgage broker how long they can hold your locked interest rate for you - hopefully they can hold the rate for a generous amount of time to benefit both you and the seller.

Power Move #4 Guarantee A Home Warranty
Home warranties are great for home buyers and sellers alike - they provide free fixes for all things HOME including: appliances, electrical, plumbing, roofing, and on and on.  Whatever isn’t caught during the inspection period can usually be remedied after escrow closes by the warranty company.  This is great for buyers who get free repairs, and better for sellers because the chance of lawsuits arising (from overlooked issues) after the home is sold is greatly diminished.

When submitting your offer, add that you - the buyer - will be paying for a home warranty.  This generally runs you around $500 and you pay at the close of escrow - think of it as part of closing costs.  Most people either don’t add a home warranty or they ask the seller to pay for it.  By simply putting a protection plan on the home from the beginning, you’re giving yourself a leg-up on the competition - and possibly saving yourself thousands in future fix-it costs.

Power Move #5 Charm the Listing Agent
Once you’ve decided to make an offer, do everything in your power to get to know the listing agent.  Go to the open house - be friendly, kind, and leave a positive impression on the listing agent.  Give him/her the sense that you’ll be easy and fair to work with - the Realtor® will share your positive attitude with the sellers when it comes time to review offers.  In a multiple offer market, offers can be similar and the thing that will set you apart is your likability.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Beware: Top 3 Trickiest Home Listing Tactics

By: Naomi Thorne

Living room of the second house we renovated.

Happy Home Buying Tip Week! Thanks to all of our friends, family, and clients for reaching out - we love getting questions and sharing all of our insider tips & tricks.

We hope you enjoy this list - if you keep these three tricky tactics in mind we promise you can save a lot of time, money, and heartache.

Knowledge is power!

Tricky Listing Tactic #1: Lipstick on a pig
New paint and good furniture staging goes a long way - beware of the Monet!  Examine your target home carefully and don’t get fooled by decor. Paint is cheap and drapes are easily swapped. Pay close attention to the bones of the house - is this the layout you’re looking for?  is it structurally sound?  Don’t buy a donkey thinking it’s a stallion!

Tricky Listing Tactic #2: Price low for bidding war
If the price seems “too good to be true” - it is.  Realtors® often price homes low in hopes of attracting buyers in droves.  More buyers looking at the property = more potential offers and a bidding war!  

Falling in love with a home priced below market value can be a real knife to the heart, so make a strong offer based on the previous 6 month comparable property sales.  Your offer will most likely be over asking price - and this way you are more likely to bid higher than your competitors and win the home you want...or you’ll at least get a counteroffer while the lower bids go ignored.

Tricky Listing Tactic #3: Summertime madness
For you, summertime = pina coladas on the beach. For Realtors® summertime = desperate parents needing to move before school starts.  There’s a mad summertime rush to get “out of the old and into the new.”  There are more buyers during the summer than any season - Realtors® know this and wait to put homes on the market until after Memorial Day Weekend.  
For you the buyer, if you wait you’ll have more options - but you’ll also probably end up in a bidding war, overpaying for a maybe not-so-ideal home, and stressed out by crowded open houses.  

House hunt during all seasons - there are plenty of great listings during winter that go unnoticed because buyers are too busy with the holidays, or too cold to leave their house.  Put that pumpkin pie down and throw on a warm coat!  You’ll get more bang for your buck during winter, generally avoid bidding wars, and get a lot more attention from your bored Realtor® and Mortgage Broker!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

5 Best-Kept Negotiation Secrets For Home Buyers

By: Naomi Thorne
My in-law's beautiful home in Arkansas!

Below are negotiation secrets we live by.  As Realtors® who have been through many successful escrows, we want to share these tips with you in hopes they make your home buying experience more rewarding.

Happy Home Hunting!
Negotiation Secret #1: Is the price right or wrong?
Compare similar homes that sold within the last 6 months within a 1 mile radius.  How much did they sell for?  If they sold for less than your target home, the property may be overpriced and you may be able get the home for less than the asking price.  When submitting your offer refer to these lower priced properties - the seller may realize their home isn’t likely to appraise for the higher number and will take less than asking.

If the properties sold for more than your target home, prepare for a bidding war as sometimes Realtors price homes low in order to receive many offers.  Go in with guns blazing - give your highest and best offer - which will most likely be over the asking price.

Negotiation Secret #2: Bring a fine-toothed comb…
Otherwise known as a Home Inspector!  Hire a reputable home inspector to inspect the home from top to bottom.  There are general home inspectors who know about all things home - there are also specialty inspections i.e. chimney inspection, sewer lateral inspection, soil inspection, and the list goes on.  These professionals can be costly - several hundred dollars or more per inspection - but they are worth it.  You can use their findings as a negotiating tool - even if they only found small things - and get money from the sellers to pay your closing costs or you may even be able to negotiate your original offer down.

Negotiation Secret #3: Quote Me!
Once you’ve had your target property inspected, get several quotes on fixes from licensed professionals - i.e. call an air-conditioning repair person, an electrician, plumber, contractor, and the list goes on and on.  Most repair people will give you free fix-it quotes as they are trying to earn your business.  Make sure they submit their quote along with a short description of the problem for you to submit to the sellers when asking for money back.  

Rule of thumb - get a minimum of three quotes per issue.  Also, ask the sellers if they’d like to recommend a professional to give a quote - this will be one of at least three quotes and the sellers will be forced to take their own professional’s quote seriously...sometimes seller recommended quotes turn out to be higher than the others which really helps when asking for money back.

Negotiation Secret #4: Beware of mid-point mania
Sellers love to split the difference - know this when making a request.  Nobody wants to feel defeated, especially sellers - but with inspections and quotes in hand, buyers can argue a good case for money back.  Keep in mind - you’ll almost never get exactly what you ask for.  Request double what you want and most of the time sellers will meet you halfway giving you what you wanted in the first place.

Negotiation Secret #5: Use your Realtor
Real Estate terminology is tough and legally sensitive - ask your Realtor to “make it happen.”  Never ever contact the seller or their agent directly!  Once you’re in escrow, you have the power - now trust your agent to do his/her job and harness that power to best serve you.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Top 10 Home Buying Secrets

By: Naomi Thorne
The first house Katherine & I renovated in South Florida

The below is a compilation of home buying secrets Katherine and I always share with our clients.  Hopefully by following these 10 do's & don'ts you'll have a smooth and happy home buying experience!

Happy Home Hunting!

Buying Secret #1: Don't move money around
Most people "need a loan to buy a home."  To get approved you need to have stable finances - so don't make huge purchases, move money around, or get into vast debt 3-6 months before buying.  

Buying Secret #2: Get pre-approved
This means a lender has looked at all of your financial information and let you know how much they will lend you - sellers consider your offer stronger and take it more seriously.  Get a pre-approval letter from your mortgage broker and submit it with your offer.  ALSO - ask your broker to write a personal letter on your behalf.

Buying Secret #3: There's no "right time" to buy
If you're waiting for the "perfect time" to buy - you'll be waiting forever and will miss out.  Buy when you can afford to buy - and remember the market is cyclical.  Prices go up and down and then back up again.  

Buying Secret #4: Bigger isn't always better
Sometimes it is best to buy the smallest and worst house on the block, because the worst house per square foot always trades for more than the biggest house.

Buying Secret #5: At all costs...
Don't only focus on the mortgage payment.  Remember:  you'll also have property taxes, utilities, and property maintenance.  If you're buying a condo you'll also have an HOA (Home Owner's Association) fee - which can be pretty hefty. 

Buying Secret #6: Keep calm and offer on
Keep in mind that it's an investment.  Stay calm, make sure you're getting a good home for a good value, and if your offer isn't accepted remember there are "more homes in the sea." 

Buying Secret #7: How to bid
You should base your offer on two things: what you can actually afford, and what you think the property is worth.  Also, try not to offend the seller - if you bid too low, they may not even respond to your offer.  If you bid too high - you may end up over paying, or the house may not appraise therefore making you unable to get a loan.

Buying Secret #8: Know da 'hood
Do your regular commute during your usual drive times - make sure it's doable.  Check out local shops, restaurants, and other services.  If you like to walk - check out the nearest trails.  If you play tennis - where are closest courts?  Date the neighborhood before you decide to marry it!

Buying Secret #9: Go borderline
Since property tax is based on how much property you own, get a survey done so you have an accurate map of what you're buying and know exactly what you own.  

Buying Secret #10: Get physical
Hire a home inspector - if he/she finds anything wrong with the home, use it as a bargaining tool.  You can get money back towards closing costs or even lower the purchase price.