Dear Darrell, I am working with a Realtor to buy a house. He keeps asking me for more and more of my financial information. I like working with him and think he is a good agent, but am a little put off by having to give my financial particulars. I also don’t want to be rude by telling him this is private and that I don’t want to share it. Is it common for agents to request this sort of thing? Amanda R. Dear Amanda, Without knowing exactly what the Realtor is asking you for, it’s a bit hard to answer your question. But assuming the Realtor is asking questions related to the resources you have available for purchasing a property, these are legitimate questions. Part of the work of a good Realtor is to educate his client. There are a couple of ways to go about this when discussing financial information. One is for the agent to ask the questions (as is happening in this case). Another is for the agent to encourage you to talk with a mortgage broker who can tell you about a wide variety of loan programs which might be suitable for you. Either way, it is important for you to understand the costs of buying a home—the immediate costs and the long term costs. As evidenced by the huge number of people who have gotten into trouble because they were overextended financially, it is critical that you be certain that you have both the cash (down payment and closing costs, etc.), and the income to support the monthly mortgage cost. If you are uncomfortable giving this information to your agent, you can certainly give it directly to a mortgage broker, and that person can counsel you on financial matters. If you don’t know a mortgage broker I suggest you talk with friends or ask your agent for a recommendation or two. One other very important aspect of this process is that in light of the recent systemic financial problems, lenders are being far more cautious. This makes the process longer, and requires a fair amount more documentation and review. Your agent no doubt knows this and is probably trying to help you get your ducks in a row early on, so that when you find the property you want, you will be prepared to make an offer and move forward.
Dear Darrell, I know you are probably predisposed toward someone buying rather than renting, but it seems to me that buying now is not a good idea since it looks like house prices are still dropping — at least that’s what I seem to be hearing and reading. Why do realtors keep telling me it’s a good time to buy? — Steve A. Dear Steve, I’m not necessarily predisposed to sales as opposed to rentals, but there are actually at least a couple of good reasons to buy now. I know there is the general idea that one shouldn’t buy before the market hits bottom. That’s good advice, but the only way to know when the bottom is reached is when one is looking back at the bottom. So it is a guess, and it involves other factors, the most important of which is mortgage interest rates. Even if one were to guess right about the bottom of the market, the interest rates at that time probably would have risen, and the advantage of buying at a lower price would be wiped out by higher cost of the mortgage. I say this with trepidation, but I see signs here and there that things are beginning to stabilize. Also, what you are reading is typically national news rather than local news. In fact, D.C. has fared better than most areas, and the bottom here will be different than the bottom elsewhere. In the case of realtors who are suggesting it’s a good time to buy, I would quiz them about why they believe that to be a good idea. I’d ask them to go over the numbers with you so you can actually see whether it makes sense for you at this time or not. Also, renting is great in some ways, but it isn’t perfect either. If you decided to buy, keep these three things in mind: location; don’t overpay; buy what you can afford. Darrell Parsons is the managing broker of the Georgetown Long and Foster office and abides by Equal Housing Opportunity regulations. Have a real estate question? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at georgetownrealestatenews.blogspot.com.