Household Income and What Homeowners Can Actually Afford
A potential buyer wants to work with you to purchase a home. Perhaps they even walked through the door with a laundry list of must-haves and nonnegotiables including specific features, neighborhoods, and amenities.
The problem, however, is that their household income isn't going to match up with the kind of price tag that their wish list will lead them to.
As a realtor, it's your job to set realistic expectations for your clients and help them to understand what they can truly afford. Doing so ensures that they'll be able to handle the mortgage they take out. It also means you won't waste any time showing homes that your buyer can't actually buy.
Here's how to work with your buyers to help them better understand the costs involved and what kind of price range you can source options from.
Educate Your Buyers About the Current Market
Whether they're first-time homebuyers or they've been through the process before, buyers can come to the table with unrealistic expectations if they don't understand specific market conditions today. Their assumptions about housing prices may be outdated or based on the real estate market in a different location.
Start by helping your clients get a clear picture of what the market is doing now, and in specific neighborhoods that interest them — don't sugarcoat the situation. If it's a seller's market, educate your client on that, and explain what they need to think about when buying in a market that doesn't favor them.
Market conditions will impact how much house a buyer can actually afford, not because their own household income will change but based on specific trends. If demand is low but a lot of people want to sell, your buyers could get more value for their dollar. On the other hand, if there aren't many houses for sale but many people want to buy in the area, your clients may have to pay more and should be prepared to get less in return.
Help Clients Set a Realistic Budget
In addition to educating your clients about the market they want to buy into, you can help them set up a realistic budget by weeding through their list of "wants." Work together with buyers to identify what's a true must-have and what's simply a luxury.
You can also make suggestions on simple fixes or upgrades that will make a big impact on a home that you know has great potential but doesn't show as well and is priced to match.
As the expert, you know what's truly worth spending money on and what's simply a set of bells and whistles that don't add much real value. You can advise clients on the benefits of a particular property that they might overlook that actually make a big difference, and help them understand the downsides of other features that may seem nice but tend to cost more over the long run (like super-custom built-ins or even a pool).
Show Buyers the True Cost of Homeownership
If your clients insist on looking at homes you know they can't afford, make sure they understand the costs involved. There's a mortgage, property tax bill, and homeowner's insurance policy to pay each month. You can use a mortgage calculator to show your buyers those basic costs or partner with a Mortgage Loan Officer to setup a financial wellness review.
But don't forget to add in homeownership association (HOA) or condo fees where applicable. And how about the cost of maintenance on a yearly basis? What's the average utility cost?
Clearly seeing the big picture — and the all-in cost of homeownership — can help buyers set realistic expectations and a budget that they can truly handle. Once they do, you can focus on showing homes that fit within that price range and help make sure your clients are qualified to put in an offer if they find something they love.