Common mistakes made by Buyers

FamilyHaving alot of experience at any given thing usually means that we’ve survived the consequences of whatever mistakes we’ve made. After almost 20 years of being in Real Estate I can honestly say that I’ve survived my share and I’ve also learned from the education I’ve received from many clients and friends who have shared their mistakes with me. I’ve also seen clients of mine make mistakes that have cost them too, and were in many cases unnecessary and ran contrary to my advice. Here’s some of the more memorable ones:

1. Not Buying at all This may sound silly but I’ve seen this happen over and over again. It’s completely understandable to be frightened of buying in this crazy area but it’s really a fear that has to be challenged. I remember clients in 1991 who couldn’t get off of the fence because prices seemed so high and overwhelming to them. They never did buy. They’ve been providing for their landlord’s retirement for 20 years now. Wide waterfront single family homes in Foster City were selling for $500,000 then. Buying property on the Peninsula might be one of the safest investments anywhere and then add to that the uniqueness of Foster City’s water theme and it’s an almost sure bet.

2. Not using an experienced Real Estate agent As a listing agent who has on many occasions reviewed offers for sellers, and on most of those occasions they were part of a multiple offer scenario, I can tell you there is a very dramatic difference between an offer presented by an experienced agent versus one presented by an inexperienced agent. The simple fact is that the inexperienced agent rarely prevails and ratifies the offer. The experienced agent’s preparation, history in the area and negotiating skill is invaluable. On top of that is the very large issue of familiarity. In Foster City here’s how that helps you, an experienced agent is familiar with:

Landfill, foundation issues, flight pattern areas, schools, higher return on investment neighborhoods, parks, local events, restaurants, litigation issues in various developments, upcoming assessments in certain developments, traffic issues, local inspectors, insurance related issues…to name a few. In the past several years it’s been common to hear agents complain about the quality of agents that often come from out of the area that are representing buyers on purchases here. Forms are not filled out right, offers are faxed over without lender approvals, disclosures have not been signed off…there’s a large number of ways an inexperienced agent can defeat the plans of a buyer to purchase a home, and for what? Buyer’s are not paying a commission. There are actually plenty of really good local agents here, use one.

3.Relying on too much technology I have had quite a few clients in the last few years that are actually overly attached to their computer when it comes to home buying. Please don’t get me wrong, I love this technology! It helps me a ton and has served me very well over the years but the simple fact is there is no substitute for doing the legwork. I have clients that look at a virtual tour or still photos that I send them from my website and make a decision about the property by that exclusively. Often they delete a great property and ask to see a bad one based on what they see in pictures. The internet typically can’t tell you if a house is in a bad location or not either. We have a photographer in my office that can make an old broken down barn look like Buckingham Palace and I’ve seen other photos shot in bad light that is unflattering to a fantastic house. The same principle goes for Zillow and sites like that as well. Go see the place before you make a judgement.

4. Giving too much weight to aesthetics I’ve had other clients who only want to see homes with remodeled kitchens and bathrooms, preferably ones with granite and stainless steel appliances. I have to laugh when I see that of the 8 houses they have picked to see on my website, 6 of them are in bad locations or are grossly overpriced or have some other major flaw. The old rule, that’s been almost run into the ground, about location being the most important thing is absolutely true! It get’s more true as well in a flat market. It’s better to buy a place with a little aesthetic challenge, that you can do later, than to pay too much for a home that has a $10,000 granite slab kitchen from Home Depot. Remember the 3 biggest rules for buying property…location, location, location.

5. Not having the finances in order up front Always get a pre approval from a lender before jumping into the water. Many buyers get so excited about the process of buying they neglect the basics. If you’re not ready right now, that’s OK. I’ve had buyer’s this year that are very well qualified that still struggled to get their loan in this current lending environment. Create a gameplan with a lender you can trust and set a goal for when you can get there…even if it’s a year or more. Don’t even think about zero down any more. You’ll be really glad you did.

6. Forgeting you have a Home Warranty On every sale with every buyer I’ve ever worked with is a Home Warranty policy. That’s an insurance policy designed to last a year that covers most everything in a home. If there’s a plumbing leak, electrical malfunction, appliance malfunction, furnace problem, etc it’s covered. You pay a small service charge and they fix the problem. Unfortunately it’s easy to forget you have one of these gems. It used to be common for me to bump into a client and ask him/her how the new place is and they tell me a story about some issue, ruptured hot water heater, broken furnace, garage door opener that broke and the hassle they had finding a good trades person for it and then I ask them if they used the Home Warranty. Usually there was a moment of dead silence and that “deer in the headlights look”. It’s easy to forget about this thing when the problem occurs 6 or 7 months after closing. I always have this conversation now repeatedly before and after the sale. 


  1. Okay- so how is the weather in Foster City?? I hear it can be pretty windy out there in the bay! Of course, for my wind surfing son that is a reason for us to move there!!

  2. I do think that it can be pretty windy in Foster City, but really no different than it is in many places on the Peninsula…the hills in Belmont, San Carlos and San Mateo leap to mind first. I guess it’s something we’ve all managed to get used to and don’t think much of. Yes, it does have it’s advantages too, as your son will no doubt attest!

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