How do I find my dream home in Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, or SW Wa?

The right home is like a beautiful painting. It’s hard to describe, but you know it when you see it. Just like art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Your priorities will determine what your dream home looks like, and yours might look different than your friend’s and your neighbors’.

Needs vs. Wants:

In reality, there’s no such thing as a perfect home. At best, there is a perfect home for you. In order to figure out the best house to buy, determine your “must haves” relative to the price range you can afford. Do you need more than three bedrooms and one bathroom? Do you need a three car garage? Do you need an area for RV parking, whether it has easy access to power or not? Do you need a shop with 220v power? Do you need a single level home? Whatever is a priority should be one of your “must haves”. Anything else you can classify as a “want” and see if there is a possibility to find it in your price range. You may decide to purchase a house that doesn’t have all of the features you want, with plans to remodel to make it your dream home.

Floor Plan:

The floor plan of your dream home will impact your life long after you move in. Floor plans will affect how you live in your home, as well as your quality of life while you are at home. Are you looking for an open floor plan that flows from the kitchen to the living room to the dining room? Are you looking for vaulted ceilings? Are you looking for a master on the main? Are you looking for a finished basement with a rec room for the kids? Do you need doors that lead to a covered patio with a large yard in the back? Can you imagine coming home and where your furniture would go? Does the floor plan feel like home?


Does your dream home have a view of the Columbia River, the Washougal River, Mt. Hood, Portland city lights, or the Columbia River Gorge? Does your dream home have hardwood flooring with granite countertops? What features do you need and what features do you want? Does the floor plan outweigh the features? Do you need a tiled backsplash, tall cabinets, and a picture window in the kitchen, or can you remodel? Some home features will be important, but you may wish to buy a house that you can turn into your dream home. You may decide to buy a new house, or remodel or renovate an older home.

New vs. Remodel vs. Renovation:

Buying a new home means you won’t have to worry about updating soon, and the floor plan and features will be current. If you get a construction loan to buy land and build a custom home you have control over the quality and lot size. However, if you look at new homes already built the lot sizes are usually significantly smaller than older homes. Remodeling an older home often means a larger lot size and established landscaping that you can update to resemble your dream home. You can change the floor plan and features to meet your needs, without having to compromise and accept choices the builder made. If you have the cash or can get a rehab loan, you may be able to do a complete renovation on an older home. Your dream home might be in a location with older homes that require renovation. If you have the budget and the desire, renovating your dream home might be the best option for you.

The faster you figure out what your dream home looks like, the sooner you can enjoy it. Whether it’s a new home, remodel, or complete renovation I can help you find it. It may be hard to describe, but you’ll know it when you see it!

If you need help finding your dream home in Camas, Washougal, or Vancouver, Washington please contact me. I’d be happy to help as your local realtor! Call, text, or email so we can get you in your dream home now!

Should I use a home inspector in Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, or SW Wa?

Do you need a home inspector to buy or sell your house? As a buyer, using a home inspector can help save you money, as well as piece of mind. They may also find major issues that can help you determine whether you want to follow through on a particular house purchase. As a seller, a home inspector can help find any issues that could result in costly negotiations once an offer has already been accepted on your real estate listing.

What does a home inspector do?:

A home inspector looks for and documents defects in construction, building code compliance, deferred maintenance, and inspects the condition of the house. They look at roofing, flashing, chimneys, eaves, exterior, siding, structural elements, foundation, interior, plumbing, electrical, HVAC (heating and air conditioning), sheet rock cracks, nail pops, and more. Home inspectors crawl through the crawl space, inspect the attic, walk the roof, and inspect the interior of a house. They take pictures and notes to document any significant findings. They can also test for the presence of radon in a home.


The cost for a home inspection is generally based on the square footage of the house. Home inspection companies set their own rates, although there are some price ranges that can be expected in any given area. The costs associated with not having a home inspection usually far outway the cost of an inspection. Home inspectors can also recommend consulting a specialist in roofing, plumbing, electrical, foundations, pest control, and mold, asbestos, and radon remediation. Home buyers are expected to pay for their own inspection if they write an offer with an inspection addendum. A seller may choose to purchase a home inspection during the process of preparing their home for sale to uncover any potential issues before they enter a purchase and sale agreement with a buyer. It can mean the difference between hiring a handiman for some quick repair or maintenance work, and having a buyer negotiate the price down midway through a sale based on the results of a home inspection.


Buyers who want to hire a home inspector will need to write an offer including an inspection addendum as part of the purchase and sale agreement in Washington state. This allows them a certain amount of time (10 days if not filled in on the purchase and sale agreement) to have an inspection done and have their realtor write an inspection response. An inspection response has options to: request a lower price for the house, request some repairs to be done by the sellers before closing, or withdraw their offer for the home. If buyers decide to walk away from a house purchase based on an inspection response, they do not get a refund for the home inspection that has already been performed. However, if the inspection uncovers mold, dry rot, termites, plumbing issues, or any other major issues the amount of money saved greatly outweighs the amount spent on a home inspection. A home inspection can help save you money if it allows you to negotiate for a lower price, or have some repairs done at the expense of the sellers prior to closing.


Although many buyers will include an inspection addendum as part of a purchase and sale agreement in Washington state, sellers may wish to have their own inspection done prior to listing their home. Although there is no guarantee that different home inspectors will uncover the same issues, an inspection can help uncover repairs before you enter a contract with a buyer. Depending on the type of repairs or defects found, you may be able to do some quick repairs without spending too much money prior to listing. Anything that a buyers home inspection finds after the home is under contract gives them more leverage during negotiations. If you have the time and don’t mind spending some money prior to listing, a good home inspection can put more money in your bank account after closing.

A home inspection is not a requirement to buy or sell real estate in Washington state, but it is almost never a bad idea. A good home inspection can prevent costly mistakes for buyers, and helps in the negotiation after entering into a contract to purchase a home. As a seller, a home inspection can help uncover easy repairs that could cost you more money after entering a contract, as well as making the entire process smoother and easier. Should you use a home inspector in Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, or SW Washington? As a realtor, I can definitely recommend some good local home inspectors to help you in your home buying or selling.

Call, text, or email me if you need help buying or selling your home! I’m happy to help as your local realtor.

Can I buy a home with zero down in Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, SW Wa?

Need to buy a house with no money down? Buying a home with no downpayment is possible in Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, or SW Washington. It doesn’t involve unicorns and rainbows, just the right type of mortgage loan. It still requires the right debt to income ratio, and a high enough credit score so getting preapproved by a mortgage broker or lender is still a good idea before looking at homes. What are the types of mortgage loans you may qualify for that offer zero down financing?


In some rural areas USDA loans with no money down are an option. There are requirements on maximum income, and not all areas or homes will qualify. The definition of rural can be generous though, as the USDA only updates the maps every five years. Although Vancouver is too large to qualify, some areas near Vancouver in SW Washington still qualify. Parts of Camas, Washougal, Brush Prarie, Battle Ground, and Hockinson should still be elibile although they do review areas for population limits every five years. The maximum income requirements are no more than 115% of the median household income for the area, which includes the income made by any kids still living at home. However, there are no minimum credit score requirements for USDA loans. In order to qualify for automatic underwriting there is a minimum credit score requirement of 640, but for those below 640 manual underwriting may still be an option.


If you have ever served in any branch of the United States military, you may be able to get a VA home loan. You will need a certificate of eligibility before closing, but you may apply for a VA loan through any VA approved lender. Unlike a USDA loan there are no maximum income limits. Unlike an FHA loan there is no mortgage insurance required for a VA loan. You can buy a home with no money down in any area of SW Washington using a VA loan. There are some requirements for the condition of the home, however. The Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t want new homeowners to have any unexpected and costly repairs after moving into their new home.

Washington Bond Loan:

Unlike a USDA loan, there are no rural area restrictions on where you can purchase a home using a Washington Bond loan. It is like an FHA loan where the state pays up to 4 percent of the downpayment for the buyer. Washington Bond loans do have a maximum income requirement, and require attendance of a five hour home buyers class. If you haven’t served in the military and you want to purchase a house outside of the USDA eligible areas, a Washington Bond loan is probably your best option. Although you can’t buy a home in Vancouver using a USDA loan, you can with a Washington Bond loan.

Closing Costs:

In addition to paying for a home inspection, there are closing costs associated with buying a house even with a zero down loan. However, some or most of the closing costs can be negotiated when writing an offer. It’s possible for sellers to pay almost all of the buyers closing costs, but it may need to be negotiated carefully. If you write an offer of 300k on a home, but request the sellers to pay up to 5k of the closing costs, the offer is really more comparable to a normal 295k offer using conventional financing. It is possible to write an offer for more than asking price while requesting the sellers to pay closing costs, essentially rolling the closing costs into the home loan. This is more common during a sellers housing market when buyers are competing with offers from other buyers due to low supply and high demand.

FHA vs. Zero Down Financing:

You may wish to use one of the zero down financing options even if you qualify for an FHA loan. FHA loans require a downpayment of 3.5 percent, which is $10,500 on a $300,000 house. Some may wish to use a zero down loan simply to have money set aside for some minor remodelling, or to keep some emergency funds in the bank. Depending on your income, the area you’re looking at, or the price range of houses in your area, you may have to finance using an FHA or conventional loan. A good mortgage broker or lender should be able to give you your best options as part of the preapproval process.

Despite what a lot of people think buying a home with no money down is possible in Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, or other areas of SW Washington. Lenders will still look at your debt to income ratio, but you may have options that you didn’t even know of. I can refer you to some great lenders if you want to start looking at houses. Lets get you preapproved ASAP so I can start showing you some houses!

Call, text or email me! I’d love to be your local realtor!

How to sell my home in 60 days or less in Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, SW Washington?

Need to sell your house fast? There are many things that affect how many days a listing stays on the market. Selling your home quickly requires careful planning to guarantee a speedy closing without unexpected delays. Some things are out of your control, but there are factors that will consistently impact how fast your house sells. If you analyze pricing, condition, market timing, marketing, and photos before listing you can help stack the odds in your favor. With the right approach both a quick sale, and a fast closing is possible.


Your house doesn’t have to be the cheapest listing on the market, but if you want to sell your home fast you have to be realistic about the price. Even in a sellers market there is a limit to how much you can sell real estate for. Buyers are looking at houses in a price range they have been pre-approved for and if you price too high you may be missing potential buyers. A buyer who filters their search for houses less than 400k will not see your listing at $409,995. Doing a proper CMA, or comparative market analysis, to figure out what similar houses have been selling for recently in your area is a good start. Interpreting a CMA requires some experience, in addition to choosing the right comparable homes to start with. Pricing your listing accurately is crucial if you need to sell your home fast.


Home buyers look at condition as well as price when deciding what house to write an offer on. How does your home compare to other similar houses on the market? If you look at houses that have sold recently in your area how does yours realistically compare? Don’t just look at positive features of your home, but try to find anything that would negatively impact how it is viewed by buyers. There are some things that can be done relatively quickly before selling to improve the condition. Thorough cleaning is important, as some buyers will be turned off by a house that isn’t as clean as they would like. Decluttering and organizing can also help. Do you have time to paint to make sure the colors are neutral? Do you have CO2 detectors in the right areas of your home to be up to code? Does your water heater have earthquake straps? There are some things that an appraiser will require for the buyer to get a mortgage. FHA, and VA loans typically have stricter requirements on the condition of the house and if yours doesn’t meet the requirements when listing it may take longer to close on your house sale. Depending on how much time you have it may be worth hiring a home inspector before listing to uncover any issues and address them prior to listing. If you are unable to do anything prior to listing due to time or money you will have to sell your house for less money if you need to sell quickly.

Market Timing:

Market timing can also affect how quickly a home sells. There are certain times of year when most buyers are not looking at houses. The weeks leading up to and just after the start of school tend to be the slowest, as well as the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The largest number of buyers that are actively looking usually peaks in the Spring months. Home buyers with kids often look to close on a house during the Summer break so they won’t be moving in the middle of a school year. If you need to sell your house during a slow time there may be less listings to compete with, but there will usually be fewer buyers looking. It is possible to have a speedy sale and closing during the slower months but accurate pricing is even more important than during the Spring and early Summer months.


Are there any unique or premium features of your property that can be highlighted? Do you have a shop, an oversized garage, 220V power for welding or professional woodworking equipment, or room for RV parking? Does your home feature granite counter tops, radiant heating, a fireplace, vaulted ceilings, hardwood flooring, walk in closets, wainscoting, coffered ceilings, or custom tiling? Does your property have a view of Mount Hood, the Columbia River Gorge, the Washougal River, or the Columbia River? Are you at the end of a private driveway on acreage, surrounded by trees with no immediate view of your neighbors? These are all selling features of your home and the listing description and photos should highlight them. If an avid fisherman would love to own your property on the Washougal River, make sure there is a plan to highlight this. Marketing online using buyers demographics and interests can be a great way to sell your home fast.


Great photos won’t sell your house for more than what the market will bear, but bad photos will almost certainly deter potential buyers. Photos that focus on the selling features of your home will help set your listing apart. Good listing photos will allow buyers to see details out the windows while keeping the inside of the rooms well lit. Digital point and shoot cameras generally don’t work well enough for real estate photography. Ideally, a camera with removable lenses and a wide angle lens to be able to capture enough detail in the bedrooms is best. A current model cell phone camera using HDR settings produces better results than older digital point and shoot cameras. HDR allows multiple pictures with different exposure settings to be automatically merged into one photo to keep the detail both inside the rooms and out the windows. The number of photos to use in your listing depends on how many rooms and unique features your home has. There should be a photo for every room in the house, as well as a shot of the front of the house and any main selling features. The order of the photos should be logical and have a flow to them, leading potential buyers through the house. Great photos will make your listing stand out and help your home sell faster than the average listing.

Selling your house fast requires planning and careful coordination of pricing, condition, market timing, marketing, and photos. The more you have these factors dialed in, the faster your home will sell. Need to sell your Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, or SW Washington property quickly?

Call, text, or email me! I look forward to helping you as your local realtor.

How Much Is My Home Worth In Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, or SW Washington?

Are you thinking about moving and wondering what your home value is? Ready to upgrade to a larger house, or downsize after your kids move out? Figuring out the value of your home requires an analysis of recent sales in your area using comparables, or houses similar to yours. There are several things you should take into account such as the age or condition of your house, the location, your lot size, the current housing market, competition from other similar listings, and even the time of year. Let’s take a look at how some of these affect home prices in your area.

Age and Condition:

When was your home built? How does it compare with other houses built in the same time period? Other houses may have been fully or partially updated. What is the age and condition of the water heater, electrical panel, roof, siding, paint, fireplace, flooring, kitchen cabinets, appliances, bathrooms, plumbing, windows, HVAC, insulation, lighting fixtures, and other features? All of this can affect the value of your home. Some home buyers want an older home that they can update, but expect to pay less than a similar home that already has recent updates. Some buyers want a home in a similar area that has a larger lot size and more recent updates and can expect to pay more.


When looking at real estate, location is key. Is your home in an older neighborhood with a lot of first time home owners? Are you on a culdesac that has families with kids that play in the neighborhood? Are you in an upscale neighborhood with a view? Is your home located on the Washougal or Columbia River? Are you located near Prune Hill, Mount Norway, Bear Prarie, Sunset Ridge, Campen Creek, Woodburn Hill, Fern Prarie, Lacamas Lake, or Crown Park? Are you close to schools, and shopping centers? Does your property have a creek with acreage, or a location surrounded by trees, or a view? Home buyers look at location as much as other features when buying a house. When selling your home, comparing it to houses that sold in similar locations can help determine your home value.

Lot Size:

How big is your lot size relative to other homes that have sold near you recently? Often, homes built in a similar time period will have similar lot sizes. Newer homes typically have smaller lot sizes, as builders try to subdivide lots to fit more homes in a neighborhood. It’s common to find new homes with two stories built over a garage on smaller lot size. Older neighborhoods tend to have homes built on larger lot sizes, often single level homes with a detached garage. Is your house on acreage? Do you have a large property with room for a shop, or RV parking? In some areas of Clark County zoning calls for a five acre minimum for lot sizes. If you are comparing homes sold recently, lot size is a major factor in determining how much your home is worth.

Current Market:

How big is your lot size relative to other homes that have sold near you recently? Often, homes built in a similar time period will have similar lot sizes. Newer homes typically have smaller lot sizes, as builders try to subdivide lots to fit more homes in a neighborhood. It’s common to find new homes with two stories built over a garage on smaller lot size. Older neighborhoods tend to have homes built on larger lot sizes, often single level homes with a detached garage. Is your house on acreage? Do you have a large property with room for a shop, or RV parking? In some areas of Clark County zoning calls for a five acre minimum for lot sizes. If you are comparing homes sold recently, lot size is a major factor in determining how much your home is worth.


In addition to recent housing market trends, the homes currently listed on the RMLS can affect your home value. Buyers will compare your home to others that have similar features that are currently listed. If your house is listed too high compared to other comparable homes, it will take longer to sell and may end up selling for less than if it had been priced competitively in the first place. This doesn’t mean you can’t get top dollar for your home, but you have to be aware of what else is on the market. If you list your house for too little you may start a bidding war, but you may also end up leaving money on the table. Valuing your home involves accurately analyzing previous house sales as well as the competition currently listed on the RMLS.

Market Timing:

In addition to the current housing market and competition, market timing can play a big role in selling your home for what its worth. People buy homes year round, depending on their circumstances. Those moving to Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, or other areas of SW Washington because of a new job in the area may buy as soon as they move here. However, most people with kids look to buy in the Spring and early Summer, hoping to close on their new home when school is out in the Summer. As such, Spring and early Summer tend to be the busiest time of year for real estate agents. If you are looking to sell your house and buy another home with a contingency on your house selling market timing can help. You can try to sell your house at a competitive price in the early Spring, with a longer than normal closing time and look for houses before the beginning of Summer when everyone is trying to close on a house.

There are a lot of factors that go into figuring out what your home is worth. While home values are largely determined by price per square foot of comparable recent sales, there is much more to it than that. Valuing a house is part art, and part science.

Need help figuring out what your home is worth in Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, or another area in SW Washington?

Don’t hesitate to call, text, or email me. I’d be happy to work with you as your local realtor.

Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, SW Washington Mortgage Loans

Need a mortgage loan to buy a house in Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, or any other area in SW Washington? There are a few mortgage options you may qualify for. Although home sellers often prefer cash offers or conventional loan financing, FHA, VA, USDA, 203K rehab, or Washington bond loans may also be accepted. A lot of people put off buying their first home, thinking they can never save enough for a large downpayment. While conventional mortgage loans require a large downpayment, there are other financing options in Washington, some of which don’t require a downpayment at all. Since pre-approval is one of the first steps in buying a house, lets look at some of the mortgage options available in SW Washington.

Conventional Loan:

If you can afford to put at least 20 percent down on a home purchase, you may be able to get a conventional loan with no mortgage insurance. The minimum credit score required for a conventional loan is around 650. If you can’t save enough for 20 percent down you can apply for a loan with 10 percent or more downpayment, although this requires paying for private mortgage insurance. Private mortage insurance, or PMI, is insurance to protect the lender in the case of a default on the loan. It can be removed from the loan by paying down the mortgage until you only owe 80 percent of the purchase price or the appraisal price, whichever is lower. There are other ways to remove PMI before you have more of the mortgage paid down, but depending on the interest rate when you close on your house you might not save on your monthly mortgage payments.

If you already own a home you likely have some equity built up that can help with your downpayment. You can write an offer with a contingency to sell your house, or you can sell your house with a longer than normal closing time and write an offer on your new home with a contingency on your house sale closing. The second is more likely to be accepted by the seller of your new home, as it means you already have an offer accepted on your house sale and the deal is more likely to close on time. There are some tricks and negotiation techniques a good local realtor can use to help you get an offer accepted, even in a seller’s market.

Conventional loans have less strict requirements than other types of mortgages when it comes to the condition of the house. As far as home sellers are concerned, cash offers and conventional offers are usually more desireable. With some other loans there are requirements for brush being cut back from the foundation of the house, or bushes being cut back from the siding of the house, among other requirements. What might seem like minor things to most people may cause issues with getting an appraisal for some types of loans. The more expensive houses become in an area, the harder it is for many locals to save enough to be able to get a conventional loan. Thankfully, there are other mortgage options available.

FHA Loan:

FHA loans only require a 3.5 percent downpayment, and have a minimum credit score requirement of 580. Don’t have enough of a downpayment saved for a conventional loan, and less than stellar credit? An FHA loan might be the best option for you. FHA loans require mortgage insurance for the life of the loan, although you may be able to refinance into a conventional loan down the road to get rid of the mortgage insurance. In addition to requiring mortgage insurance, FHA loans have more strict guidelines for the conidition of the home being purchased. If there are too many issues for an FHA appraisal, you might consider a rehab loan.

Rehab loan, FHA 203(K):

Although it is a form of an FHA loan, an FHA 203K rehab loan is designed to allow remodeling to be financed into the same loan as the house purchase. It requires an approved contractor, inspector, or architect to provide quotes to determine the home value before and after the repairs. There is a limited 203K option that has a cap of $35,000 for renovations, but can’t include a major remodel, structural repairs, or additions. There is also a full 203K option that doesn’t have the same cap, but the interest rates are a little higher. If you are pre-approved for an FHA but find a home that needs some updating an FHA 203K rehab loan might be the answer you are looking for.

VA Loan:

If you have served in any branch of the military you may be eligible for a VA loan. The Department of Veterans Affairs sets requirements and you will need a certificate of eligibility before closing, although you can apply through a VA approved lender. The mortgage loan doesn’t require any money down or mortgage insurance, unlike an FHA loan. VA loans do have stricter requirements for the condition of the home than conventional loans, as they don’t want any unexpected repairs after the house closes. VA loans for single family homes have no maximum income requirements, and you can use one to buy a house in Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, or anywhere else in SW Washington.

USDA Loan:

Need a zero down mortgage loan in SW Washington? You may qualify for a USDA loan, also referred to as a USDA rural development loan. Although the guidelines are set by the United States Department of Agriculture, these loans are actually meant for purchasing a single family home in rural areas. The maps are periodically updated, but as of 2018 Washougal and some other areas near Vancouver, WA are regions that qualify for USDA loans. There are maximum income requirements, based on percentage of the median income for the region. It’s one of the few loans available to buyers who don’t have enough money saved for other types of mortgage loans.

Washington Bond Loan:

Washington Bond loans offer downpayment assistance of up to 4 percent of the mortgage. Similar to an FHA loan, but Washington state pays for your downpayment. Washington Bond loans require a 5 hour home buyers class, and have maximum income requirements. Although USDA loans only work in certain areas deemed rural, Washington Bond loans don’t have the same restriction. You can get a mortgage loan to buy a house in Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, or any other area in SW Washington.

How much home can you afford to buy? I can refer you to some great mortgage lenders in my area to help you purchase a home in Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, or anywhere else in SW Washington. Why not get pre-approved this week to start seeing houses near you?

Call, text, or email  me to start looking at real estate now! I’d be happy to help you as your local realtor. If you’re not quite ready to buy a house, I recommend bookmarking this website or or copying my information for future use. Help me help you!

What is a buyers agent?

When you see marketing from a realty group, you will sometimes see them refer to a buyers agent, or sellers agent. The state of Washington issues a Real Estate brokers license, and a managing brokers license. The general real estate agent you run into in SW Washington is probably a real estate broker. They have a license allowing them to act as an agent for buyers or sellers in a real estate transaction. One of the things most highly stressed by the National Association of Realtors is fiduciary duty. A realtor is supposed to have their client’s best financial interest in mind during a real estate deal.

The concept of a buyers agent is a relatively new thing in the field of real estate. It was created out of a necessity to protect home buyers in the purchase of a house. When a realtor is acting as an agent for a home buyer they are required to put the buyer’s financial well being ahead of the seller’s, even if their commission is paid from the sale of the house. Previously, most home buyers used the realtor that listed the house for the sellers to conduct the entire real estate transaction for both parties. Understandably, this created quite the conflict of interest as the buyer often felt that they had nobody watching out for them in the transaction.

Behold the buyers agent. They generally don’t get paid until you own a house that they helped you write an offer on. They should have some preferred lenders that they can recommend based on past experience, as well as home inspectors, septic companies, roofers, general contractors and the local handiman (or handiwoman). They sometimes show you many houses before you have an offer accepted, co-ordinating with the schedules of the owners, and pointing things out that may be a cause for concern in getting the loan approved. Once an offer has been accepted, they co-ordinate the inspection (assuming you write an offer with an inspection contingency), help you evaluate and negotiate after the inspection, coordinate the appraisal, help negotiate after a low appraisal, co-ordinate with the title company, and generally look out for your well being.

Some home builders have their own agents and have a buyers agent scheduled for open houses on new units they are trying to sell. Sometimes the unit they show is a model home, and they are using it to sell houses before they are built. If they have a realty license they are supposed to have fiduciary duty to the buyers, but buyers can find themselves being talked into upgrades to a new house based on the model home the builders agent is showing. If you have a buyers agent you have been working with showing you houses it’s a good idea to bring them along to a model home showing. Or at the very least, consult with them before signing a purchase and sale agreement with a builder listing an unbuilt house. If you have them write the offer for you the builder might not get paid as much, but you will have a buyers agent with no conflict of interest to help you negotiate.

Some realtors require their buyers to sign a contract for exclusive agency representing them as a buyers agent, even stipulating that they get paid by the buyer in the event that a buyer wants to write an offer on a for sale by owner property. Typically a buyers agent gets paid when the house closes, splitting the comission with the sellers agent. Listing a house on the local multiple listing service ensures a lot of agents and buyers know about it, but also ensures that both the sellers agent and the buyers agent get paid when the house closes. At the very least a realtor will probably want you to go through the process of getting a pre-approval letter from a lender or mortgage broker before showing you houses on the market. It’s the fastest way to find out how much house you can afford, as well as learn of anything that might prevent you from getting a mortgage.

Before even showing you houses, a realtor can look at houses that are listed and answer some questions that might not show up in your online searches. If you have a question or some interest in a listing, I recommend using your buyers agent as another filter. There are some houses listed that need enough work you would have a hard time getting a mortgage approved.

A good realtor can spot potential issues and do research to find any issues with a listing before you get too far along in the process. They can help you find a local home inspector, but can also help you avoid writing an offer on a house that may have too many issues. Every time you have a home inspection done as part of a purchase and sale agreement, you pay the home inspector for the inspection. This is only after an offer has been accepted and only if you have an inspection contingency as part of the purchase and sale agreement, but it is an expense that the buyer generally pays for. A buyers agent should be able to filter out some of the potential problem houses before even showing them, saving you time and expense.

A local buyers agent is a relatively new, but important, concept. The idea that a listing (sellers) agent splits the commission with an agent whose job involves fiduciary (financial) duty to the buyers gives the home buyer a much more level playing field than they had before. They do research, set up showings, prepare legal purchase and sale agreements, help negotiate on the buyers behalf, and provide their expertise to people looking to buy a home. They are also licensed to list houses, acting as an agent for the sellers. A good agent will have insight into negotiation techniques used by the sellers agent, having sold houses as a listing agent as well. Considering a buyers agent usually works for free until you own a house, why wouldn’t you use a realtor to help you in your house purchase?

Have any questions about Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, or any other SW Washington house listings? Please call, text, or email me so I can help you buy your home! I’d be happy to help you as your local realtor.

How to buy your first house

Buying your first house can be stressful. Working with a good local realtor and establishing regular communication with them can help make the home buying process easier. You don’t want to be playing phone tag with a realtor when trying to write an offer on your first house. Understanding some of the steps involved will also help. Every house purchase is unique, but there are some common steps in most real estate deals.

Before you start looking at real estate listings its a good idea to get preapproved for a mortgage. Your realtor may recommend some lenders or mortgage brokers they have worked with successfully in the past. A mortgage broker will tell you how much home you can afford. In a sellers market most listing agents won’t take an offer seriously unless it is accompanied by a preapproval letter. A mortgage broker will look at your income, as well as any student loans, car loans, credit card debts, and collections. Once you are pre-approved, you have a price range to search for houses in your area.

When you are preapproved for a mortgage, you can start looking at houses in your price range. Find a website you are comfortable with searching for realty on, whether its the local multiple listing service (RMLS in the SW Washington area), Zillow, Redfin,, or some other website. Once a house gets listed for sale on the local MLS, it usually shows up on all of the national websites within 24 hours. Once you find some listings you are interested in, text or email your realtor with questions about them. Your buyer’s agent can look the property up in their MLS and find more details about the listing. It’s possible the house needs a new roof, or has a crack in the foundation, or some other fault that doesn’t show up in your online search.

Based off of feedback from your realtor, figure out which homes you want to see and have your buyers agent arrange showings. Vacant houses are usually easy to see on short notice, but owner occupied homes involve scheduling showings around the owners schecule. This process can take a while. Try to take notes or record video or photos of the house and property on your phone. After you have looked at a few houses it can be hard to keep track of which listing goes with which house. Try to narrow down your likes and dislikes. Your realtor can help with some recommendations, based on the condition of the house vs what type of loan you are pre-approved for. Some homes need enough work that they won’t easily qualify for a certain type of loan. Let your buyers agent know what you liked and what you disliked about the properties. Repeat this process until you find a house you want to write an offer on.

Once you find a house you want to write an offer on, your realtor can help you determine how much to offer, as well as any addendums to include in the offer. One of the most common addendums is the inspection addendum. This allows you to hire a home inspector to find any issues that aren’t apparent when walking through the house during a showing. If your first offer is not accepted, keep searching until an offer is accepted. Once an offer is accepted, co-ordinate with the realtor to get a home inspector scheduled within the window allowed by the purchase and sale agreement.

The home inspector will look in the attic and crawl space, as well as looking at plumbing, electrical, roofing, flooring, drywall, windows, and more. Their job is to find any issues the house currently has, as well as find any issues you might have shortly after buying. A good home inspector can also recommend further inspection by a specialist if there is a chimney, roof, or other issue that requires a specialist. The inspection may turn up issues that allow you to negotiate for the seller to lower the price or fix some of the issues prior to closing. It’s also possible the inspector finds something like a cracked foundation, mold, or something else that makes you want to walk away from the deal. If you walk away from the deal you still have to pay the home inspector, but it is far better to pay for multiple inspections than to find a costly repair after buying your first house.

An inspection addendum allows you to hire a home inspector and write an inspection response based on the inspection. The default time window for Washington State home inspections is 10 days on the purchase and sale agreement, although that timeframe can be changed when writing a purchase and sale agreement. An inspection response might request the seller to lower the price to help cover some of the necessary repairs an inspection found. It might also request the home sellers to repair or rectify specific issues found by the inspection.

If the inspection response has been agreed upon and signed by both the sellers and buyers, the next step is usually the appraisal. Appraisers are used by the mortgage lender to verify the house value independently of the sale price. They look at recent house sales in the area to determine the value for the originator of the loan. If the house appraises for less than the sale price, not all hope is lost. The buyers can ask for the sellers to lower the purchase price to the appraised value, or the buyers can bring more money to the closing. It may be possible to have a family member gift the amount to the buyers, as long as it is documented properly.

At some point between your accepted offer and the title transferring to your name, its a good idea to notify the utility companies that you will be purchasing the property. Find out when their billing cycle is, and what their fees are. Learn what day the garbage pickup is on, when recycling gets picked up, and ensure the best first time home buyer experience.

Assuming the house has appraised at full value, or any response to a low appraisal has been signed by both the sellers and buyers, the next major step is scheduling signing with the title company. The title company has been working in the background so far, checking the status of the title, HOAs, CC&Rs, liens, taxes, and utilities associated with the real estate you are buying. The title company is involved with making sure all of the legal documents are signed by both buyers and sellers. They also make sure there are no mechanical (contractors) or tax liens against the house that would transfer with the purchase. You don’t want to be stuck with a lien against the house that you end up paying because the previous owners didn’t. The title company will make sure the legal documents are recorded with the county to transfer the title to your new home.

The title company will have a lot of paperwork for you to sign. It can take anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours, depending on how thoroughly you want to read through all of the documents they put in front of you. If you know you will be out of town the week leading up to closing, the title company can arrange for a mobile notary to meet you to legally sign the closing paperwork. The title for your new house should transfer on the day the purchase and sale agreement has set to record. Once the title has transferred your buyers agent can get the keys for you and either deliver them to you, or arrange for you to pick them up at a realty office.

Enjoy your new house! Consider replacing all of the locks on your new house. Double-check with the utility companies (water, sewer, electricity, garbage, recycling). Double-check with your local broadband and DSL companies. Relax, you no longer have to worry about having your rent raised.