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5 Secrets to Winning in a Tight Real Estate Market

Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or ready to super-size, navigating Grand Rapids’ hot real estate market is not for the faint-hearted. The Jonathan Arnold Team at Guild Mortgage Inlanta has developed a bullet-proof plan to help you succeed in your quest. Warning: in this market, only the early birds get the juiciest worms.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to get your financial ducks in a row, what to expect from your realtor, how to find your dream home before others do, and how to proactively seal the deal. Download a PDF copy by filling in the form below, or read online, then contact us to get started.

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    5 Secrets to Winning in a Tight Real Estate Market

    By Jonathan Arnold,
    Branch Manager, Guild Mortgage Grand Rapids Mortgage Team

    The first thing to understand about real estate is that you make your money on a home when you buy it, not when you sell it. That means frontloading some sweat into your future equity.

    1. Get Your Financial Ducks in a Row

    In a market where multiple offers above asking price have become the norm on the best properties, you cannot afford to be house hunting without a bona fide pre-approval in hand. Not a pre-qualification, a pre-approval. What’s the difference? Well, at Guild Mortgage, a pre-approval means taking a deep look at your eligibility, your unique considerations, and going through initial underwriting to secure assurance that your loan will close and that you know exactly what to expect in terms of payments and closing costs.

    (Visit for a primer on The Importance of Pre-Approval.)

    By going through our Pre-Approval process, clients are then able to have us generate property and price-specific approval letters on demand. Not only does that make the offer stronger, but it is also a smarter way to negotiate. An open qualification letter that spells out your maximum leaves too much room for sign-backs, and at the same time, isn’t as confidence-inspiring as a bona fide pre-approval.

    Once you know what you can afford and the cash required to close, you’re almost ready for the starter block. The trick is making a quick start in the race to win your dream home.

    2. Should you work with a Realtor?– Yes and here’s why!

    In a market like this, it’s really important that we work with clients to help define a realtor’s primary role in the process, what it IS, and what it ISN’T.

    We regularly work with prospective homebuyers to help them understand what it takes to make the kind of purchase that will lead to future financial security.

    A realtor is there to help you navigate the purchasing process, to give you background information on prospective homes/neighborhoods, to help you strategically think about how to structure an offer and approach the seller. Your realtor ultimately writes the contract, the legal instrument that directs the sale and is legally binding once executed by all parties. An accredited buyers’ agent is there to negotiate in your best interest and ensure enforcement of the contract. Having an honest and trustworthy agent in your corner, representing your interest, is a huge benefit and highly recommended.

    However, no matter how talented and tireless a real estate agent may be, it’s not realistic to expect them to be first on the scene to identify your dream home. There are too many savvy investors out there at the starting line every day, and if you’re not doing the search legwork yourself, by comparison, your shoes aren’t even on when a listing hits the market. That’s because only YOU really know what set of variables will combine to create a “must-have” home.

    3. How to Run With the Big Dogs: Find the House, and Find it First

    Traditional home hunting in a market with balanced inventory usually went something like this: You meet with a Buyers’ Agent of choice. You review criteria, neighborhoods, and price ranges. They’d set up electronic alerts when new listings entered the MLS system that matched your criteria. You might wait until dinner that night to discuss with a partner if you’d like to take a look. You might call the realtor the next day for a showing.

    Easy, right? Those were the days. Today, in a market with less than six weeks worth of inventory, the probability is very high that a good, well-priced home will have offers on it before it’s even published on the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors system. Between social media, savvy searchers, and listing agents with wide networks, hot properties don’t languish on the market in this climate.

    The difference between bidding solo and bidding amidst multiple offers is the equivalent of asking yourself how much you want to pay versus how much you are going to HAVE to pay. You don’t want to be bidding reactively. You’re working to have the opportunity to decide to proceed.

    To earn that opportunity, these are the steps my clients have found incredibly helpful. Many of them don’t need to see more than one or two homes in person before they find the perfect fit. A few good morning habits during the search phase can result in a lifetime of enjoyment and return on investment:

    Steps to Finding Your Dream Home:

    • Daily Listings – Review all new listings early each day at Don’t limit yourself by over-refined criteria. Sort by properties that were just listed, this is a drop down option and will only show you properties that hit the market that day. There are trade-offs and gems to be found by searching broadly.
    • Keep Your Eyes and Options Open – Don’t confine your search to listings published on the internet – if you drive by a home, even a For Sale By Owner that you think is a fit, add it to your list. Remember there is no reason you can’t have your realtor present an offer to a DIY owner. In fact not having an agent when purchasing a “FSBO” could present a major liability to someone not versed in writing real-estate contracts, we have witnessed a number of nightmare situations due to clients not having representation.
    • Your Personal Hot Sheet – Shortlist properties of interest – but don’t call your realtor just yet. Create a file for your shortlisted properties, because now you’re about to gather some serious intel.
    • Get the 30,000 Foot View – Save time, travel and trouble by using Satellite view on Google Maps ( to rule out deal-killer environmental conditions, such as a gas station on the corner, a dump nearby or neighbors with dilapidated out-buildings. Take screenshots and file them in your property file.
    • Become a Digital Snoop – Visit the BSA conglomeration of Michigan counties ( ) to look up the property address for a wealth of information, including assessment and property taxes, as well as images, building permits, sometimes drawings of additions, and owner information.
    • Understand Your Vendor – Social Media sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn can help you understand the motivating factors of your sellers and other contextual factors around the sale. Win-win deals are born from understanding what everyone at the table needs.

    4. Process & Assess Your Intel…And Pick Up the Phone!

    Information helps empower people to make good strategic decisions. When you’re reviewing the information, you’ve garnered on your search, consider any sales trend information you can see in the neighborhood; compare the assessed value to the asking price; vet the owner to determine if the home is an investment or owner-occupied, and arrive at your “Go” or “No-Go” decision.

    You know in your heart if you want to be here, and he who gets there first wins.

    Now it’s time to make the call to your agent instead of telling them when you’re available to see the home ask your agent to determine what the sellers earliest possible showing time is and find the time to get out there

    This method of seriously dedicated search is actually more time-efficient and less emotionally exhausting in the long run. You don’t need to look at as many houses, and you won’t be heartbroken losing the bid from acting too slow.

    5. Trust Your Agent & Do Due Diligence

    If you’ve played your cards right, after a happy showing, you’ll submit your offer and get it accepted while other possible buyers are discussing whether or not they’d like to see the house “maybe on the weekend.”

    Remember that every contract includes a 10-day inspection period in which you can do your due diligence. Get the home thoroughly inspected early in the process so that you also have time to get estimates on any work that may need to be done. That way you’re in a good position to determine your options.

    We’ll save the bubbly for the last leg of your home-buying journey, which will be your hassle-free Guild Mortgage closing. With our help on the front end, the hardest work is already behind you, and hearth and home await.

    Jonathan Arnold has been working in the mortgage industry since 2003. He prides himself on taking the time with each and every client to evaluate not only what is best for them today, but also what will be best for their future. As the Grand Rapids Branch Manager at Guild Mortgage Inlanta, Jonathan ensures that each client is confident in making their homeownership dreams a reality.

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