The real estate landscape is not an easy one to navigate, especially for first-time home buyers.
To give our readers first-hand advice on where to start when it comes to achieving the American dream of home ownership, we spoke to Leneiva Head, one of the nation’s top real estate broker/home expert/interior designers. Known for making green living easy and affordable, her specialties include Residential & Commercial Leasing and Sales, HUD/VA/REO Properties, short sales, standard sales and creative financing.
The owner of Nashville’s top performing real estate management company, Welcome Home Realty, with a mission to help every person buy and keep their homes, Head spoke to TNJ.com recently about her nightmare first home buying experience, which resulted in Head’s real estate solution to help first-time homeowners get into the home of their dreams and guide them every step of the way.
TNJ.com: Tell us about your first “nightmare” home buying experience.
Leneiva Head: My first nightmare home buying experience was when I bought my first home! I can laugh about it now, but I literally cried almost every day from contract to closing. I used a real estate agent that I’d met at an open house for a different property. That was my first mistake! I had taken a home buyer’s class before, but it was nothing like those offered today. Nothing could’ve prepared me for the trauma I would experience.
My agent seemed to either be afraid of or working for the listing agent. Everything that I wanted to ask for, he told me not to – including getting a home inspection. The things I did ask for (home warranty and cleaned carpet) required follow up for completion. He wouldn’t follow up – unless I insisted. The lender sent me a list of 28 items needed in order to close my loan. I now know it was a conditional loan approval; however, it never should’ve been sent to me. I immediately burst into tears because I didn’t know what the items were, how to get them, and felt hopeless. Of the 28 items on the list, only two were items that I had control over. The rest were items only the lender could resolve! Imagine that!
Every step of the way I had to follow up on everything to the point that the lender said I should do this for a living. HA! I was determined to and indeed did – close on time. I felt all alone throughout the entire process. I was given no direction, no discussion of what should happen next, nothing. Lastly, the agent called at the last minute to state that he would not make it to the closing. There I was at the closing table with the title attorney, a stack of papers, and my cashier’s check. Neither the lender nor the agent showed up. I had questions but there was no one around to answer them. I couldn’t wait to leave! I loved my home; however, my home buying experience was truly the worst!
TNJ.com: What inspired you to launch Welcome Home Realty?
Leneiva Head: As a goal setter, and entrepreneur, once I got my real estate license my next goal was to own my own real estate firm. There’s something special about owning, creating and building your own business. I got into real estate as a result of my own nightmare experience. Instead of forever complaining about how the first-time home buying experience should be better than my experience, I decided to be the change that I wanted to see. As I began volunteering to teach home buyer’s classes, I realized that a lot of real estate agents were looking to me for advice and education – in spite of having their own Broker to turn to. They were turning to me!
To ensure that there was no policy conflict, I always deferred them to their Broker for any final steps or decisions related to a transaction. I had become a mentor to many, which further supported my goal to open my own firm. As the Principal Broker/Owner, I could properly mentor and train other real estate agents. I could also help them grow and celebrate in their successes!
TNJ.com: What makes a good real estate agent, and how important is his or her role in a client’s home buying experience?
Leneiva Head: I believe all real estate agents should strive to be better than good – they should be great. A great agent cares about their client’s needs, goals, and concerns. A great agent takes the time to know the industry, market, and neighborhood trends in order to properly advise his/her client. A great agent learns all facets of the process although it may not be their role. For example, I chose to be a mortgage lender for six months just to understand the process, so I could better explain it to my clients. I could also answer questions when the lender was closed for the day – because I had a solid understanding of lending and mortgages. The agent’s role in the home buying transaction is critical. His/her knowledge, expertise, and genuine concern for the client will directly impact the mood of the transaction for the client. Will it be stressful, seamless, positive, or negative? The real estate agent’s knowledge and expertise helps calm a client who doesn’t understand the list of 28 items need prior to closing. He/she can say – don’t worry ignore that and focus on these three items because the lender will handle the rest. I tell my clients up front that this is a stress-free zone; however, there may be times when they feel nervous, anxious, excited, and unsure – I am here for every emotion and to help them understand and manage every part of their transaction. I remind them that they are my client and encourage them to ask any question that they may have.
TNJ.com: What is the biggest mistake people make when buying a home, especially their first home?
Leneiva Head: The biggest mistake is trying to go it alone – including when having a home built new. Buying a home is one of the largest transactions many people will make. It seems like a lot of fun but that’s only the shopping process. There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of legal documents, and a lot of back end follow up work to ensure a successful outcome. Buying a home without representation or knowledge of what to expect can cost you.
Buyers should know that listing and builder’s agents represent the seller and/or the builder. It’s like going up against an attorney on your own in court; you are immediately disadvantaged. Why be disadvantaged when you don’t have to be? Representation is free! A buyer’s agent is paid by the seller’s agent at closing. Don’t go it alone!