Buying rural property is a little different from buying property in a large city or the outlying suburbs. Working with people primarily by email and the Internet is often a bit different, too. Knowing the differences can ease the process and make it work well for us all.
Might be best to read about country property first.
The list of what I need to help
If you want help from me right from the beginning, start with telling me, briefly:
who you are (difficult to work with nameless people);
where you live (not "DC area"... I need to know your town or zip code, at least);
what kind of property you want (land, weekend home, retirement residence);
where you want the property to be (use distance, county or postal area);
how you would use it (most places have covenants which may restrict some uses);
your preferences on hunting and security gates; read about country property
if "privacy" is a priority, then tell me how you define privacy;
when you will be ready to own it (we don't need to be looking a year in advance);
what your price range would be (you can get general ideas from the web site or MLS);
have you ever been to this area (tell me where and what attracts you);
when you (and partner, if buying together) could come to see property;
who else needs to see the property to approve for a decision; and
what must happen before you can buy (sell a house, sell another investment, retire, kids finish college, get financing, etc.).
I prefer to use email as much as possible as it allows us to communicate at any and all hours and keep good records of our efforts together. No telephone tag. A few tips to make it work better:
If our first contact is by phone, be sure to email me same day with a short message so I have your email address and other contact data for follow-ups. Always give me your phone numbers in the first email, please.
First, tell me WHICH property you are inquiring about! It's astonishing how many forget to do so, then have no idea when I ask them.
Second, tell me exactly what information you need... don't just say you "need more information". I will provide whatever you need.
Use the subject line in your emails as effectively as possible. Never leave it blank. If you want me to remember you later when a property comes up that you were interested in, then it's especially important that you use that subject line effectively, as that's how I'm likely to search for you months later through thousands of emails.
A few guidelines for property
First, I will never waste your time. This is a promise. If you respond to a web page for a listing of mine, it will be exactly as advertised. I will tell you the good and the not-so-good about the property before you come to see it, as I want you to have no surprises after your long drive. We will do this by phone, if possible. Even if that is not the property for you, your time will not be wasted, as you and your spouse will learn a great deal from our time together and we will be able to fine tune the search parameters for your next visit.
In return, I ask the same from you. Please do not ask me to show property to you if you are not ready to buy property for some time. The property that you see now, is not likely to be available in six months. I cover a huge area and my drive time alone may be several hours in showing a single property. I shouldn't need to convince you that you need to purchase property in WV at all... I assume you have already made that decision and that we are now searching for THE property. If this is not the case, let's discuss your situation.
When we see property together, you must have your spouse, partner or co-purchaser with you. Leaving your other half out of the search process is unfair to all of us and causes much wasted time on our part. I absolutely must have the input from both parties to find the right property for you both. This is not optional, although I'll consider exceptional cases, if needed. And please, be sure your spouse has looked at the web pages for the properties we'll see, before your visit, so that we'll all on the same wavelength when we meet.
My web site is created to save us both time by giving you enough photos and info to make some preliminary decisions. Let's look at the properties that might work for you and skip those that we can see will not work. I feel if I can show you the property inside and out from my web site, including the plat, the covenants, the topographic map, the room dimensions, the panoramic view and more, then you will have a pretty good idea of whether this place will work for you. Studying my web page for that property is almost as good as a personal showing (far better than one tiny b & w newspaper photo!)... some folks consider the actual visit to be the second showing! Some have offered to purchase from the web site alone, but this should be a last resort, when it's impossible to be here from overseas, etc. Please do not make an appointment if you have only looked at the photos and skipped reading the copy. EVERYTHING is noted in the text and if you get there without carefully reading the text of a page, then you may have wasted many hours on everyone's part. I could tell you some astounding stories of what happens when people fail to read and only look at the photos....
You will never be randomly solicited by me. I won't call you or email you without specific reason in regard to WV real estate. Your contact info is safe with me. I will never share it with anyone else.
I can only do searches for properties and provide additional information for people who sign their emails and provide me with enough specific information for me to do a productive search. I cannot send a list of "everything on the market from 10 to 30 acres" for example. You can get that info yourself from the MLS button on my web site. Actually, you can find and search for almost anything from my web site. I can try to answer specific questions about other MLS properties as long as they are in Pendleton, Grant, Tucker, Randolph, Mineral, Hardy or Hampshire Counties. Use my services not to dump huge databases onto you, but rather to work that list down to just a few properties for you to consider.
To make an appointment to see property, we should talk by phone at some point. At that time we will make sure this property is "in the running" and see if there are other choices we should see on that day. If we are looking at homes, this should only be done with plenty of advance preparation, as permission needs to be obtained, the sellers often need to be contacted and keys and documents obtained. Rural property is not always as easy to show as is property in the local suburbs.
Weekends are often busy
On some weekends I have too many requests to handle, especially in the daylight-short winter months. I may take up to two, or even three buyers on the same day, if the properties they need to see are nearby to each other. I ask for your patience on weekends in case one showing makes me a bit late for the next. If you need a special block of time to see some property, then let's try to do it on a weekday, as most weekdays are wide open. On long summer days we may even be able to see property in the evening on a weekday, if that works for you. If a weekend is the only time available for you, then don't be shy about asking. We'll fit it in. I am willing to show property 7 days a week, day or night, weekdays, weekends and holidays. My time is your time, as long as we're both making the most effective use of that time. Please, never jump in your car and call me from the road to show property. I need more time to prepare, gather and copy documents, obtain keys or gate codes. etc. I do all showings by appointment and none by spur-of-the-moment calls.
Dual Agency: Leveling the
When I list a property, I must represent the basic interests of the Seller. However, I can ALSO represent the basic interests of the Buyer in most things, but I cannot represent one party to the disadvantage of the other. I make every effort to list property in the correct price range and even to have many homes independently appraised prior to listing them so that we have them on the market at the fairest price to both Seller and Buyer. The appraisal is often available for you to examine. In all transactions, I will represent the Buyer as either a Buyer's Agent or as a Dual Agent. I never represent only the Seller in any transaction, unless there is another Realtor who is acting as a Buyer's Agent for their Buyer. If you are a Buyer and are working directly with me on one of my listings, then I will be representing your interests equally with those of the Seller. Things I cannot do would be to tell you how much less I think the seller would take.... OR, to tell the seller how much more I think you would be willing to pay. Those are always confidential. But be aware that most of my home listings are already listed at rock-bottom and especially so if they've already been appraised. I make every effort to list homes at the fair price for today's market. If a home fails to appraise for at least the sales contract price, then we need to continue the negotiation. If we can't arrive at consensus then the deal is void and deposit returned. Keep in mind that many sellers are selling for well-under what they paid, due to the recent economic forces. Some sellers have a price limit that they can't go below and still be able to pay their mortgage, taxes and selling costs. Some homes are already priced at that limit.
Working with a knowledgeable listing agent as a Dual Agent
is a tremendous benefit to the buyer since some agents know
nothing about many properties. I can usually
tell you about all the neighbors, the history and the
subdivision for my listings. Another agent may
find that impossible to do. I'm usually an owner in the
subdivisions where I list homes and land, so know all the
details. I always
identify property boundaries, seeking professional help at the
Seller's cost if there's a problem doing so. I recommend
inspections on every home purchase and assist in having them
completed plus any major repair made, if needed, or credit
made to the buyer. I work to make sure we don't look at
seemingly overpriced property, or at least don't pay it, if we
do. I will give you useful comparables, IF they are available,
to help you make your decisions.
Some properties honestly have no
comparables because of unique features or locations.
Some agents in this area still do business the way it was done 25 years ago, representing ONLY the Seller, leaving the out-of-town buyer with no one on their team. This doesn't seem right to me. Buyers from the Metro areas quickly find real estate works a bit differently in rural WV... some very good ways (more casual, far less pressure) and some, not so good (agents post bad maps online, or can't find property, photos of OTHER properties instead of the one for sale, agents don't provide thorough documentation, know nothing about the property or community, etc). I will help you with all of this. I lived in Northern Virginia for almost 20 years (Reston and Loudoun County) and feel the Buyer ALWAYS needs an agent on their team. When I work with you as a Dual Agent I AM on your team and am totally familiar with the property.
Visit WV BEFORE you decide to
look at property!
My suggestion is for you to enjoy your first trip out and not look at any property at all on that trip. Stay overnight. Try to cover as much area as you can. Get a good OVERVIEW of the area, without focusing on anything specific on this trip. Hit all the large towns in your area of interest. Don't overlook the back roads... the really nifty places seem to always be on the back roads. Pick up a good map ahead of time and get familiar with it. Best map book there is: DeLorme WV Atlas & Gazetteer (state topo maps) Buy it online! (http://www.delorme.com/atlasgaz/). Drive around to where you THINK the interesting areas might be. Don't limit yourself at all, as the property you may fall in love with may not be where you expected it to be. My web site can be helpful if you spend some time with it. There's a LOT of information on it that's intended for you to see BEFORE you come out looking at specific properties. Punch the relevant buttons on the main page to learn more about WV. Look at some of the listings and don't overlook the "SOLD" properties. Part of the purpose of this is for you to get a realistic idea of how far you are willing to drive to and from a weekend/vacation property. All my listings show time and miles to various Metro areas. Everyone has their limit... make sure you know yours before we start to look at property so that we aren't just killing time looking beyond your acceptable drive time. And be realistic about whether weekend property is for you at all. If you're having trouble getting the spouse and kids together for an exploratory trip or an appointment to see property, then how often can you actually use that property? After you make a trip or two, you'll usually have a pretty good grasp on these things.
Give me the needed search parameters or simply give me your comments on some of the properties on my site telling me specifically what you like, what you don't like, and why. We may be able to find your property in ONE TRIP, once we're prepared and understand each other. In fact, that's what often happens when the buyer is actually ready to buy and has clearly instructed me of what they want. I will not call you out to see properties that aren't what you asked for, but I will tell you when you've asked for something that simply doesn't exist within your price range or seems poorly suited for your expressed needs. That's why looking at the "SOLD" properties at the bottom of my property list can be very helpful. Sometimes people see something there that is "perfect", telling me exactly what I need to search for.
In working with you, I will, of course, have the most info available on my own listings (lots of photos, plats, topo maps, appraisals, flood maps, covenants, aerial photos, Seller's Disclosures, etc.). I have less info, but good access to at least the basic info when the listing belongs to another local Coldwell Banker agent. When it's a listing from another broker, I may have access to much less info, sometimes not even a good photo, as some are not as diligent about collecting property information. Also, I may or may not be able to represent you as a "Buyer's Agent", as many brokers in WV refuse to cooperate with Buyer's Agents, or they make the commission to the agent so low as to make it impractical for us to work with them... ZERO commission is not practical, but is legal. Those brokers prefer to do business with agents who will represent only their seller's interests and not the buyer's interests. A bit difficult for savvy Metro buyers, used to better representation but unfamiliar with the local WV market. The out-of-town buyers need real representation in any transaction. Consider carefully whether you want do business with a sales agent who declines to represent YOUR interests at least equally with the seller's interests. And be sure they really ARE representing your interests, not just saying so.
Don't forget to wear proper clothing when looking at property. Sandals will not do. We will be walking the properties that interest you and you will need proper footwear, clothing and maybe even rain gear. I am willing and able to show property in any weather... rain, snow or ice are pretty normal in the mountains. Seeing a property in the worst weather has some important advantages to the buyer, so don't overlook the opportunity to do so!
Financing your purchase
We have plenty of good lenders in WV. For some properties (land or very unusual homes), if you plan to use that property as the collateral for the loan, you may have to use a local lender. Your Metro area local lenders are not familiar with WV property and will have little interest in learning about property values here. Most land purchases should be financed here in WV. Some homes may not qualify for "conforming" loans, due to local issues such as alternative water sources (springs, cisterns), lack of electricity, unfinished construction, too much acreage, two homes on one lot, etc. The local WV lenders are always happy to help on these.
Internet lenders tend to charge very high up-front fees, in exchange for those low interest rates. Weekend homes are not a purchase you'll have for 30, or even 15 years, usually. Don't get so caught up with those low interest rates that you forget about all those up-front fees. Figure out the real cost of your loan for 5-8 years... the time you may have your weekend property before you move to a different one (bigger, smaller, nicer, on the water, etc.). Internet lenders are also far more likely to get close to settlement day and then tell you they can't lend on that type of property. Remember, the Internet lenders need to find someone else to buy that loan they make. The local WV guys usually keep the loan for the life of it. Who's more motivated to make that loan, do it on time and keep us all happy? I like the local guys because they're the only ones that always do what they say they will. Sometimes it's best to just skip the Internet guys and deal with the local fellows here, who have been here making loans for a hundred years and will still be here for another.
Most purchases will need about 20% down from you. Some lenders may lend up to 90% on some properties if your credit rating is flawless. Land purchases are more likely to require that 20% down, but exceptions can be found. I have a list of local lenders that are easy to deal with, have very simple application forms, low fees and will rarely fail you. Ask me for it.
When we meet to look at property I can give you access to a list of local resources that will help you with all aspects of purchasing and owning your property. I also carry a supply of local phone books with me for those who may need one for working together. These resources will always be provided when you are ready to make an offer on a property through me.
Making an Offer to Purchase
When we have found a property that seems right for you I can help you construct an offer. We can do this whether it is a listing of mine, or of another agent. You should take your time on most offers (there are exceptions) and consider them carefully (no exceptions). I can write the offer with you on your visit or send you home with the forms to "sleep on it". We can also do most of it by email, fax, or mail, if you wish. One important factor, though... I cannot present any offer until I have the buyers' signatures and an earnest money deposit. This means one cannot write a contract with me if a spouse is to be involved as well, but is not present. I've had properties sell to another buyer before a prior "buyer" could get back with the spouse. Also, I cannot present your faxed or emailed offer until I have the earnest money check.
The earnest money deposit is the money that you put at risk on making the offer. If a buyer fails to fulfill their end of the contract, they will likely lose that deposit. If the buyer fails to make an offer with a significant earnest money deposit, then the seller will probably not consider that offer to be a serious one and may not accept it. Make sure you are ready to make a good earnest money deposit with your offer, especially if you are asking for price concessions, a delayed settlement, immediate agreement, or other considerations possibly contrary to the seller's wishes. The deposit is always credited toward the purchase price on the property at settlement, or it is refunded if contingencies are not met, or if the offer is not accepted by the seller. Talk to me about this if there are any questions.
With my listings, I will always have a copy of the current deed for you, as well as covenants, plat, flood plain map, well-driller's report, septic approval, seller's disclosure and any other relevant documents that are available to help you with your purchase. I always try to mark the property corners and lines ahead and recommend you walk the lines before making your purchase, if feasible. Inspections are recommended for homes and I will help you to arrange these, if you wish. If repairs are required, I'll arrange for them and see that they're done. Perc tests are desirable for land, but if not available, a new one can slow the settlement down by as much as 2-3 months or more. Perc tests can be difficult to complete in the cold months due to wet soils and the difficulty of getting the heavy equipment into the woods with no driveway. Most properties today come with a perc test document done for a prior owner and that may be sufficient in many cases. See more info at You're in the Country, Now.