Author Topic: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?  (Read 7567 times)

atribecalledquest

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First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« on: April 20, 2015, 10:12:07 AM »
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« Last Edit: January 12, 2019, 03:07:37 PM by Kevin »

jda1984

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2015, 10:27:30 AM »
You probably don't need a realtor at this point.  I would however have an attorney you trust review the PA/contract to make sure it's sound and fair to both parties.  This should be relatively cheap (~$500 in my market) and could save some heartache down the road.

You'll probably also want an inspection and to make your offer contingent on the inspection.

ohana

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2015, 10:29:25 AM »
If she did NOTHING to help you with this, then no, you are not obligated by law or conscience to work with her.

However, it can be very helpful to have a realtor "herd" the process of buying -- making sure all the pieces come together in the time they need to.   That's what people actually pay for, not so much the "finding a house" nowadays.

Good luck, it sounds like a great house.

waltworks

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2015, 11:09:58 AM »
Did you sign paperwork saying she is representing you? If so, you *probably* are on the hook for her fee.

If not, you are not legally obligated to give her the time of day. But if you are a first time buyer, I would think hard about how you want to go about doing this, since there are going to be a lot of closing/title/legal issues that you have zero experience with. You can find a title company on your own, hire a RE attorney, etc, etc - but it might be penny wise/pound foolish to go that route. And you will still end up paying plenty of fees that would otherwise be covered by the realtor, you're not actually going to save $10k.

That said, if you are confident in figuring it all out yourself (it can be done), go for it.

-W

zephyr911

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2015, 11:27:26 AM »
My wife and I have been working with a realtor we found on RedFin for the last 3 months. We are looking in a highly sought after area of town (think historic houses, old growth trees, sidewalks, walk zone to schools, downtown, etc). However, she hasn't done much of anything other than setting up an MLS email alert with our criteria.

Being mustachian, we're trying to think outside of the box, talking to neighbors about possible moves, checking craigslists, listservs, putting letters in mailboxes, etc.

Through our efforts, we found a promising lead for a house with a rental unit in the basement in an ideal location. My question is, since we did ALL of the legwork to get a lead without the realtors help AND we never signed a contract to work with her, why should I let her in on the sale?

The seller will not pay any agent fees, so as buyers, we would be on the hook for around $10k to pay for the realtors services.

We already know the comps and we've rented in the neighborhood for a year. We know the area very well and feel very confident in its future. The house is in the priority walk zone for one of the best/most sought after public Montessori elementary schools in a city that is going through a revitalization.

I guess what I am really trying to ask is, what justifies the $10k (what services do they render that is that valuable?!) and can we get away without needing a realtor?

Side-note: We have been pre-approved for a mortgage much larger than the asking price, have more than 20% for the down payment and have excellent credit.
Hi there - I'm licensed in real estate in AL and would love to help you work through this decision. Let me say up front that I just hold a license to aid my own investment activities, I fully support competent DIY efforts, and I have nothing against people deciding to do these things on their own.

Since, as you stated, you signed no contract (in this case, it would have been a Buyer Agency Agreement, or some similar title), you have no obligation to go through this transaction with this agent. In fact, you have no agent - just a contact at an agency who would like to be your agent. Client/agent relationships can only be established by express written consent of both parties.

That said, that doesn't *necessarily* mean you don't want this agent's help. At this point, they can add value by helping select a closing venue (depending on your locale, attorney or title company, etc), recommending a good home inspector, and generally helping you keep your ducks in a row before, during, and after closing. If you have full confidence in your ability to execute all of that without hand-holding, then don't bother. If you think some advice is worth paying for, you might try to negotiate a reduced commission in exchange for the minimum services you require. Generally speaking, all commissions are negotiable; my state explicitly forbids the setting a "market rate", as it is considered price-fixing. I have a friend listed at 1% right now and could go lower.

I do find that most people underestimate the legwork an agent does (most of it is not while they're physically with you) and this results in unrealistic expectations about negotiating commission. Are some of them just greedy snobs who want 3% even if it takes 2 hours of work? Absolutely. Is there more to it than that, and are there agents who truly bust their ass and take pride in their work, such that they don't want it cheapened by haggling? Also true.

A final note: it is extremely rare to encounter a seller - even FSBO - that is completely unwilling to pay any commission. Have you raised the subject and made absolutely certain that they won't throw a bone? YMMV, but sellers who refuse agent interaction can be difficult to work with, not just on that issue, but minor hitches (and most sales have them) like inspection-based repair requests, or other little snags normally managed by agents. Caveat emptor, that's all I can say.

If she did NOTHING to help you with this, then no, you are not obligated by law or conscience to work with her.
Hello, Ohana! Nice name. Kailua kid here.
Since they did not sign a contract, that is correct. Just keep in mind (in general, and in other situations) some buyer agency agreements identify a period of time during which any purchase - regardless of the agent's actual direct role in the transaction - is subject to a specified commission, which, if not paid by the seller, would be due from the buyer. We do see contracts written that way, so I always advise people to read carefully.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2015, 11:31:54 AM by zephyr911 »

waltworks

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2015, 12:18:37 PM »
Desperate to sell AND completely unwilling to work with an agent/list on the MLS? An amazing deal you just happened to stumble upon?

I smell a rat. Have you done an inspection (meaning, a professional one)? How did it go? Super cheapskate landlords do NOT take good care of their properties as a general rule.

-W

waltworks

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2015, 12:33:46 PM »
I'm not trying to be a downer, just trying to figure out WTF the seller is doing. If they feel under pressure to sell, the best way to do that, by far, is the MLS. And even if they desperately want to do FSBO, refusing to pay any buyer's agent commission knocks out the realtor-represented majority of buyers (or at the very least means those buyers will offer a lot less since they will have to pay their own agents). It's so illogical (presumably you know about only because you walked by - seller is missing out on 99% of the buyers in the market!) that I start to wonder if something really odd is going on.

Almost every FSBO I have seen involved a batshit insane seller who had horribly mispriced the house and/or was impossible to work with. I hope you do better!

-W

FirePaddle

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2015, 12:43:30 PM »
TLDR: I say go for it. You have your interests as #1 priority, and no one else ever will.

We only bought one house, and the seller was in agreement to not use an agent, so I did most of the work. There are templates you can find online to get started on contract language. We also had it all reviewed by an attorney to cover our butts. If changes were needed along the way, I discussed them with the (admittedly agreeable) seller, then wrote it on paper as an addendum, and we both signed.

We got a mortgage, so the bank basically listed all the things they required, and then I called the professionals and scheduled the various work and inspections that were required. Some items (depending on how the house works) to make sure you complete, some of which the bank will likely require, include: (you can likely just google these things too, as I'm likely missing some):

Updated plot plan (where things are, setbacks, etc.)
water test (important for a well)
septic test
Request as many old utility bills as you can, to get an idea of the efficiency of the house.
Meet the neighbors! Ask them how they like the neighborhood. They may share info with you.

home inspection: if there are red flags here, you can then hire a professional tradesman to inspect the issue further, such as roof leaks, electrical oddities, plumbing, etc. If things need to be repaired, you then simply negotiate with the seller for the work to be done before purchase, for a discount on the purchase price by adding addendums to the offer, or by putting money in escrow with your bank, and then you get the work completed and the bank pays for it with the escrow money, and returns the extra money to the selling once the work is completed.

Go to the planning dept of the city, county, etc, and discuss the property and zoning with them. They will tell you if the existing structures are in compliance as well as what you are legally able to do with or on the property. If there were major issues in the past, they may have some knowledge about that as well.

I say go for it. If it becomes overbearing, you can always hire one later. If you've got a bank telling you what they require, and you're finding good advice online, and you have an attorney review it to cover your interests, then honestly, that's better than assuming a realtor has your interests as #1 on their list, because they don't. It's just the way it works, as in most businesses.


FirePaddle

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #8 on: April 20, 2015, 12:49:58 PM »
One more thing. As in most things, it's not rocket science. Realtors don't go to school for 4 years to figure this stuff out. If you're committed to saving $10k, earning some skills for perhaps becoming a realtor or simply investing in properties later in life, I'd say just proceed cautiously and lead with your brain and it will likely work out.

Of course, I'm just a random on the internet:)

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2015, 12:50:40 PM »
A house near me has a "For sale by owner" sign out front.

It's scheduled to be sold at foreclosure auction this month.

Drifterrider

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #10 on: April 21, 2015, 07:02:19 AM »
Anyone (in the US) can subscribe to the MLS on a monthly basis for under $10 (last I saw the price).  It might be a good tool for you to run your own comparables on listed/sold price.  Price per SF sold (not listed).  Days on the market, etc.

 

zephyr911

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #11 on: April 21, 2015, 08:06:10 AM »
Thanks, I appreciate any and all advice! I'm trying to figure out wtf is going on as well. Similar size houses within the few blocks of this location all go for around $150 to $175/sqft, this one is around $65/sqft.

However, this house is definitely the ugly house on the block. All the others on the street are turn of the century craftsman bungalows or tudor style homes. This is a brick box with poor curb appeal. Not an issue to us, we see it as an opportunity.
It sounds like you're being smart about this, and thinking outside of the traps that many buyers fall into. You're not buying staging or decor, you're buying a structure. Get a good one cheap enough and you can afford to detail it however you like.

It's not uncommon to encounter outliers in per-SF terms; keep in mind that there is usually a reason. Smaller homes would be expected to run more per SF since part of the value is in the land, so if this is bigger, it should be a bit less per SF. But less than half the typical value would definitely make me wonder. As you said, if you like what you see next week, the next step is a pro inspection. I would be there with them if you can, or at least read every line of the report, and make sure they do a thorough job with structural, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and all the other major systems. If there's even a hint of water damage or mold anywhere, or if the basement walls are cracked, dig deeper. Most problems can be solved, it's just a matter of accurately pricing the solutions.

There's a very real chance that this is a great, overlooked opportunity and you are uniquely poised to capitalize on it. Do your due diligence and if/when you're sure - dive on it.

zephyr911

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #12 on: April 21, 2015, 08:17:59 AM »
One more thing. As in most things, it's not rocket science. Realtors don't go to school for 4 years to figure this stuff out. If you're committed to saving $10k, earning some skills for perhaps becoming a realtor or simply investing in properties later in life, I'd say just proceed cautiously and lead with your brain and it will likely work out.

Of course, I'm just a random on the internet:)
This is absolutely true. I got my RE license so I could earn commission on my own investment purchases while learning enough to do it full-time someday. I blew through the 60-hr online pre-license course in a few weeks before/after work and was licensed in under 3 months. The 30-hour post-license course was mostly an introduction to business and marketing. I zoned out while the modules played, and passed anyway.
What you get with an experienced agent is a deep professional support network (attorneys, lenders, inspectors, surveyors, etc) and the process familiarity to proactively identify and solve problems with a transaction. These are things that you too can develop, if you care to.
There are people who really shouldn't DIY this kind of thing, to be sure, but it all depends on your willingness to work through it on your own.

waltworks

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #13 on: April 21, 2015, 08:28:03 AM »
Man, that's gotta be an ugly-ass house if it's going for 1/3 the price per sqft as the rest of the neighborhood!

Keep us updated!

-W

holicanmc

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #14 on: April 21, 2015, 08:31:57 AM »
I don't have anything to add to the "use a realtor or not" discussion, just wanted to chime in with how Redfin works because I've seen some stuff that is not quite accurate. 
Source: I don't work for Redfin, I just purchased a home with them 1.5 months ago.

1) You should be under no obligation to use Redfin at all
2) They aren't typical realtors, there's minimal hand-holding during the home search process. You are supposed to find homes you want to see, schedule tours, and when you want to make an offer they write up the contract, negotiate, schedule inspections, attend closing with you
3) They typically have "agents" who only do tours and then their team lead is the one who does all the paperwork/negotiating
4) The agents don't earn commission on the sales, they get paid a salary plus bonuses that are based on customer satisfaction reviews
5) You, the buyer, get a refund from the sale at closing. The amount of refund depends on the price of the home and is shown next to the home on the Redfin website.

My experience with Redfin was pretty great since I didn't want to be shown properties I wasn't interested in. I picked what I wanted to see, they called to schedule a tour and I met the agent at the property.  In theory, their model should align the agents interests with the buyers more than the standard model since they don't get paid a commission on a sale. In fact, Redfin requests reviews even from buyers who don't wind up buying.

The Redfin agent figured out a way to buy the property I wanted when many other contracts had fallen through due to financing (weird property: two houses and three separate parcels) and I received a $2K refund mailed to me a few days after closing so I was pretty pleased with their service.

mikesinWV

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #15 on: April 21, 2015, 08:46:09 AM »
My two cents:

I've purchased and sold a house w/o the use of a realtor.  Contract was drawn up by a local attorney that did the closing.  The cost was maybe 150 bucks.  He also provided me a form for the seller to fill out regarding known issues (termites, lead paint, etc.) that a real estate agent typically provides. 

A good inspection may be useful too. 

Regarding price, I would assume that you will need an appraisal for mortgage purposes.

theoverlook

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #16 on: April 21, 2015, 09:21:30 AM »
Be careful you're not including the basement when doing your price PSF calculations.  Realtors like to do that but it's not really the right way to do it.  The basement isn't considered living space even if it's finished.

I've never had a realtor find a problem with a property I was looking at.  Sure the seller could be trying to hide something but the realtor won't be the one to uncover it.  Get a good home inspector and a good title agency and pore over the house yourself and if it's there you'll probably find it.

Good luck!  Deals can be had.

CommonCents

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #17 on: April 21, 2015, 09:51:39 AM »
I purchased without a realtor.  We thought it ridiculous to pay 2.5% on the already crazy-high Boston prices.  (If it were a flat fee, or decreased after a point we might have thought it more reasonable.)  We also didn't want someone walking through the house with us and telling us what to think - we preferred to look through on our own.  I'm a lawyer and in my state I can become a lawyer just by sending in a check and some paperwork.  I didn't do this, but it just goes to show that some non-experienced realtors don't bring anything more to the table than I do.  Mostly we felt they give you comfort you are doing ok in the negotiation - the initial offer and any follow-ups.  We figured 1) I've taken a negotiation class at Wharton, and have negotiated contracts in my work, so I have some skill/exp, 2) realtors vary in quality of negotiating skill and it's hard to know if you have a great one or not, 3) we saw a lot of houses and trained ourselves so we gained a level of pricing expertise (watching houses go under contract and evaluating if it was close to what we thought it should have been, and 4) we had a buffer of 2.5% of the purchase price, if we were not negotiating as well as a realtor would.

Friends had bought a place w/o a realtor before us, which gave us courage - and an offer template letter (they modeled theirs after offer letters by two friends - one represented, one not).  I modified the letter to account for a few issues I had read about in case law.  I handled the negotiation on behalf of my husband and myself.

We got a great recommendation for an inspector, who did a phenomenal job on two properties (we actually walked away from the first).  We used the lawyer DH had used previously for the closing documents).

Since then, another (atty) friend of mine bought a condo w/o an agent.  It seems to be more of trend.

Fishingmn

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #18 on: April 21, 2015, 03:44:10 PM »
Anyone (in the US) can subscribe to the MLS on a monthly basis for under $10 (last I saw the price).  It might be a good tool for you to run your own comparables on listed/sold price.  Price per SF sold (not listed).  Days on the market, etc.

This is wrong. You can subscribe to a product that pulls (syndicates) listings but only members of the local real estate associations can belong to MLS and it costs more like $500/year for MLS + a lot more to join the associations (NAR, state, local - another $500+).

Back to the OP - call the realtor and suggest a different fee. Everything is negotiable. Offer 1% of whatever you feel comfortable with to do the paperwork and review the value. If her choice is 1% or nothing and she didn't have to find the house maybe she is willing to work with you - I probably would.


zephyr911

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #19 on: April 22, 2015, 06:56:47 AM »
Man, that's gotta be an ugly-ass house if it's going for 1/3 the price per sqft as the rest of the neighborhood!

Keep us updated!

-W

Will do! This is such a great community, thanks everyone for the very insightful information. As a teaser, here is an image of the house from streetview. It is definitely the ugly duckling of the neighborhood.



And this is the house that is literally across the street.

Which direction does your prospective new home face? If that's the south face, it really needs more windows. *not related to Realtor discussion*

dragoncar

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #20 on: April 22, 2015, 07:18:32 AM »
One more thing. As in most things, it's not rocket science. Realtors don't go to school for 4 years to figure this stuff out. If you're committed to saving $10k, earning some skills for perhaps becoming a realtor or simply investing in properties later in life, I'd say just proceed cautiously and lead with your brain and it will likely work out.

Of course, I'm just a random on the internet:)
This is absolutely true. I got my RE license so I could earn commission on my own investment purchases while learning enough to do it full-time someday. I blew through the 60-hr online pre-license course in a few weeks before/after work and was licensed in under 3 months. The 30-hour post-license course was mostly an introduction to business and marketing. I zoned out while the modules played, and passed anyway.
What you get with an experienced agent is a deep professional support network (attorneys, lenders, inspectors, surveyors, etc) and the process familiarity to proactively identify and solve problems with a transaction. These are things that you too can develop, if you care to.
There are people who really shouldn't DIY this kind of thing, to be sure, but it all depends on your willingness to work through it on your own.

As an aside, do you also need to work with a broker in your state?

gbbi_977

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #21 on: April 22, 2015, 07:28:36 AM »
We just bought our first home - closed on Friday - and did it without a realtor on either side. Owners were our landlords, and we negotiated the price directly with them (that felt a bit awkward but we got to that win/win price in the end).

Their attorney drew up the contract. Our attorney reviewed.

We got a "family mortgage" which I should maybe do a separate post about, which meant that it was treated as a cash deal.

I had to do a lot of internet sleuthing just to understand all the different costs involved, but all the legalities were handled by the attorneys.

I think as long as you have a good attorney on your side, and are confident in the valuation (we didn't do an appraisal but did about 6 months worth of 'due diligence', plus we had the advantage of 'try before you buy') then realtors aren't necessary.

johnhenry

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #22 on: April 22, 2015, 08:35:04 AM »
Man, that's gotta be an ugly-ass house if it's going for 1/3 the price per sqft as the rest of the neighborhood!

Keep us updated!

-W

Man I love Walt's pithy, poignant, but always just a tad pessimistic posts!!  Is it wrong that I hear the Debbie Downer sound effect in my head every time I read one!!?!  :)

waltworks

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #23 on: April 22, 2015, 08:51:58 AM »
Ha! That's my job around here. Too many new folks who want to know if their $500k house is a good rental at $2k/mo.

-W

Drifterrider

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #24 on: April 22, 2015, 09:35:52 AM »
Anyone (in the US) can subscribe to the MLS on a monthly basis for under $10 (last I saw the price).  It might be a good tool for you to run your own comparables on listed/sold price.  Price per SF sold (not listed).  Days on the market, etc.

This is wrong. You can subscribe to a product that pulls (syndicates) listings but only members of the local real estate associations can belong to MLS and it costs more like $500/year for MLS + a lot more to join the associations (NAR, state, local - another $500+).

Back to the OP - call the realtor and suggest a different fee. Everything is negotiable. Offer 1% of whatever you feel comfortable with to do the paperwork and review the value. If her choice is 1% or nothing and she didn't have to find the house maybe she is willing to work with you - I probably would.


www.mls.com

zephyr911

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #25 on: April 22, 2015, 10:41:32 AM »
As an aside, do you also need to work with a broker in your state?
Technically, all deals here are done by a qualifying broker - a status that involves a substantial regulatory and record-keeping burden, as well as heightened liability.
Every salesperson (the type of license I have, and the only one you can get initially) signs up with a qualifying broker in order to receive a license, and does business in that broker's name. After 2 years I could apply to become my own qualifying broker, and not split commissions. For the level of involvement I plan on having, it's decidedly not worth the hassle. The broker's fixed costs are very low and the split is reasonable; my own investment deals alone put me in the black as an agent. I feel the broker's cut is well worth the training, mentoring and networking opportunities they provide. And damn, do they ever know how to throw a party... ;)

zephyr911

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Re: First Time Home-buyer - Do I NEED a realtor?
« Reply #26 on: April 22, 2015, 10:54:17 AM »
Which direction does your prospective new home face? If that's the south face, it really needs more windows. *not related to Realtor discussion*
Agreed, the front of the house is north facing but the back is south facing as well as the backyard, which I think I prefer as the living space/deck is usually towards the back of the house.

Yeah, unfortunately they designed this house with tiny boxy windows. I'm going to have to see how much it is / if its worth it to cut out bigger window boxes.

All of this is total speculation at this point, odds are very likely that this house will fall through anyway.
I actually permanently added those considerations to my shopping criteria after I found MMM a year ago... lol