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Buying

Money Secrets Revealed: Buy a Home Like a Banker

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Buying a home is a huge financial transaction, one you may do only once or twice in your life. So it's understandable you might wonder if you're botching the job. Is the home you picked a good investment? Or did you perhaps wimp out too soon while negotiating your price? Will you make back your money, or take a bloody beating down the road?

We feel your pain. To help quiet down those (terrifyingly loud) voices in your head, we decided to go to the pros who wheel and deal with hundreds of thousands of dollars on a daily basis -- bankers -- to get some of their tricks and tactics for landing the best deal. So let's hear what the money guys say:

Learn what matters to the other party

When Charlie Crawford was trying to buy a home in 2014, he hit a roadblock that threatened to derail the whole deal: The seller wanted to stay put for a full four months after the sale. That was a huge demand -- and while Crawford didn't have much experience buying a home, he tapped into his skills running a bank to figure out what to do.

"The most important negotiation skill for a banker is to understand what is important to the other party, and to be willing to compromise," explains Crawford, president of Atlanta-based Private Bank of Buckhead. "In a successful negotiation, both parties end up feeling like they gave up some things, but retained some other important items."

So rather than walk (or run) away from the deal, Crawford homed in on why the seller had to stay put for so long -- and learned that the 70-something woman was waiting to move into a newly built home that wasn't ready yet.

"It was clear that she did not want to move twice," Crawford says. "So we allowed her to stay."

But not before he got something he wanted: a lower price. The seller agreed to sell her home for 90% of the listing price and foot the bill for some repairs.

"This compromise was a good trade-off," he says. "She got what was important to her, and we were able to buy her former home at a price we were willing to pay."

Don't be afraid to walk away

While Crawford and his family were willing to accept the inconvenience of renting for four months before moving in, he also knows that you sometimes need to walk away from the table. Case in point: At one point during negotiations, Crawford and the seller hit a stalemate on the offer price, but he did not cave.

"We stopped negotiating for a month and looked at other houses," he says. "Then we came back -- and both sides were able to come to an agreement."

While this move took guts, it was based on research: Crawford knew the seller's house had been on the market for nearly a year. He weighed the impact of the fact that it was winter, when fewer home buyers would be looking. While he could not eliminate all risks, he knew the odds were in his favor -- and it turns out he was right.

Keep emotions in check

While home buying often feels like a psychological roller coaster, Ken Weiner thinks it's best for prospective home buyers to be "a lot less emotional and a lot more analytical." And he should know: A former financial services executive with 30 years experience in investment banking and asset management, he now spends his days investing in real estate. In his mind, some of the questions buyers should ask themselves include: "What is my risk? How long will it take to get back my return? What is the likelihood of getting back that return if something goes wrong?"

For answers, he arms himself with information. For instance, Weiner culls data on nearly 30 metro areas from HomeUnion's "Single-Family Rental" report that help him make informed decisions on buying real estate for both the short and long term. But numbers aside, this doesn't mean that the buyer should minimize the importance of establishing trust.

"Even in a world of sharks, bankers are trying to get people to trust them," Weiner says. If a seller "sees you are being reasonable and wants to make a fair deal, they will deal with you in kind."

Get backup

Bankers know there's strength in numbers -- so if you can't accomplish a goal on your own, call in reinforcements! That's what Kathy Cummings -- a consulting executive at Bank of America -- urged her own daughter to do to buy a home in New York City.

"She was fresh out of grad school with her husband attending law school, so their income limits their options quite a bit," she explains. So Cummings referred her daughter and son-in-law to the Neighborhood Housing Services of New York City, a housing counseling agency that works with various lenders. This agency is the primary administrator in the city for down payment assistance programs, and can provide new buyers with some needed muscle.

"They will be able to match her to programs she may qualify for with her limited income," Cummings says. Added bonus: "They educate her on homeownership." And knowledge is power.

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