When Cathy Treviño held the keys to her first home, she also got the keys to her new career.

Fascinated with the home buying process, Treviño switched from teaching/coaching aspirations to real estate. Since completing San Jacinto College’s real estate program, she has worked in the field almost three decades. Today, she serves as board chair for the Houston Association of Realtors and a managing broker of Texas for LPT Realty.

“There are so many steps in the home buying and selling process,” Treviño said. “It’s our job to help walk you through it and make it the best experience possible.”

Looking to buy or sell a home? The San Jac alumna shares what you can expect:

1. What’s the current market like?

It’s been a seller’s market for a while. Now [with mortgage interest rates rising to 7.5%] we’re starting to see more of a balanced market. Buyers can ask for seller concessions or negotiate the asking price. Homes are staying on the market about 45 days rather than selling like hotcakes, so buyers have more choices — more inventory.

2. What should I look for in a real estate agent?

Hire someone that’s professional, attentive, understands the market, has good marketing strategies, and will communicate with you. Interview at least two to three agents. Not all agents are the same. When looking to buy, find an agent who knows the area, can explain the process from beginning to end, and answers the phone. Then it’s very important to sign a buyer’s representation agreement or a listing agreement [if selling] to ensure you’re both working together.

3. How do I determine what I can afford?

Get prequalified for a loan. Every buyer is different. Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or teacher, there are programs you can qualify for. It’s our job to ask the right questions and connect you with a lender who can fit you with the right loan and program to meet your mortgage payment.

4. What’s the timeline for buying a home?

Once you execute an offer, it takes about 30-45 days to close if you’re getting the lender all the documentation needed. A lot depends on the buyer, property, survey, appraisal, inspection, and more. You need an experienced agent who can walk you through the process. Full cash deals are quicker if everything is clear on the title. But the process takes about the same time even if you’re paying a large amount of cash.

5. How do I determine my home’s market value?

We have access to data through the MLS [multiple listing service]. We can do a comparable market analysis to see what the property is worth — age, upgrades, lot size, amenities, and what has already sold. We’re not appraisers, but we do have data to come up with a good price. If there are no comparables in the area, we may suggest you get an appraisal. 

6. How can I declutter my stuff?

During the initial meeting, we’ll come in and listen to your needs. We’ll also have conversations with your family to see whether someone can help you. As agents, we try to help as much as we can. I’ve gone in and decluttered homes myself. Communication is key in every deal. We have to ask the right questions: Do you have a relative that can help or be your point person? Do you need a power of attorney? We communicate with the right people in the beginning so there are no issues on the backend.

7. How do I show my home safely?

If anyone knocks on the door and asks to see your home, deny the showing. Point them back to a realtor. When we make appointments, we want to make sure the client is prequalified and accompanied by a realtor. They’re looking to purchase a home, not scoping out your possessions.