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Buying a House: Working With a Real Estate Agent to Make an Offer

When making an offer, a real estate agent brings some pretty powerful assets to the table: market knowledge, objectivity and (hopefully) some well-honed negotiating skills. Buying a house is emotional, and your agent can help level the field by bringing a more rational approach to the transaction. Here’s how the two of you can work together to get the best possible deal.

Don’t ignore the market

When it comes to making an offer, it’s more important than ever to consider a home’s value — which might not be the same as its listing price. Carefully study the comparative market analysis provided by your real estate agent. When researching the home and neighborhood’s value online, compare the estimates provided by Zillow, Trulia and Redfin, which can range widely.

Your agent will help you interpret the data and establish a fair offer price.

Staying sane in a seller’s market

If you’re buying a house in a hot market, it’s easy to get caught up in auction fever. Your agent can help keep you focused only on what you can control. If a number of buyers are interested in the same home, make your first bid your best offer.

If you’re really motivated to buy a particular property, consider putting together two or more offers in advance. That way, if there are no competing offers, your agent can submit the lowest. The higher offers can be the go-to bids if there’s a crowded field.

Find out why the seller is moving

The seller usually wants to sell as much as, if not more than, you want to buy. He has just one house to sell; you have a market full of opportunities. Of course, this is less of a factor in a strong seller’s market where inventory is low. But if the seller has already signed a contract on his next home, or if there’s a divorce in the mix or a job relocation timetable in play, that’s all good information to have. Have your real estate agent do as much recon as possible.

Keep the contingencies in check

In competitive real estate markets, contingencies can be deal killers. When it comes to conditions, get creative. Forget the little stuff and concentrate on major issues that must be addressed — and offer alternatives.

For example, if an inspection reveals necessary repairs, ask for a credit adjustment to be applied at closing, rather than putting the onus of contracting and completing the repair work on the owner. Anything you can do to ease the sales process and shorten the time to loan closing may work in your favor.

Make sure your agent is a strong advocate

Ideally, your buyer’s agent is both a master negotiator and your biggest advocate. For sellers, it’s not always just about the money. If your agent is singing your praises (you’re preapproved, love the neighborhood, offering a bigger down payment), you might score the edge in what would have been a tie. Personalities play a part in any human interaction.

How a seller is treated — and how a buyer is represented — can often make or break a real estate deal. Make sure your agent is at least pretending to be your biggest fan.

If it’s a no, move on

Having a deal go south on you is going to hurt. You can wallow in your disappointment for as long as you want, or for about an hour — whichever comes first. Think of it this way: You’re not starting over; you’ve already eliminated a lot of the variables. You know how this whole thing works now. It’s just a matter of finding the right house.

But first, if you lost in a multiple-offer situation, see if your agent can get your bid in a backup position. Deals fall through, and if the accepted offer does crater — because of a loan snag, a broken contingency, whatever — you might be in a prime position to rescue a sale.

In the meantime, in addition to revisiting your house runners-up, consider asking your real estate agent to gather up some older or expired listings. Many buyers neglect this segment of the market. If a house has been on the market for a while without selling, you’ve got some leverage, perhaps even a motivated seller.

Getting the deal done

Congratulations! You finally have a signed contract in hand and can almost smell the green grass (desert blooms, pine-covered mountains, salty sea air — fumes of rush-hour traffic?) of your new neighborhood. You’re like a long-distance runner stretching for the finish-line tape. It’s time to move from deal making to loan closing.

Hal Bundrick is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website.
This article originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Buying a Home? Uncle Sam Might Be Able to Help

This article originally appeared on NerdWallet.

How to Search for a Home

 

When house-hunting fever strikes, it can hit hard. You’ll probably download a home search app or two and jump into the car, ready to explore a new neighborhood. Before you do, here are answers to some questions that might pop up along the way.

What’s the difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor?

All real estate agents are licensed by the state in which they operate. The title “Realtor” is a trademark held by the National Association of Realtors; it refers to agents who are members of a local real estate association that is NAR-affiliated. These agents agree to comply with the association’s ethical standards. Of course, the sales practices of all licensed agents are guided by the laws of their state.

What is the MLS?

A multiple listing service, or MLS, compiles properties for sale by individual firms and sellers into one comprehensive database. It’s a generic term and not really one centralized service, but rather a cooperative effort among real estate professionals.

Before the Internet brought the same information to the masses, access to MLS information was one good reason to hire a real estate agent. Now, you can tap the latest listings from multiple sources on the web.

What about open houses?

Open houses don’t sell homes like they used to. The NAR reports that only 9% of buyers in 2014 discovered the home they eventually purchased via an open house.

Most people start their home buying process online these days, looking at slide shows and taking virtual tours. But wandering through an open house or two can still inspire new ideas or help you explore neighborhoods you hadn’t previously considered.

What are some home search tips?

Here are some pointers for looking at properties, whether at open houses or private showings with an agent.

  • First, don’t look at homes over your budget. That’s just frustrating. Set your search parameters within your budget, and remember to leave some wiggle room if you’re in a hot market and might have to bump up your offer.
  • Take an extra set of eyes, someone with excellent attention to detail. But don’t bring a group of experts; one spare opinion is plenty.
  • Find out why the seller is leaving. The circumstances may provide useful insight, especially regarding how motivated the seller may be — such as when a job relocation or divorce is involved.
  • Walk through the home twice. You’ll be surprised by what you notice on the second go-round.
  • Open every door, even if you think it’s just a closet. Hey, it might be a closet! You know how important those are.
  • Take notes, keep a list of the things you like and don’t like, and compare them to your list of what you need and want in a home.
  • Snap a few photos (but ask permission first).
  • Bring a tape measure. That way you’ll know if your dining table, bed or sofa will fit in a room.
  • Pay attention to outside noise. If quiet enjoyment of your home is a priority, stick around long enough to get a sense of what you’ll hear in the neighborhood — whether it’s noisy neighbors or landing airplanes.
  • Use Google Maps to check the neighborhood view from above. (Yikes! There’s a landfill/railroad tracks/drainage ditch right there?) Google Earth has a “light meter” feature that shows sun exposure, too.
  • In older homes, pay close attention to the location and number of electrical outlets, storage and other modern conveniences that are sometimes in short supply.
  • Remember that do-it-yourself projects can be more hassle than you think. Don’t assume you can fix everything that’s wrong with a house.
  • If you use a real estate agent and he isn’t listening to you — by showing you houses, neighborhoods or price ranges you specifically said you aren’t interested in — change agents. It’s a waste of your time and the agent’s.

The home stretch

When you finally narrow down your list of homes to the top contenders, break the tie by driving your morning commute from each location, visiting the neighborhoods at night and on a weekend, and walking the streets. You’ll know when it’s right.

Hal Bundrick is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email:hal@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @halmbundrick
This article originally appeared on NerdWallet.

The Benefits Of A Pre-Sale Home Inspection

Your home probably has dozens of great features that are going to help it stand out and sell faster. Perhaps it has a cozy sunken living room? Or an equipped and smartly decorated kitchen that Rachel Ray would envy? Or a location in a desirable neighborhood?

All these things will help.

But there’s another selling feature you should consider adding: a pre-sale inspection.

A professional home inspection is usually done on behalf of the buyer before the deal to purchase a property is finalized. In fact, you can expect any offers to purchase your home to be “conditional upon satisfactory home inspection.” However, there are two good reasons why you, as the seller, should get the home inspection done:

Reason #1

A professional inspection can identify problems that might otherwise thwart the sale.

Say, for example, you get a great offer but the buyer’s home inspector discovers a minor leak in the foundation. That might be enough to jeopardize the deal. However, if you had a professional inspection done, you would have had the opportunity to get that problem fixed in advance of the offer.

Reason #2

Informing potential buyers that a professional inspection has been done is a great selling feature. It demonstrates to buyers that there are no hidden problems with the property, which gives them more confidence to make an offer.

A certificate of home inspection can be as enticing a feature to home buyers as a wrap-around deck!

Need more ideas for selling your home faster and for a better price? Call today.

 

Does Location Really Matter?
article 2 image

You find a beautiful home available on the market, but you’re not so sure about the location. Does it really matter all that much? Yes, it does. That’s why you’ll often hear REALTORS® say, “Location, location, location.”

The location of a home you’re considering buying will affect you in two ways.

First, it will affect the property’s future resale value, especially if the neighborhood is becoming less desirable.

Second, it will affect your lifestyle. If the area doesn’t have the features you want — nearby schools and playgrounds, walking trails, proximity to activities that interest you, such as golf or theatre — you probably won’t enjoy living there.

A good REALTOR® will help you find the right home in the best location for you.

 

The Advantage of Getting Pre-approved
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One of the best things you can do to ensure you get the home you want is to arrange for financing before you go shopping. This is often referred to as getting “pre-approved”.

Getting pre-approved simply means that your lender has calculated how much of a mortgage they’re willing to offer you, depending on your down payment and current financial situation.

There are two advantages to having a pre-approved mortgage. First, you know exactly what you can afford when shopping for a new home. Second, when you make an offer, you’re likely to be taken more seriously.

 

notable, quotable… quotes!

“Things may come to those who wait,
but only the things left by those who hustle.”

Abraham Lincoln

“The more you are thankful for what you have,
the more you will have to be thankful for.”

Zig Ziglar

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

Albert Einstein

Is Your Home in Top Selling Condition?

Does Home Staging Really Work?

You might have heard about home staging and wondered what it’s all about. There are even a few television reality shows that feature staging experts doing their magic on a particular house or condo.

So what exactly is it?

Home staging is simply setting up your home to maximize its appeal to potential buyers. It involves everything from cleaning and removing the clutter, to arranging the furniture and decorating. The concept was developed by Barb Schwarz, who has become a legend in the staging industry.

Think about some of the most attractive furniture showrooms you’ve visited. Remember that beautifully set table with the bottle of wine set perfectly in the center? Did you notice the two wine glasses and place settings that made it look as if a couple were about to sit down for an enjoyable meal? That’s an example of staging.

Does staging work?

According to studies, it does. In fact, staging has been shown to help sell a home faster and for a good price. In some cases, effective staging has even increased the selling price.

Should you stage your home?

It’s definitely going to help make your property more appealing to buyers. When it comes to staging, you have a couple of choices: you can hire a professional stager, or you can stage your home on your own. A good REALTOR® can help by either recommending a stager or providing you with staging tips.

You can definitely do some or even all of the staging on your own. In fact, some of the simplest staging techniques are easy to implement. Putting fresh flowers in the kitchen is an example of staging. So is arranging furniture in a room so that it looks as bright and spacious as possible. But if you have a difficult space or you need to bring in or reorganize furniture, you may want to consider a professional.

Want more tips on staging? Call Susan today.

Is Your Home Market Ready?

Putting your home on the market may be the last thing you have on your mind.

But as you know, life happens. Things change. You might unexpectedly find yourself in the position of wanting or having to quickly sell your home.

It happens more often than you might think. In fact, according to studies into why people sell their homes, more than a third are due to relatively quick and unexpected changes. Something happens – a job relocation, a lifestyle change – and the homeowner finds him or herself making a move.

In these situations, the biggest source of stress is caused by the need to prepare the current home for sale.

If you’ve lived in your house for a few years, or even just a few months, you know how quickly things can pile up. The garage and basement get filled with stored items. Things needing minor repairs get put on hold.

That’s why it’s a good idea, every so often, to inspect your property and ask yourself, “If I had to put my home on the market this month, what would I need to do?” Then plan to get those things done. That way, if you suddenly find yourself wanting to sell your home quickly and for the best price, you’ll be ready.

Want To Sell Your Home Faster?

 

Let Potential Buyers Feel at Home!

You may think that being a host or tour guide for potential buyers who are viewing your home is a good idea. After all, who knows more about the wonderful features of your property than you do?

The problem is, buyers don’t feel the same way.

They much prefer to see your home with only a REALTOR® present. This helps them feel less like an intruder and more comfortable giving your property their full consideration.

notable, quotable… quotes!

“Success is not forever and failure isn’t fatal.”

Don Shula

“The road to success is lined with many tempting parking spaces.”

Source Unknown

August Newsletter

Getting Your Home Hunting Ducks in a Row

Say you’re shopping for a new home. Your goal is to find the ideal property, in a neighborhood that is just right for you, within a price range that you can afford.

What do you need — at minimum — to get started?

If you’re looking for ways to get your ducks in a row, here are some suggestions:

A property wish list. What does your ideal home look like? How many bedrooms does it need to have? Do you require a spacious recreational room? A large deck? A pool? A nice view? Get your wish list down on paper.
A neighborhood wish list. Where you live is just as important as what you live in. What qualities are you looking for in a neighborhood? A nearby park? Walking distance to a good school? Hiking trails? A shorter drive to work? Write it down.

A pre-approved mortgage. Getting the financing handled up front takes the guesswork out of what you can afford. Home sellers will also take any offers you make more seriously.

Realistic expectations. 99.9% of homes sell at or near the current market rates. So don’t expect to find a bargain that no one else has noticed. Your REALTOR® can help you understand which homes, in which neighborhoods, are available within your price range.

A great REALTOR®. Choosing the right real estate professional is crucial to making your home shopping experience less stressful and more productive. It also dramatically increases your chances of finding a home that fits your needs and budget.

Looking for more advice on finding your next dream home? Call today!

When Choosing a Fixer-Upper Makes Cents

Some renovations can significantly increase the market value of a home. Others can cost more than you’ll ever get back.

So, when choosing a “fixer-upper”, look carefully at the work that needs to be done.

General painting, and bathroom or kitchen renovations typically increase the resale value of a house. “Invisible” repairs such as plumbing, electrical, or heating systems do not.

Before you buy, work with your REALTOR® to develop a market value estimate of the house you are considering as though the renovations you’re contemplating are already complete.

If the math works, go for it. Buying a “fixer-upper” can be very rewarding.

Trash the Trash

In most communities, garbage day isn’t every week. So, if you show your house on day five or six, there’s going to be some accumulation! Here are some things you can do before a viewing to make sure this situation doesn’t trash a potential sale.

If possible, make sure all garbage containers, including waste paper baskets, are empty.
Since compost and cat litter bags can smell even when tied securely, put them in a covered bin in the garage or outside at the side of your house.
Check around your property for accumulated debris, such as old lumber. If you’ve been planning a trip to the dump someday, today is that day.
In addition, make sure garbage containers in the kitchen and bathroom have new plastic bag inserts. You may go through more than usual, but it will be worth it.

notable, quotable… quotes!

“In business you get what you want by giving other people what they want.”

Alice Foote MacDougall

“The person who knows how, will always have a job.
The person who knows why, will always be his boss.”

Diane Ravitch

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

Mark Twain

Not intended to solicit buyers or sellers currently under contract.

BBQ Tips: Getting Your Grill Ready

Most barbecue manufacturers recommend that your BBQ be cleaned thoroughly at least once a year. This is on top of your usual cleaning after every use.

• Remove the grates and wash with hot soapy water.

• Wipe down the connections, lines and lid (inside and out) with hot soapy water.

• Remove old or dirty lava rocks and replace with new ones.

• Check the burner. If it looks good visually, light the BBQ and make sure it is supplying an even flame. If not, then replace it. Most burners onlylast about 2 seasons, depending on how often you use your BBQ.

• While the grates and lava rocks are out, clean up any grease or ash that may have accumulated on the bottom of the barbecue.

• Clean the venturi tubes that supply gas to the burner. Bugs, dirt and grease can clog them over the winter and prevent full gas supply from coming through. Check your owner’s manual for the recommended cleaning technique for your grill.

kraftrecipes.com/recipes/holidays-and-entertaining/entertaining/

Make It Up in May with These Late Spring Maintenance Tips

• Check gutters, downspouts, and roof for leaks. Schedule roofing repair if needed.

• Check siding for winter damage. Schedule repair.

• If planning to paint exterior, start prep now. Call painter to schedule job.

• Clean fireplace or stove. Call to schedule chimney cleaning. Have chimney repointed if needed.

• Clean around AC compressor.

• Wash windows, then put in screens.

• Clear out debris from under decks or porches.

• Plant annuals. Make a hanging basket with annuals for porch or patio.

• Cut back any trees or branches that are touching the siding or roof.

• Clean and repair patio furniture.

• Check any outdoor play equipment for damage, then repair.

May 2014 Newsletter

How To Handle Offers

You obviously have experience purchasing a home. But you may not have had an opportunity, yet, to be on the other side of the transaction: putting your house on the market and entertaining offers.

Offers, in particular, can intimidate first time sellers (even those who have bought and sold a few times). After all, the stakes are high. If you don’t accept the offer, deciding to counter-offer instead, the buyer may lose interest. If you take the offer, you may do so at a lower price than you could have otherwise negotiated.

Let your REALTOR® help you steer clear of both those dangers.

An offer is typically presented by the buyer’s REALTOR®, who will give you the proposed price. He or she will also explain any conditions, such as “conditional on a satisfactory home inspection”. Regardless of the conditions, always ask if the buyer has arranged for a pre-approved mortgage.

Now comes the tricky part. Do you accept the offer, reject it, or counter-offer? As your REALTOR® we can work together to ensure you make the right move. Ultimately, your goal is to sell your house for a price that is comparable to what similar homes in the area have sold for recently.

The Most Important Room In Your Home

When preparing your home for sale, you want to make sure every room looks its best. But pay particularly close attention to the kitchen. Many buyers will spend a lot of time determining whether or not it meets their needs. In fact, some buyers will even form an impression about the entire property based primarily on how they feel about the kitchen!

How do you make it look its best?

Start by making sure your kitchen appears as roomy as possible. Put away all countertop appliances, even the toaster and the coffee machine, so that the counter space is completely clear.

Check that your cabinets and pantry shelves aren’t stuffed with dishes, foodstuff and other items. While that’s normal in most family homes, it doesn’t promote the image of plentiful storage space. Clear out as much as you can. Make sure what you leave behind, especially food items, is stored neatly.
Got a junk drawer? We all do. Empty the contents into a box and stow it away.

Of course, you want to ensure that the kitchen is clean and shiny. The area in and around the sink is critical. There are some excellent specialty cleaners available that will remove even the most stubborn stains in a stainless steel sink. (Never use steel wool or other abrasive cleaners. They leave unsightly scratches.)

If you have a window over the sink – a great selling feature – make sure it’s especially clean. You can be sure that buyers will linger for a few moments to look through it.

And, finally, don’t forget the space under the sink. Make sure that the space is as clean – and empty – as possible.

Want more ideas on preparing your home for sale?

Call today.

Reducing The Stress Of Moving Day

Moving day is traditionally such a hectic and emotionally charged experience that there are even reality TV shows about it.

Does it have to be that way? Is it possible to ensure that moving day goes smoothly?

Picking a good moving company, or making similar arrangements to transport your belongings, is the obvious place to start. But here are some other tips you might not have considered:

Put pets in a kennel for the day. Pets may get excited by all the activity and tend to get in the way, or may hide where you can’t find them.

Have healthy snacks available. Vegetables, fruit, nuts, juices and water are all natural energizers.

Hire a babysitter for the kids. It’s going to be a long day for them.

Call your mover the day before. Confirm exactly when they will be arriving and be sure they’ll be bringing a large enough truck.

Clearly mark boxes that contain items you’ll need immediately. Think about the clothes, cookware, computer accessories, toys and other items you’ll want to find easily during the first week in your new home.

Plan ahead to make your moving day drama-free. Unless, of course, you want to be on a reality show!

notable, quotable… quotes!

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

Alvin Toffler

“Change does not necessarily assure progress, but progress implacably requires change.”

Henry Steele Commager

Entryways Can Create Big Impact on a Buyer

Creating curb appeal is the first step to attracting buyers into your home, especially those that happen to see your for sale sign out front while browsing the neighborhood. It’s logical that how appealing your front yard is would determine how likely buyers are to step inside and explore the rest of your home.

The entryway is an area that can often be overlooked since, generally speaking, people don’t spend a lot of time there – rather they pass through it. But it is usually the second area that buyers will see. How your entryway looks should set a tone and convey a welcoming message to buyers. It should entice them to want to see more right away.

Make your entryway a defined space

You can do this with color or with physical objects such as plants or even furniture, if the entryway is big enough. Place a unique and colorful rug in the entryway that can complement the bold color of the walls.

Create a sitting area

Your entryway may not be very wide or big but, if possible, create a place with a long, narrow bench for people to sit and put on or take off their shoes. It’s also a place to stack books and bags that you don’t want family members to forget to take with them. When you’re showcasing your home, you can draw attention to this area by placing a few brochures or flyers about your home. You can place them on one end so buyers have room to sit and take in the experience of entering your home for a moment. Having the printed materials here will also help to remind buyers to take one with them when they leave.

Use furniture that has storage space

Try a hanging wall unit that has hooks for jackets and scarves. Then beneath it you can have a small bench. Having hooks to hang sweaters is a great way to keep the area clutter-free. If you’re showing your home during the winter months, this will come in handy as people will want to remove their layers of clothing before heading in to see the rest of your home. This will help make them more comfortable by not having to carry around a bunch of jackets as they browse your home. Also, if you have a bench with an opening beneath it you can place a pair of shoes there with a sign asking buyers to remove their shoes before touring your home. It’s a good idea to have those disposable booties that they can wear over their shoes instead of removing their shoes.

Keep the rug clean by painting a runner on the floor

May sound unusual but it can be very difficult to keep an area rug such as a runner clean, especially in an entryway. A trick is to paint a runner on the floor instead. It is less of a headache to clean and creates an optical illusion of a runner.

Whatever you do, remember that the entryway should feel open, inviting, and create a desire to further explore your home. Think of your entryway as the way you would like to personally welcome your guests as they come into your home. It’s a chance to let your buyers see the warmth and good times that you’ve had in your beautiful home.

Written by Phoebe Chongchua