Eleven Top Tips in Real Estate

Columnist Leslie Sargent Eskildsen sums up more than 500 commentaries on home buying and selling from 12 years of advice columns. Read the entire article here.

Do the math when it comes to the money: Know your maximum down payment, anticipated closing costs and target monthly total payment (PITIA – principle, interest, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and homeowner’s association dues).

Get pre-approved for a loan so you not only know what loan amount you qualify for based on your income, assets and credit score, but also the anticipated interest rate.

Refine your requirements: The more precise you can be about what you want and don’t want, the easier it will be to find the short list of options when you are ready to buy.

Flip the switch from selling your home to selling a house: It is crucial to your success as a seller to file away all of the memories you’ve created and look at your house as an asset you are leveraging to get you to your next destination, rather than the sentimental family home.

Protect your property: When you are getting ready to invite complete strangers into your home, protect yourself and your valuables. Stash away jewels, firearms, prescription meds and small electronics to keep them out of sight and inaccessible. Install security cameras and review the record after each showing.

Expect to be overwhelmed: Whether it’s a never-ending stream of showings making your life significantly more chaotic, or receiving multiple offers within days or not getting any showing requests at all, there will be a lot added to your plate during this process.

Keep calm, carve out the time to deal with the extra work, and give yourself some grace: But don’t procrastinate or dillydally – this is a short-term project and will be over in a few weeks or months.

Expect a bump in the road: Something unexpected is likely to happen. Termites, slab leaks, roof leaks, unpermitted additions and closing delays are just a few examples of unexpected conditions you may encounter along your journey.

Trust that these can usually be remedied with creativity, negotiations and money.

Put in the work: Clean the carpet or replace it with new white carpet to make your rooms look better.

Clean the walls, floors, windows and cabinets. Declutter. Remove all personal photos.

Get matching towels. Get matching bedding, with a ton of complimentary pillows.

Trim the trees, fertilize the lawn and fill the beds with flowers.

Market conditions matter: The primary factors to be aware of when buying or selling are supply, demand and interest rates. It’s Econ 101 from there.

Read the contract: Yes, it is long. Yes, it is tedious. Yes, you should read it.

If you must ask if it needs to be disclosed, it should be disclosed: Barking dogs, slow draining patios, rickety fences, noisy neighbors as well as the broken faucet in the shower.

There are pages of disclosures to prod your memory, but they don’t cover everything. Disclose everything you can think of that might influence the value or desirability of your house.

Start packing as soon as possible: Even before the sign goes in the yard, start packing.

Sort your things into items to pack for the move to the new home, donate to a local charity, or throw away. This is arguably the most difficult part, so getting ahead of it might ease the process.

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What is a CMA in Real Estate?

One of the more challenging parts of selling a home is determining a fair asking price. You need to make sure that you set the price high enough to provide a good return on your investment and low enough to get potential buyers’ attention. To find a price that’s just right, you must know how much your home is worth. To figure out what the fair market value of your home is, your Realtor will run a comparative market analysis (CMA)

Buyers will also use CMAs. Before making an offer on a home, their Realtor will complete a CMA to make sure their offer price is fair. It’s necessary for buyers to have their agents complete a CMA because there is no guarantee that the list price reflects fair market value. And even if the list price was fair on the day the home hit the market, values can change quickly in fast markets.

CMAs determine the value of a home by comparing sales prices of similar homes that sold recently. For example, if your neighbor’s house is similar to your house, and it sold last week for $990,000, the value of your home might be around the same price point. But, all homes are unique.

Look at a subdivision of homes built at the same time that look exactly the same (cookie-cutter homes), one home might be near a noisy street, while another might be near a peaceful nature preserve. So the CMA needs to account for all the factors that are relevant in deciding on home values, including location, size, age, lot size, amenities, views, and conditon.

If you have hired the best Realtor, she will get all the comparable properties to your home and have sold recently. She will then adjust the sale prices of those comps to see what they would have sold for if they had been identical to your house.

The entire process is like science. For the Realtor to get it right, she will need to know how much value an extra bedroom, bathroom, or pool adds to a property in your market. She will find out how much more a buyer would pay for a good view or a quiet street.

A CMA is the best way to quickly find the fair market value of your home. If you want to price your home correctly when you put it on the market, you need a CMA.

The Bottom Line: It’s art combined with science when putting a value on your home. It requires the expertise of an experienced Realtor who will explain how they came up with your list price.  A realtor’s work is understanding the economics of the real estate market and explaining it to their clients. They must show the comparable listings as well as what the seller will earn when they sell for the realtor’s recommended price, including all of the costs incurred when selling, and give a net total that the seller can look forward to.

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Title Insurance

Looking for, “title insurance companies near me?” Look no further than Title First Agency. We offer 20 office locations, are licensed to operate in 32 states and have strategic partnerships throughout the country, allowing us to do business in all 50 states.

Title insurance is something that can protect owners of real property events and matters that can be brought up from the past. Imagine spending your nest egg on a down payment, closing costs, and a few years of mortgage payments. Suddenly, an heir to a former owner is suing to obtain the home, arguing that it never should have been sold to you in the first place. There is no reason to worry if you have title insurance, yet many homeowners decline it. Once they know how it is created to protect them from unknown claims against their property that can pop up years down the road they are less inclined to resist.

Title insurance is much more than a lender requirement. It’s knowing that what you are buying is free of any third party claims to ownership or use of any part of it. It assures the homeowner that they are clear of anything that would affect the ability to sell or borrow against their new property.  After thousands of real estate closings here at Title First, we can give you a rundown of the most common issues we can save you from:

Mistakes on titles, especially lately, that are transferred through a sale of foreclosure without certain rulings met, thus making the transfer of the title invalid.

Mistakes within all the paperwork brought to the closing. Somewhere along the line, there may be a forged signature or recorded documents that have been signed by people without legal authority.

Mistakes made during the probate process for the previous owner that overlooked someone else’s rightful claim (undisclosed heirs) to the property of someone else’s interest in the property. Misinterpretation of wills and deeds.

Mistakes that were made in the description of the property.

Mistakes that were made where claims, tax information, or easements had not been recorded properly in the public record.

Mistakes missed of liens on the property or judgments against the previous owner.

Mistakes in unpaid taxes or mortgages and unpaid debts.

Investors need to be alert when protecting their investments. Title insurance assures the homeowner that the title to the property purchased is free of any defects and is “clear to close”. It is a guarantee that all matters of record that could harm the title of the new property have been disclosed and resolved. Title insurance protects the homeowner against any potential claims should an undisclosed event threaten the ownership of the property. Give us a call today at Title First Agency: 1-866-320-8400

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First Time House Hunting

There are so many emotions as you set out to begin the process of searching for your first home. It can be challenging with all the many steps, tasks, and requirements. Once you have your finances together and you are prepared for both the purchase of the home as well as any ongoing expenses, here are a few tips you shouldn’t overlook:

Hire the Best Realtor. Ask family and friends for recommendations, search online, read reviews, and check out social media presence. Buying a home can be complicated and it’s in your best interest to involve the best Realtor for his expert negotiations and familiarity with contracts and the extensive paperwork.

Location. Decide on this first to eliminate “buyer’s remorse” down the road.  Do the homework and research neighborhoods. School districts, local safety, and crime statistics can affect a home’s value. Even if you have found your “dream home”, the neighborhood could be completely wrong.  Drive through the neighborhood at different times of the day and night and watch the traffic, how are the streets and sidewalks? What are the neighbors like and how do they take care of their homes? Is the home close to places you might frequent (gym, grocery, schools)? Are there children playing safely outside?

Shop Online: Now that you know where you want to buy a home, there are plenty of online options to start the search. Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, and any local real estate agency. Digging in and scouring homes online allows you to determine which you want to go see in person. Homes are going fast right now, and you don’t want to waste time looking at the wrong properties! A great tip: Type the address of the home you like on Google and get the street view. You can literally scroll down the entire street and get a sense of what the neighborhood is like.

Be Frugal: Zero in on homes that are listed for less than the amount of money you have been approved for. Many first-time homebuyers don’t calculate the other monthly expenses or problems that go along with homeownership (broken appliances, etc).  Furthermore, other than the down payment, there will be money needed at closing.

Negotiate: This is where having the best Realtor will come in beautifully. Once you make an offer, the seller might come back with a counteroffer and after discussing all of the pros and cons with your Realtor, you will know if you should offer more or walk away. Keep your emotions out of the entire process. Too many people pay too much for a home because they have “fallen in love” and this type of emotion can lead to very bad financial decisions.

Do an Exhaustive Inspection: Do the homework and find the very best Home Inspection Company with the top ratings. Be there with the inspector and learn about the home, ask questions – you need to know that the home you are purchasing is structurally sound.  See the good and the bad – what repairs will be needed? Is the electricity adequate for today’s use? How are the water pipes, heating, and air conditioning systems?  When the inspection is complete, get a verbal and a written report. Bonus – the company will be available at a later date for more questions.

The Bottom Line: The above tips are just a few important ones to help navigate the process, save money, and avoid common mistakes.  Find a Realtor. While it’s easy to go through online homes and narrow down what you want, it’s not so easy to get from that point to the closing. There is the transfer of the deed, title search, negotiating, asking for “extras” that you might be entitled to, completing all paperwork, and being the single point of contact with the seller.

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