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First Impression Turn-Offs in Real Estate

There are many reasons other than your home being priced too high that can prevent a sale. Buyers have tons of options, your home is just one of the many on the market. Even after falling in love with the marketing online of your home, once they pull up in front to see it in “real life” and the curb appeal passes the test, there could be some turn-offs that are hard to get past. Here are a few:

Noise: If your home is under the flight path of an airport there isn’t too much you can do about the noise. Your beautiful online photos will get them to come to see your home, but once there, they will experience noise pollution be it the train line, a major highway, or under the flight path could prevent the home from selling. Lowering your price could be the best thing you can do.

Neighbors: Your house may be in top shape, but if your neighbors have unkempt lawns, poorly maintained exteriors, or other visual disturbances, your property value will likely take a hit, as well.  Be ready for the issue to come up and be proactive by reaching out, if possible, to the offending neighbor in hopes that you might be able to mitigate those effects and lead to the sale you want.

Layout: Additions, add-ons, or conversions may offer a challenging layout but clever built-in furnishings and a little staging can fix this. Rearrange the furniture to make the space feel more open and inviting. Even consider removing any unnecessary walls to create a more open concept. When a home’s style is outdated, the first thing a buyer thinks about is expensive, major renovations. Meet with your realtor to see what you can do to help buyers see the potential in the home and envision themselves living there.

Musty: This will happen a lot in the basement if there isn’t a lot of airflow and it’s dark, damp, and dusty. It will be a hard selling point, so investing in a dehumidifier can solve many of the problems that come with a damp basement.

Home With A Past: If your home has had a gloomy life, it can be less likely to sell. Whether it’s a haunted house, a home with a notorious past, drug-related incidences, if the house is in a high crime area, or if there has been a suicide or death, buyers may be wary of proceeding any further. Lowering the price and focusing on the positive features of the home may outweigh any negative connotations.

Smell: Even musty smells, pet odors, and cigarette smells cannot be hidden with open windows, candles, or baking cookies. If there’s an issue with mold or mildew, absolutely take care of it before even listing your home. If you have pets, try to remove all evidence of pets and their odors before showing or listing the property if possible. If there are stronger odors like cigarette smells or urine stains, you may need to bring in the professionals to come in and take care of the odor before listing.

Repairs: If you aren’t listing your home as a “fixer-upper” and it needs repairs, it could be deterring potential buyers. Before putting your home on the market, hire an inspector and make sure to fix any major issues such as leaks, cracks, or holes in the walls. If your home needs cosmetic changes like painting the walls or updating the fixtures, get it done before anyone views your home.

Shared Driveway: Many buyers have passed on buying a home that has a shared driveway. Having to negotiate over driveway access and maintenance just isn’t something worth dealing with. Selling a house with a shared driveway can present some challenges, as potential buyers may have concerns about issues such as shared maintenance responsibilities, access, and potential conflicts with neighbors. However, the impact on the sale can vary depending on the specific circumstances, local real estate market conditions, and the preferences of potential buyers. It’s important to disclose the shared driveway arrangement to potential buyers and provide as much information as possible to address any concerns they may have.

The Bottom Line: If your home is not selling due to a displeasing issue, hopefully, you have hired the most seasoned realtor in your area. A good agent should be able to tell you why your house isn’t selling, and they should be willing to give you bad news. While there are plenty of potential problems, having a realtor with top negotiation skills who you trust is so important. They should be able to walk you through the market expectations and prepare you for what will need to be negotiated.

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Ready for Summer?

Longer days and warming weather make this time of year fun to get outside and tackle some of these projects. Spring home maintenance is essential for homeowners to ensure that their properties are in the best condition. Clean, repair, paint, and replace, and if you are preparing to sell your home, have your agent walk around and give their expert ideas. Here are some good tips to keep your home in tip-top shape.

Roof | Gutters: Winter can be brutal and cause wear and tear on your roof and little problems can turn into big, expensive problems fast. Check for missing or damaged shingles, and check for leaks or water damage. The gutters and downspouts will most likely be filled with debris. Over time, leaves and twigs can accumulate in your gutters, causing them to clog and lead to water damage to your home’s foundation. It’s best to check them and clear them all year. Check the downspouts to be sure they are directing water away from your home’s foundation.

HVAC – Inspect your HVAC system. Replace your air filters and clean your vents to ensure your system runs efficiently. If you notice any strange noises or odors coming from your HVAC system, it’s best to have a professional inspect it.

Window and Doors – Let the sun shine in! Clean your windows! Take your storm windows out and be sure your screens are examined for damage before putting them back in. Look for any gaps or cracks in doors and windows that will eventually lead to energy loss and higher energy bills. Use weather stripping or caulking to seal any gaps or cracks you find and get any damages fixed.

Yard – Now is the time to clean up your landscaping! Rake dead leaves and debris from your lawn, garden, or flowerbeds. Trim overgrown bushes or trees and remove any dead branches. Do research and see what type of new plants or flowers you might add to give your yard a makeover. Fences and gates can be in disrepair from the winter weather. Be sure to do a once-over for any repairs that need to be done.

House Exterior – Inspect your home’s exterior for any damage. Look for cracks or holes in your siding and inspect your chimney for any damage. Zero in on the siding or the paint. If you see peeling, you may want to get that fixed before it gets worse. Can you see any new signs of rotting wood? This goes for any deck or patio as well.

Power Wash – Such a therapeutic exercise to watch dirt and grime float away from your windows, doors, patios, decks, siding, driveway, walkways, and everything in between! Get rid of that winter grunge

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Assumable Mortgage

An assumable loan allows a home buyer to take over the seller’s existing mortgage, including its outstanding balance, interest rate, and repayment term, rather than obtaining a new loan. The buyer must qualify for the loan by meeting the lender’s credit, income, and asset requirements. If approved, the buyer pays the seller for any home equity as a down payment and assumes the monthly mortgage payments. 

Positives

Reasonable Interest Rate: The most advantageous benefit is to secure a lower interest rate than what’s currently available. If the seller’s interest rate is lower than the prevailing rates, the buyer will save a lot of money over the life of the loan.

Lower Closing Costs: Since the buyer is taking over an existing mortgage, there are fewer fees and paperwork involved compared to obtaining a brand-new loan. 

Faster and Easier Qualification: Assuming a mortgage may be a more accessible option for buyers who may not meet the stringent credit or income requirements associated with obtaining a new mortgage. As long as the buyer meets the lender’s criteria and is approved for the assumption, they can acquire the property without needing to qualify for a new loan. This process is often more streamlined and requires less paperwork.

Easier Sale & Higher Prices for Sellers: In a market where rates are 22-year highs, there can be buyer hesitation. Being able to offer a significantly lower rate to buyers can be extremely attractive and help a seller tempt buyers to choose your home over another. Because the seller is endowing the buyer with such a low rate, they can demand a higher sale price.

Negatives

Large Down Payment: Rising home values can affect the advantages of a mortgage assumption. When a buyer assumes a mortgage, they inherit the low rate and low payment, but they must make up the difference between the home’s purchase price and the remaining mortgage balance. If the seller has significant equity, the buyer may need to make a sizeable down payment or obtain a second loan to cover the difference. This can nullify some of the benefits of the lower interest rate.

Increased Financial Risk: Sellers are often at a higher financial risk with an assumable mortgage, especially one that involves a VA loan. If the lender does not release the original borrower from liability of the mortgage, any missed payments could affect the sellers. 

The Bottom Line: With an assumable mortgage, there is the potential issue that the buyer must still qualify. The lender will review credit, income, and assets to make sure payments are affordable. It can be more complicated than a traditional mortgage. It’s important to compare the costs of assuming a loan to obtaining a new mortgage. There are cases where, even with higher interest rates, it may be more affordable for the buyer to get a new loan due to lower upfront costs and down payment. A good realtor and mortgage professional will be able to help you evaluate the options.

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Closing Costs Surprise!

The money you have saved for a down payment is not the only cash you will need when buying a home. You’ll also need an additional amount to cover closing costs. More than half of homebuyers are surprised by the extra money needed at closing as found in a survey done by ClosingCorp.

New regulations have tightened, forcing mortgage lenders to disclose these costs in loan estimates, however, buyers still find themselves shocked when they see the final tally, which can add up to as much as 5% of the total loan amount.

Closing costs are fees and payments that need to be made to different individuals and organizations who are involved with the transaction of your home sale. The fees charged at your closing will be specific to you, your property’s location, and the lender and settlement service providers you choose to work with. They can include:

  • Government recording costs
  • Appraisal fees
  • Credit report fees
  • Lender origination fees
  • Title services
  • Tax service fees
  • Survey fees
  • Attorney fees
  • Underwriting Fees & Processing Fees
  • Escrow
  • Home inspection
  • Property tax
  • Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

There are steps you can take to help bring down your closing costs:

  • Schedule your closing at the end of the month. Part of your closing costs is prepaid interest charges on your mortgage for the remaining days of the calendar month. If you schedule your closing toward the end of the month, you’ll only pay these charges for a few days.
  • Ask the seller to cover some of the costs. In a buyer’s market, and/or if your seller is particularly eager to complete the sale, you can ask them to cover some of the closing costs.
  • Compare your loan estimate and your final closing disclosure form. Check for inconsistencies and new charges. If something doesn’t look right, bring it to the attention of your lender.
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The Eyesore Next Door

Your house has been postured to be put on the market after getting everything cleaned, refreshed, landscaped, and staged. You’ve interviewed and hired the best realtor. Pictures have been taken, the marketing is perfect and you’re ready to go. But – there is a problem. A neighbor’s unkempt or other various forms of bad neighbors including being noisy or disruptive. These situations can negatively affect your home’s desirability and cost you some real money.

Respectfully and diplomatically, visit with the offending neighbor (s) and have a conversation with them, letting them know that you are preparing to sell your home and would love their help showcasing the neighborhood in the finest light which will also help them. After all, selling your home at a great price only means good news for them!

There are a multitude of reasons someone’s home can look disheveled. A sickness, or a new baby for instance. If this is the case and they are unable to clean up the outside, offer solutions. Maybe do the work yourself for them or hire professionals to get the job done. While it will be money out of your pocket, you won’t be forced to lower your asking price and in the end, you will be able to recoup that when you sell your home.

If your efforts are not successful, make a call to the city hall. Explore how they can help you. Many cities and counties have ordinances that prohibit things such as a vehicle on jacks, old tires, or an inoperable trailer/truck parked on a lawn. Beyond being an eyesore, it could be dangerous to a child who might wander onto the property, thus the police should be contacted. The fire department and health officials might be concerned about tall, dead grass that could be a fire hazard and an attraction to rats or other animals.

The problem may not be the fault of the homeowner if they rent out their home and their tenants aren’t taking care of it or behaving in a way that impacts the neighborhood. If after you have had a kind conversation with them and things still aren’t getting better, you should find the owner. Your realtor will be able to assist you in tracking him down and help in encouraging cooperation from him.

The Bottom Line: A bad neighbor is hard on a house, especially when your home is for sale. A home’s value can be negatively impacted or cause it to stay on the market longer. Good and direct communication is important in these situations. No matter what you do, keeping your realtor in the loop is suggested. They’ve been down this road before and probably have many good ideas.

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Is Your House Ready To Sell?

Putting your home on the market can involve several stresses and strains. Regardless of the reason behind selling, the goal is to sell it for the most money in the shortest amount of time. With the lease hassles and distractions. There is a lot to think about, prepare for, to organize. You must be objective about all the details in this your financial asset, your home.

Hire the most experienced realtor in your area to help you price your home right. The first thing buyers look for in their initial search for a home is the price. Your home might be perfect but if the price is too high you will miss out on a big group of buyers as it sits on the market longer. The realtor you hire should be well-versed in the ability to use comparative market analysis and determine the very best and the right listing price.

It’s easy to overlook small wear and tear issues in your home especially if you have been living in it for a longer period. It’s essential to remember that when a buyer is looking through your home, they are looking at the details. They will check to make certain the lights all work, and that the windows can open. How are your appliances? Do they all work? Are there any small leaks in a bathroom that you have forgotten about? Details like these can turn a buyer off no matter how small. They might be left wondering if the owner of the home has neglected bigger issues. Consider hiring an inspector for a pre-inspection to head off any potential issues.

Have your realtor walk through your home with you and help you decide what should be removed. A good rule of thumb is to remove about half of your furniture to enable rooms to appear bigger and more appealing. Create a cozy, intimate space in each room by rearranging furniture. Get rid of any clutter by purging and removing knick-knacks, and hiding any political affiliations, degrees, family photos, and other personal items. Paint should be traditional colors in each room. Open the blinds and pull back the curtains – let the light shine through. Staging your home is a good strategic move that can be done by a professional stager or you, as the seller, with your realtor.

The first thing a buyer sees after being enticed by your online presence is the outside of your home as they arrive to see it in person. The aesthetic look of the home’s exterior can be very telling as to what might be found on the inside. Get your yard landscaped if it’s not and keep it well maintained. Pull weeds, pick up sticks, fix burned grass patches, and rake the bushes clean of dead leaves. Walk around your home and notice if any paint is chipping or faded. Are your windows clean? Is your front door freshly painted? Are your gutters clear of debris? Again, having the realtor you hire look over everything with new eyes can be beneficial. Don’t take any criticism personally.

Once you have conquered all of the above and your home is ready to have a sign in the yard, the realtor you hire must be exceptional in the marketing of your home. Your realtor should know how to attract buyers online through professional photo listings and other new and creative ideas. The first place that buyers see a property is online, and if photos don’t look professional, buyers may disregard your property. Additionally, listings with high-quality photos can sell up to 32% faster.

The Bottom Line: Choosing the right realtor is paramount when putting your house on the market. One who is knowledgeable about your local market and with experience selling in your neighborhood. Selling a home is a big life milestone and can be complex with all the many steps involved. The consequences of a mistake can have a big impact. It pays to spend the time and money to make sure you are getting your home on the market and ready for success.

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Hire a Realtor with Remarkable Social Media Experience

Many people believe that traditional methods of real estate marketing are sufficient. While this can be true, social media has proven to be a hugely worthwhile avenue to pursue when buying or selling a property. Social media can make a difference in lead generation and give your home a competitive edge.

Realtors are now selling homes and buildings, finding clients, and growing their brands online completely through social media. Having a presence online is one of the most important, if not the most important attributes an agent can have. Social media is the strongest marketing tool there is as it reaches people around the world 24/7. You need as many people to view your home in the shortest and fastest way possible. The more eyes you have looking at your property, the more optimal it can be in selling your home.

Hiring a realtor with extensive experience with social media is critically important. Scour your accounts to see which realtor in your location takes advantage of all the incredible opportunities to get their listings out in front of the most eyes online. Social media is a free way to advertise virtually anything anyone is selling and a realtor should – MUST – have the acumen to utilize it correctly and brilliantly.

Once a home is staged and cleared of clutter, a realtor should have the very best photographer on hand to capture the most crisp photos for online viewing. Homebuyers more times than not, begin a search for their new home online. This should be taken full advantage of. There are never too many photos or videos. They should be used for Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, X, and Linkedin as well as mailings. Always remember – a picture is worth a thousand words.

The realtor chosen to sell your home must engage with any potential buyers who indicate interest on the platforms on which your home is being showcased. By communicating and being responsive, your realtor will build trust with the potential buyer and increase the chance of closing a sale.

The Bottom Line: Social media is one of the most common and effective ways to share property listings. To attract the right buyer, your realtor needs to go beyond the basics and adequately demonstrate the value of your home. The beautiful photos should have clear and precise descriptions as well as pointing out all the unique features of your home. The marketing of your home should be exceptional and social media marketing does not require a huge budget or even a large team of people. Simply do the work of finding the best realtor with the most experience with social media.

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Title Insurance? Here’s Why You Need It

The purchase of a home is most likely one of the most expensive and important purchases a person will make. The buyer and the mortgage lender must be certain that the home is indeed completely the buyer’s and that no other person or government entity has any right, lien, or claim to the property at all whatsoever. Like most types of insurance, having title insurance is better to have and not use than needing it and not having it available.

Title Insurance companies are in business to make sure the rights and interests of the property are clear, that the transfer of title takes place efficiently and correctly, and that the interests of a homebuyer are protected to the maximum degree.

Hidden issues can pop up after the closing of a home. Having title insurance will protect the buyer from some pretty sticky situations. Some of these unforeseeable title claims can be:

  • Forgery | False Documents – for example, the seller misrepresents the identity of the person selling the property.
  • Fraud | deception to achieve unfair gain -for example, someone steals identity and either sells the house without the owner’s knowledge or consent or takes out a second mortgage on the property and walks away with the money.
  • Clerical error | inconsistent paperwork and historical records – for example, an unforeseeable discrepancy in the property or fence line confuses ownership rights.

Title insurance is a safeguard against loss arising from hazards and defects already existing in the title. While claims on title insurance are rare compared to other types of insurance, they still happen and can be complicated legal issues to fix.

  • Outstanding mortgages and judgments, or liens against the property because the seller didn’t pay required taxes.
  • Pending legal action against the property that could affect your ownership.
  • An unknown heir of a previous owner is claiming ownership of the property.

After the title company conducts an exhaustive search relevant to the property with assurance that no one else has an interest in it, a policy will be issued. Because of this examination of all the records, any problems with the title will be cleared up before the purchase of the home. Once the title policy is issued, if a problem arises leading to a file against the property, the title company pays the legal fee that would be incurred in the defense of the owner’s rights as well as any loss arising from a valid claim. This protects the owner and any heirs as long as it is their property.

The Bottom Line: The title company hired will conduct a meticulous title search, however, the possibility of something being overlooked cannot be eliminated. That’s why it’s crucial to have title insurance. The policy will protect against any unforeseen issues that may arise with the property’s title. Without title insurance, an owner could end up dealing with expensive legal costs and other charges. An investment like a home should be safeguarded and a title policy should be in place before the day of closing.

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Bridge Loan in Real Estate

What is a “bridge loan”?  It is a temporary loan used while permanent financing is being secured. Bridge loans often have higher interest rates. They allow a homebuyer to take out a loan against their current home to make the down payment on their new home. This may be a good option for you if you want to buy a new home before your current home has sold.

A bridge loan is dependent on the equity of your current home. Your equity is the difference between the value of your home and what you owe on your current mortgage. Many lenders provide the borrower with the difference between their current loan balance and up to 80% of the current home’s value.

With this new loan, borrowers can cover the down payment and closing fees on their new home.

Pros of a Bridge Loan:

  • You don’t need to have selling contingencies of your current home to make an offer on a new home.
  • Application and closing are often quicker than other loans.
  • Depending on the lender, the bridge may not have any payments until the deal is closed. Some lenders may require interest-only payments until the deal closes.

Cons of a Bridge Loan:

  • You must have excellent credit and a low debt-to-income ratio.
  • There are often origination and legal fees.
  • Paying two closing costs – one on the bridge loan as well as the new home.
  • Lenders charge higher interest because these loans have such a short lifespan. The work involved for the lender is equivalent to a comparable longer-term loan.
  • Terms are generally 6 months to 2 years.
  • While some bridge loans have fixed interest rates, others can have a variable rate that may rise before the loan is paid off.
  • If your primary home doesn’t sell, you could end up with three mortgages: one on the primary home, one on the new home, and the third being the bridge loan.
  • Bridge loan lenders can be difficult to find.

The Bottom Line: Bridge loans are short-term loans that help a buyer purchase a second property when they have not yet sold their primary property. There are tough qualifications and some challenges for someone to be able to obtain two mortgages at once, thus the bridge loan offers a solution. Bridge loan borrowers will have more freedom and flexibility, but will also face some negatives like high interest rates and closing costs. It’s important to compare all the benefits and the negatives before making a bridge loan commitment.

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Step by Step: Building a House

So you have decided to have your dream home custom-built on a plot of land that you love. What could be better than watching it all happen from the ground up just the way you want it? While you might be better off doing this, it’s not as easy as it seems. There are a lot of details that need to be worked out and you will need to be prepared.

The first thing you should do is hire the most experienced realtor with new home construction knowledge, who will best represent you and your interests during your home search and the home-building process. A realtor that regularly deals with builders, but isn’t affiliated with a builder. Do this before even visiting a builder’s home construction site. Many model homes are represented by a real estate agent who has a relationship with the builder, and many builders won’t allow you to hire your agent once you already visited their sales office without representation. Seeking the help of a knowledgeable professional who regularly deals with builders and knows the local community will save you time and money. Besides, it will cost you nothing as a buyer to be represented by an agent since it is typically the seller who pays for the commission. Many builders are also happy to work with agents.

Do your research on the builders. Search for online reviews, testimonials, and any news and updates you can find. Then check for the validity and trends in those reviews, since many builders will surely have a history of both happy and unhappy clients. If possible, also talk to local homeowners or current residents. Connect with them in online groups or communities through social media to better educate yourself before making a decision. Also, research the location and the community where the new construction is being built and you can learn about your potential neighbors as well. Ask your realtor if they’ve worked with the builder before and gain insights about their reputation.

It’s normal to be fascinated by that picture-perfect model home, but don’t let it blind you. Model homes are, of course, decorated to look desirable and striking. They have been furnished and staged so that rooms will appear bigger. Model homes were often constructed using a mix of standard materials and fixtures and include many upgrades that don’t necessarily represent what you can get, so it’s crucial to note what exactly you will be getting. Enlist the help of your agent to get a list of the standard features and common upgrades, together with their associated costs.

Most builders are reluctant to lower their prices because it may set a precedent for future buyers in the development who may expect similar discounts. The best way to negotiate with a builder is through upgrades. Consider asking for the builder to negotiate “on the back end,” such as paying for closing costs and performing upgrades at no additional charge. This is the less obvious way for builders to sweeten the deal while still maintaining the value of their neighborhood. With the help of your agent, research the builder’s negotiating style so that you can plan for an effective way to make a creative offer.

Consider other sources where you can find a lender who will offer you the best deal. Don’t automatically use the builder’s lender without shopping around for better options. Builders often have their preferred lender so that they can be fully informed of your progress as a borrower. However, they may not work with your best interests in mind. Your agent can also help you by referring to a trusted list of private lenders.

For some instances where the builder’s preferred lender is the only option, find out if there are incentives, special offers, or competitive rates available to you if you agree to use the builder’s lender. In some situations, it can be a cost-efficient option since they are often willing to offer competitive rates and terms, especially if the builder owns the lending company.

Get an inspection! New homes can have problems or defects since construction workers can make mistakes as well. There may be problems with the HVAC or plumbing installation that only a licensed home inspector can detect. Getting an independent inspection is always a good idea since any problems can be identified before a builder’s warranty expires. It will also help you learn more about the home. A home inspection will guarantee that everything is safe and up to code.

Even if you are working with a respectable builder, make sure that everything you have negotiated and agreed upon will be included in writing. They may honor your requests, but verbal conversations are not binding so they may forget about the promises they made to you. Make sure that everything important will be put in binding documents that must be signed by all parties. It’s especially crucial if you are buying a home that is not yet complete. Your experienced real estate agent can help you ensure everything is in writing and that all documents are properly signed.

Lastly: ask about warranties. Find out what is and isn’t covered and for how long, since not all warranties are created equal. Most builders use third-party warranties that cover materials and workmanship. Builders often use construction materials from different manufacturers or suppliers, like for windows or tiles, so those products may have separate warranties. There’s a great chance the builder might refer all issues to the manufacturers instead of handling the issues directly. Get the builder to specify each product’s warranty information so you can prepare your offer documents to address any concerns before closing. Warranties will also help you understand the process you need to follow once something needs to be fixed.

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