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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I Can Get the Same House for Less. Why Would I Want to Buy Your House For More?

Pricing your home too high can be damaging. Overpriced homes sit on the market, day after day and month after month while the price gets lowered. The listing becomes stagnant, and buyers assume there is something very wrong with the house thus avoiding it. Eventually, there will be a buyer out there who knows they can get a deal on the house and make a lowball offer.

The first 30 days on the market are the most important. This is when the most showings will occur. Having a home that is priced too high, will push buyers away and they will choose to ignore it or bookmark it to check on the status of the price later. The longer the home sits unsold, though, the more negatively it is viewed. Buyers believe it is overpriced or there is something wrong with it. Waiting too long to drop the price will mean most likely losing the people who have bookmarked the home as they have probably already moved on and bought something else.

Additionally, if the home is on the market too long, potential buyers will think they are in a better negotiating position and end up tossing out a real lowball offer. Even when the negotiating begins, it will be less than the original asking price. To attract the most potential buyers possible, the home must be priced correctly from the onset of its going on the market.

If by chance a seller is lucky enough to get an offer on their overpriced home, there is still a hurdle to get over. The home may indeed be in a desirable neighborhood and have all the bells and whistles, but for the buyers to get a mortgage, they need to have the home appraised. The dollar amount the bank will lend the buyer is based on the appraised value of the house rather than the agreed-upon purchase price between the buyer and seller. The appraiser will use the prices of recently sold nearby comparables to help determine the value of your house.

If the home does not appraise at the price the buyer offered, the seller will either need to reduce the price to meet the appraisal value or the buyer will need to come up with additional funds to make up the difference. Not many buyers are jumping to ante up more money on even their dream home if the appraised value is not matching. Sadly the home will end up back on the market with additional expenses and adding to the days on the market.

Another issue is that any good realtor who is showing homes to buyers is obligated to do what is best for their clients and showing a well-known overpriced home is something they will steer clear of. Properties shown to buyers will meet the current fair market value. They will wait until the price is eventually reduced. If then, the lowered, overpriced home is shown, the buyers will look for all the things that are wrong with it – because they know there has to be if it’s on the market for a long time. The real problem all along was always the price.

Picking the right realtor is the key to a successful sale of a home. Interview several agents before choosing one and have them write out how much they think they can sell the home for. If one gives a significantly higher number than the others, be wary. It’s unfortunate but some realtors will throw a high number into the ring just to get hired. The realtors should come armed with the comps (competitive market analysis) and be able to back the number they came up with.

Some sellers mistakenly believe that Zillow’s pricing estimates, called Zestimates, and other online valuation tools can be used as a good barometer for estimating the price of their home. Beware of these tools and websites as they will never replace a good real estate agent who knows the local market and their estimates are usually far off the the actual selling price of a home.

The Bottom Line: When a house starts overpriced, it almost always ends up selling for less than market value. By pricing it high to drop the price later, you are completely bypassing the best candidates for buyers. They will look for homes for sale that are more accurately priced. Experienced real estate agents know that pricing a home appropriately from the start is critical to getting it sold quickly and at the best price.

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We Buy Home For Cash Scam

Homeowners who are facing foreclosure, can’t afford home repairs or need to sell their home quickly and “as is” can get easily tempted by the “We Buy Home for Cash” offers. While some accredited companies will come in and buy a home quickly for cash, there are more scammers out there taking advantage of homeowners in destitute situations. It’s important to keep an eye out for common scams so as not to fall victim to extortion.

Some Red Flags

Unsolicited Offers: Legitimate cash homebuyer companies will advertise their business and enable you to contact them directly rather than send a postcard, an email, or a call making an unsolicited offer on your home. You should expect to talk to a real person, meet them, and walk through the home together. When the conversations are only over the phone or digitally, it’s easier for the scammer’s identity to be hidden and take advantage of you.

Strange Company: The common thread of these scam homebuyer companies is that they don’t want to be tracked down. Their website is commonly cheap looking and often has typos, and grammatical errors and comes with a phone number that traces back to nothing / no physical address. Real companies are transparent about their process and in their communication. They will likely have a social media profile and other presence online. There will be a digital footprint.

Proof of Funds: These cash-buying companies should be able to provide proof that they have the funds before any signatures on the dotted lines. If they can’t verify the funds by providing you with said verification, it’s probably a scam. Successful cash buyers will show you all you need to know to ensure there is no risk of the deal falling through.

Money Wiring: A big sign that you are doing business with a scammer is if they want you to wire money to them. Be very skeptical if the company is unwilling to use a standard and secure payment method.

Personal Information: If the cash-buying company asks for personal information such as your social security number, bank account, or other financial information, it’s likely a scam.

Behavior: Reputable cash-buying companies are professional at all times. They won’t seem overeager or not respond to reasonable requests you might have. If the person you are speaking with seems to be rushing you, please know that they can’t possibly have had enough time to collect the proper amount of information to even make a legitimate cash offer. Especially if they have not even inspected the property to see the condition. If they are slow to give you any documentation such as proof of funds it’s a good bet they are trying to scam you.

The Bottom Line: There are established, reliable, trusted companies with a good history. Unfortunately, some criminals will take advantage of home sellers by using the cash offer scheme. The best way to prevent becoming a victim is to know the signs of a scammer, know the correct way the process should work, and do your due diligence. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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HOA or No?

Homeowner associations are organizations that oversee a group of homes by setting and enforcing rules as well as maintaining the grounds. They are common in planned developments. Those who purchase homes and agree to their terms and fees at the closing of the home in these communities.

Owning a home in these communities binds the owner to the association’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs). The HOA also has legal powers, such as placing a lien on the home, imposing fines, or suing the homeowner for not complying with the rules. The HOA creates the CC&Rs and strictly enforces them.

When buying a home in a community with an HOA, it’s important to ask your realtor or the HOA for the CC&Rs to make sure it is up to date and is satisfactory to you as the buyer. Rules of the HOA are different and may be unique in each community so never assume from previous experience or hearsay from others in different communities with an HOA.

For the HOA to operate, there needs to be funds collected through fees paid by the homeowners. Often these fees are high, they can differ even within a development due to variations in square footage, location, and orientation. 

The Benefits of an HOA

  • Property values remain high. With an HOA, homeowners can expect the community will hold to all the standards, regulations, and processes that are put in place to manage all home exteriors and landscaping.
  • Access to amenities. Often, appealing and rewarding advantages to an HOA membership are increased amenities. Having Exclusive access to well-maintained swimming pools, walking trails, parks, playgrounds, fitness centers, golf courses, gardens, and clubhouses is well worth the cost.
  • Standards of compliance. Because of the guidelines that must be complied with, the HOA will not tolerate unruly behavior—whether it’s a rambunctious late-night party in someone’s backyard or a clear disregard for architectural rules. There’s a board set in place to mediate neighbor disputes and set forth consequences when things go wrong.
  • HOA leaders live in their communities and better understand the needs of the homeowners and residents, from the delivery of core services and amenities to decisions that affect the future of the community.

The Downside of an HOA

  • The cost. Being a part of a community with an HOA means regular monthly fees that can be expensive depending on where it is and what type of amenities are available. This bill is not tied in with a mortgage and if not paid, the HOA may place a lien on the home and possibly foreclose on it. The fee can increase over time.
  • An excess of restrictive rules and regulations. An HOA probably won’t let homeowners personalize their homes the way they have always dreamed. Owners must adhere to paint colors, the number of cars in a driveway, fencing, pets (size & breed), the length of their grass, and the composition of a garden.
  • Loss of freedom. Because homeowners are automatically required to agree to the HOA’s strict rules and regulations, there are few avenues to dispute a rule that the owner may disagree with.

The Bottom Line: An HOA has a significant impact on a community with CC&Rs. Maintaining a home can consume a lot of an owner’s time and with an HOA in place, there are plenty of benefits to reap. When it comes to selling a home an owner can feel confident as an HOA exists to maintain the community to increase property values. The rules in place are to protect the property value of the home by ensuring that your home and the homes around your property remain beautiful and desirable all year round. On the flip side, paying a monthly fee and abiding by their restrictive rules that the homeowner may not agree with might not be worth it.

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MYTH: You Don’t Need Title Insurance

MYTH: You don’t need title insurance

Everyone needs title insurance. You may think you know the entire history of the house you’re purchasing, but it’s impossible to know everything. Title insurance protects your right to the property if a previously unknown heir claims ownership of the property if it is later revealed that the “sellers” were not the rightful owners, or if liens against the property resurface. If you have an owner’s title insurance policy, you will not be responsible for paying any of the fees associated with protecting your right to the property, should these types of issues arise.

MYTH: New construction homes don’t need title insurance

Your home could be brand new, but the land on which the house is built isn’t. Chances are, the land had several previous owners before construction began. Buying property on such land opens you up to certain risks tied to ownership issues from previous owners.

Disputed wills, easements, and property liens are just a few of the issues common to land ownership. You could get caught in the mess and end up losing your resources or, worse still, your new property as well. Title insurance is crucial even for a new home and should be on your list of priorities during the closing process.

MYTH: If no one challenges ownership, then the title policy is a waste

At the closing, when you purchase a title insurance policy, the closing company does the bulk of the work behind the scenes. The title company goes through many steps to make sure that everything is in place by that time, including conducting a comprehensive title search and identifying any potential issues. The team investigates the entire history of the property to ensure that you, the buyer, will be aware of any problems that will need to be addressed before closing. By the time the closing comes around, the title company has completed a great deal of research and legwork for you.

MYTHTitle insurance offers only minimal protection

When you purchase a home, you receive the “title” to the property. This title is your legal right to own it. Early in the home-buying process, a title search is conducted to review the history of the property and uncover any issues that could limit your right to ownership. Even after the most meticulous search of public records, there can be hidden title defects, such as tax liens, forged signatures, claims by ex-spouses, and recording errors. These title defects can remain undiscovered for months or even years after you purchase the home.

MYTH: Title insurance is the same thing as homeowner’s insurance

Homeowners insurance protects you so you have the resources to pay for any damage that might occur to your property. Title insurance protects you from anyone else claiming your home is theirs or for some prior owner’s back taxes or encumbrances or any other real property dispute

Title First Agency: Dedicated to innovation and passionate about service, Title First Agency is your comprehensive, nationwide resource for title and real estate settlement services. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Title First has branch offices throughout the Midwest and a robust virtual partner network throughout the country. Title First got its start in 1956 as an affiliate of a local law firm and has since emerged as one of the largest independent title agencies in the nation. Proudly servicing Realtorslendersbuildersdevelopers, law firms, buyers, and sellers, Title First is equipped to serve your residential and commercial title and settlement needs.

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Seller Concessions

Seller concessions are an agreement within a real estate contract whereby the home seller agrees to pay for some or all of a home buyer’s closing costs.

Concessions can be offered by the seller as an incentive to encourage buyers to purchase their home. Closing cost fees can add up quickly and the expense of this, on top of adown payment could be a big reason preventing someone from buying a home. Offered concessions may be more appealing than a lower price as some of the financial strain can be offset because the seller agrees to financially contribute to the closing costs.

If the home has been on the market for an extended time, or it is a buyer’s market, a seller might be motivated to offer concessions. To officially ask for seller concessions, your real estate agent will write out an offer to the seller, indicating a specific amount you hope for them to pay.

Seller concessions are a useful tool in real estate. Used correctly by the seller, it increases the marketability of their home. Buyers often can’t afford to put more money down than they have allotted which turns them away from considering a home. With a concession from the seller in the form of either paying the buyer’s closing costs or paying points to get an FHA or VA loan, (for example) a deal could be done.

Always work with an experienced realtor who will be able to give you all the information about the market, local sales, and the regional housing market. The realtor will be the one doing the negotiating and depending on the condition of the market they will guide you in the right direction.

The Bottom Line: When asking for concessions, the buyer should use the best realtor to help negotiate with the seller. Since they might not be willing to offer everything asked for there will need to be a compromise and a solution that works for both the buyer and the seller. In the end, this can save a lot of money as well as making the entire process of buying a home more affordable and attainable.

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