What To Expect From A Realtor When Selling A Home

Prepare Your Home

An experienced Realtor will know how to maximize your property value so you can receive top dollar for your home. They will identify what improvements you should make to your home to increase the amount it will sell for. They will have the name of the best inspector in your area to check on the roof, sewer, drainage, fireplace, pool, etc., and then advise you to complete the repairs or to leave as-is for the buyer. They’ll also be able to recommend the best service providers with reasonable prices: an inspector, handyman, painter, landscaper, stager, etc.

Stage Your Home

First impressions are everything. It only takes 10 seconds for a buyer to decide whether or not they love the home. Those 10 seconds start counting down as soon as the buyer steps through the front door. If you want to wow the buyer, make sure that the first thing they see makes them feel welcomed and inspired. Staging can help your place look its best during the sales period without the cost or expense of a renovation. Your Realtor will help you get your home to that point so that it makes that positive first impression among potential buyers, from the time they look at the listing photos, to the moment they walk in the door. Buyers can’t imagine themselves in your house if it’s full of your family photos or souvenirs from your vacations, so invested, good Realtors will be upfront with you on what should go into storage.

Professional Photos

Once the home is prepped and stage, it will be ready for a photoshoot. Be sure, when interviewing Realtors to hire that they offer professional photography as part of their service. Today, buyers are online searching for a home and the photos are what’s piquing a buyer’s interest in your home and prompting them to take the next step in contacting their Realtor. Your Realtor’s and connection to a professional photographer will produce images that resonate and appeal to sellers. And the more photos the better.

Determine the Price

Maybe the most important task of a Realtor is setting a fair and competitive selling price for your home that will increase your odds of a quick sale. He will create a comparative market analysis (CMA) to review comparable homes nearby that are currently on the market, pending, or have recently sold. This will give you more information on what people are willing to pay for homes that are similar to yours, so, together, you can set a competitive price. The best Realtor will avoid giving in and just saying a price that will make you, the seller, happy. He should price each home using his training, understanding of the market and comparable sales.

Market Your Home

Your Realtor should blow away others in this arena. She should know how to get the word out using every available social media platform as well as any marketing channels that are available. Check out her website and social accounts. If she is lacking, maybe she isn’t the one for you. The photos should be phenomonal as well as videos.

Negotiating and Closing the Deal

The job of a Realtor is to get the most money for their clients home in the least amount of time. His ability to negotiate relies heavily on the local and national real estate market. More often than not though, the purchasing and selling of a home occurs quickly and must make decisive financial decisions during the negotiation process.  He should know you, the seller well and be aware of what is and is not negotiable. If an offer is made, he should let any other parties that have been interested to give them a last chance to make an offer. He will guide you through all of the paperwork and steps that need to be completed in the closing process and be there to hand over your keys to the new owner. 

The Bottom Line: Selling a house involves a lot of work. There are so many little details and loose ends that must be taken care of. It is crucial that you interview and find the best Realtor in your area that can not only sell your home faster and make you more money, but they can also make the selling process much less stressful.

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Real Estate and School Districts

Families often choose the location of their next home by where their children will go to school. As the focus on school performance has become more astute thanks to a rising emphasis on test scores and completion rates, home shoppers have become more cautious in their selections as well.

When it comes to resale value, whether you have children or not, researching school districts is a crucial step when buying a new home. it’s best to invest in a home in a top school district. Living in a good school district doesn’t just bring better teachers, better books, and better test scores — it also can help preserve home values and ensure faster resale rates. These homes often sell faster than homes in lesser school districts. In a case of bad economic times, a home in the lower quality school district declines in home value, while the homes in the top school districts will hold their value.

Do the research. Any information you need for absolutely anything is available online. Do a search to determine the school district or even the specific school, that is the best in the town you will be searching for a new home. There are websites that offer test scores, rankings and demographic information, including student diversity by race and gender, the percentage of students on free lunch programs and the student-teacher ratio, to learn about the schools and school districts you are considering. One of the best ways to dig into specifics on districts you’re considering is by talking to other parents. If you’re moving to an unfamiliar area, Facebook groups and other social media sites can be a way to connect. There’s no better way to get a feel for a certain district than engaging with people who are actually in it. 

A survey on Realtor.com asked random people about their overall buying strategy and how they viewed school performance. The results found that a surprising number of people are willing to give up things to get within the boundaries of a good school district. That, for every five buyers, one buyer would be prepared to give up a garage or bedroom for a good school.

They also found that for every three buyers surveyed, one buyer would even settle for a smaller home to get access to a good school. And over half of those surveyed said they would sacrifice nearby shopping options for a better school.

Beyond sacrificing things in their home purchase, buyers were willing to pay more money for a home in a good school district. One out of five of those surveyed said they would pay between six and ten percent more for a home – and one out of ten people surveyed stated that they’d go even higher, paying up to 20 percent more for a home with access to the right schools.

The Bottom Line: Consult with the best Realtor in the area in which you are looking. The next best resource for neighborhood and nearby school knowledge is your local real estate agent. Even if you don’t have kids, between the Realtor and the research you do, buying a home in a good school district affects the value of the home.

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Spring Ready to Buy a Home

Get Preapproved

Make an appointment to sit down with the best lender to get prequalified which will help determine how small or large of a loan you will get approved for. Getting prequalified is free and relatively painless, and can be used as just a starting point. A good lender will help you set clear financial goals, whether it be saving up for a down payment, paying down debts or improving your credit score so that you can ready yourself for homeownership sooner than later.

Prequalification means a lender determines your eligibility and an estimate for what you can afford. This is all based on your current financial budget and credit history. Your lender will also be able to determine if you qualify for any loan programs.

Preapproval is a more thorough process and will allow you to find out exactly how much a lender will give you. This information is determined by a few factors, including your income and debt-to-income ratio. Pre-approval will also take into consideration the money you will have for a down payment.

Find the Right Agent

To be honest the most important thing to do is to find the right agent to work with you. You want an agent who understands the process, knows the local market and is part of a firm with a reputation for results.

When looking for and interviewing potential agents, you also want to look for someone with strong interpersonal skills and who is able to meet your individual needs. When it comes to real estate, there is no one size fits all approach. Work with an agent who understands your individual needs and wants including your budget, the neighborhoods that you like, and knows when a home for sale is overpriced and what to offer.

Determine Location

When it comes to real estate, we always “say, “location, location, location.” Why? Because while you can change many aspects of a home, this is one you cannot. Figure out what is most important to you. Do you want a short commute to work? Are you looking to remain within a specific school district?

If you have a general idea of where you might like to live, do some neighborhood research. Drive through the neighborhood at different times of the day and during different days of the week; this will give you a good idea of what it might be like living there. Things like traffic, noise, and even lack of street lights may change your perception of a particular neighborhood.

Establish Your Needs and Wants List

Determining the number of bedrooms and bathrooms is an important factor, but it’s just the beginning. Do you need a fenced-in yard? Will the type of heat (gas, electric, oil) make or break a decision for you? Are there enough closets? If you know what is really important to you and you stick to that list, you’ll be much happier once you move in.

Stay in Your Price Range

Once you’ve been preapproved, you’ll have a good idea of how much home you can actually afford. Be realistic regarding your budget and stick to it. A good Realtor will make sure you aren’t overreaching. There’s nothing worse than falling in love with homes that you simply cannot afford. Besides the actual cost of the home, you also need to factor in a down payment, closing costs, and other potential fees. Your realtor and lender can give you better insight into the costs of purchasing.

The Bottom Line: The real estate market heats up in Spring. Sellers list and buyers start looking. Today’s real estate market is very competitive, however, and there are fewer listings than there are buyers. This means you have to be quick, qualified, ready to make an offer and competitive.


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Buying A Home in the Best School District

Home buyers

When it comes to resale value, even for buyers without children, it’s best to invest in a home in a top school district. These homes often sell faster than homes in lesser school districts. In a case of bad economic times, a home in the lower quality school district declines in home value, while the homes in the top school districts will hold their value.

Do the research. Any information you need for absolutely anything is available online. Do a search to determine the school district or even the specific school, that is the best in the town you will be searching for a new home. There are websites that offer test scores, rankings and demographic information, including student diversity by race and gender, the percentage of students on free lunch programs and the student-teacher ratio, to learn about the schools and school districts you are considering.

A survey on Realtor.com asked random people about their overall buying strategy and how they viewed school performance. The results found that a surprising number of people are willing to give up things to get within the boundaries of a good school district. That, for every five buyers, one buyer would be prepared to give up a garage or bedroom for a good school.

They also found that for every three buyers surveyed, one buyer would even settle for a smaller home to get access to a good school. And over half of those surveyed said they would sacrifice nearby shopping options for a better school.

Beyond sacrificing things in their home purchase, buyers were willing to pay more money for a home in a good school district. One out of five of those surveyed said they would pay between six and ten percent more for a home – and one out of ten people surveyed stated that they’d go even higher, paying up to 20 percent more for a home with access to the right schools.

The Bottom Line: Consult with the best Realtor in the area in which you are looking. The next best resource for neighborhood and nearby school knowledge is your local real estate agent. Even if you don’t have kids, between the Realtor and the research you do, buying a home in good school district affects the value of the home.

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Title Problems As a Property Buyer

Are you questioning whether you really need title insurance when you buy your home? Every home and piece of land has a history and with a good and thorough title search, you can unpack any issues that could be tied to your purchase. Having title insurance assures you that even after you close on your property, you are protected from any title problems that may arise in the future. What issues?

PUBLIC RECORDS: Mistakes and errors happen but you do not want it affecting your home. The errors can be disastrous and cause you an undue financial burden to resolve. Simple clerical or filing errors could affect the deed or survey of your property.

UNKNOWN LIENS: Prior owners of your property may have left unpaid bills. And, even though the former debt is not your own, banks or other financing companies can place liens on your property for unpaid debts even after you have closed on the sale. This is an especially worrisome issue with distressed properties.

ILLEGAL DEEDS: While the chain of title on your property may appear perfectly sound, it’s possible that a prior deed was made by an undocumented immigrant, a minor, a person of unsound mind, or one who is reported single but in actuality married. These instances may affect the enforceability of prior deeds, affecting prior (and possibly present) ownership.

MISSING HEIRS: When a person dies, the ownership of their home may fall to their heirs or those named within their will. However, those heirs are sometimes missing or unknown at the time of death. Other times, family members may contest the will for their own property rights. These scenarios – which can happen long after you have purchased the property – may affect your rights to the property.

FORGERIES: Unfortunately, we don’t live in a completely honest world. Sometimes forged or fabricated documents that affect property ownership are filed within public records, obscuring the rightful ownership of the property. Once these forgeries come to light, your rights to your home may be in jeopardy.

UNDISCOVERED ENCUMBRANCES:  At the time that you purchase your home, you may not know that a third party holds a claim to all or part of your property – due to a former mortgage or lien, or non-financial claims, like restrictions or covenants limiting the use of your property.

UNKNOWN EASEMENTS: You may own your new home and its surrounding land, but an unknown easement may prohibit you from using it as you’d like or could allow government agencies, businesses, or other parties access to all or portions of your property. While usually non-financial issues, easements can still affect your right to enjoy your property.

BOUNDARY/SURVEY DISPUTES: You may have seen several surveys of your property prior to purchasing, however, other surveys may exist that show differing boundaries. Therefore, a neighbor or other party may be able to claim ownership to a portion of your property.

UNDISCOVERED WILL: When a property owner dies with no apparent will or heir, the state may sell his or her assets, including the home. When you purchase such a home, you assume your rights as the owner. However, even years later, the deceased owner’s will may come to light and your rights to the property may be seriously jeopardized.

THE BOTTOM LINE: A title insurance policy will be your best protection against those and many other title problems that may become known after you close on your transaction.  Title First Agency is proud to be one of the few SSAE 18 certified title agencies in the nation. After you close on your new home, we record the deed and the mortgage at the courthouse (returning the original recorded deed to the new owner and the mortgage to the lender) and prepare the owner’s and lender’s title policies. Following the recording of the deed and mortgage, the buyer will receive (via the mail) the original recorded deed and the original title insurance policy, if applicable. It is wise to keep all of these documents in a safe place.

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Should I buy a Home or Keep Renting?

The American Dream. Owning your own home. Is it your time to have a piece of that dream? Are you ready? Because if you aren’t there can be some big financial consequences. Here are some pros and cons to owning a home:

PRO: Build Equity. Home equity is the difference in the market value of your home and how much you owe. So let’s say you’ve taken the mortgage and the market value of your house went up. You still pay out a fixed mortgage sum, so there is a difference between those two numbers and that difference can be put to good use, that’s your valuable asset.

PRO: Tax Benefits. Owning a home is a huge investment. Even if you’re not pulling your equity loan, there is always a chance to sell your house later for a better price. Today, as a homeowner you’ll also be entitled to tax benefits.

PRO: A Monthly Mortgage Payment Can Be Lower Than Rent. You should understand that it works only for some cities and states, but sometimes the monthly mortgage payment is lower than the rental payment or, at least, equal. This is a pretty good reason to prepare the down payment and take the mortgage.

PRO: Improve Your Home The Way You Want. Owning a home gives you home improvement freedom. There is no landlord who says what you can and cannot do while decorating and improving your house. Renovate your property or completely redesign your bath, you can do whatever you want with your own place. This is something worth paying for.

CON: You’re In That Same Home It Until You Sell It. While you have the freedom to make the home exactly the way you want it, you don’t have the freedom to leave your mortgage. the freedom mentioned above, when you take a mortgage for a house, you’re stuck with this particular place for a long time. When you are renting, it’s as simple as finding a new rental and off you go.

CON: Property Taxes. As a homeowner, there are plenty of tax benefits, but you are also obligated to pay property taxes which is usually collected by the municipal government. The value of the property tax is determined by multiplying the property tax rate by the market value of the particular property. Market changes a lot and it means that municipalities may recalculate the property tax.

CON: Home Repairs and Maintenance. The house is fully yours and it means that all the repairs and the whole maintenance process are on you. It’s always fun to call a landlord and ask him to fix a sink, but now you’re on your own and, of course, you pay for all the materials, work process and spend money on keeping your house well-suited for living in it.

The Bottom Line: For many people, owning a home makes more sense financially and from a lifestyle perspective than renting a home. Owning and renting each has its advantages, but what’s best for you depends on your circumstances. Crunch all the numbers.

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Do I Need A Realtor to Buy a House?

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“Do I really need a Realtor to buy a house?” If you are having doubts, here are a few reasons that a Real Estate Agent is valuable during the home buying process.

Sure, you can look through the many internet real estate listings, but a knowledgeable Realtor can cut through all the fat, plus have access to other sites, know the neighborhood comps, have contact with other agents in town with “pocket listings” and sometimes know the background (or the “skinny”) on a few homes. A Realtor is going to do all the dirty work and guide you through it all.  They are going to research the market trends and other important information that can be tedious.

The housing market is immense, there are literally thousands of options available and it can prove to be difficult to narrow down which homes are even worth looking at.  Your Realtor will have data about crime rates, education options, local businesses, commute times, zoning codes and a lot of other information that will influence your final decision.

Once you fall in love with a home, a skilled Realtor will have been through many homes and is trained to look for issues that might be hidden to you. Once the problem  identified it can be addressed and the Realtor can ask for it to be repaired.

The vast knowledge of market conditions and comp sales coupled with the Realtor’s knowledge will help put together a competitive offer at the best possible price.  You will be given information on at current home conditions to find any issues that could be leveraged during negotiations. The Realtor knows how to navigate through the many documents plus be your voice when the negotiating begins.  If you end up with questions and concerns or are completely confused, your Realtor will be able to  clarify all the clauses, contingencies and jargon-filled fine print as well as find hidden fees and conditions that many people tend to skim over.

The Bottom Line: Anyone can shop for a new home without a Realtor. Buying and selling a house is one of the largest financial transactions people make in their lifetime. Realtors earn their commission by making sure you know exactly what you are doing. They are helping you through the many pages of documents required on the transaction. They are with you during the inspection (pest, foundation, furnace, sewer, electrical, plumbing, etc), appraisal and disclosure. It’s in your best interest to use the resources of a skilled Real Estate Agent.

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Detach Emotionally From Your Home For Sale

Thinking about selling your first home? Besides the fact that it will take a lot of time and energy, it may be very emotionally challenging. To have buyers come into your home and open closets, cabinets, and drawers, walk through your bedrooms and look behind furniture, and then to criticize the home you have loved is not easy. Eventually, there will be a buyer who wants it and will inevitably offer far less to buy it than you have it listed as.

The first hurdle to overcome after you have made the decision to sell is to let go of your home emotionally. Start looking at it as a positive financial opportunity and distance yourself from all the aspects of the property that you have created memories. It will be hard to pull your heart away from remembering the moments that you painted, decorated and picked out “just the right carpeting” for your child’s first bedroom. Acknowledge that selling your home is going to be stressful and emotional upfront and that will enable you to make good decisions going forward.

Think of your home as a product that you are selling. This should help you detach emotionally. Start removing personal items like pictures, knick-knacks, etc. to begin staging which will make it feel less like your home. If you put special hardware on cabinets and can’t imagine parting with them, replace them. A good Realtor will give you great recommendations to help make your home more neutral – maybe painting or pulling carpet – all of which will help you to see your home as a product and will help you emotionally.

It’s common for a seller to overprice their home when they are emotionally attached. The price of your home needs to be based on the market and the comparable properties, not the value you, someone with memories, puts on the home. After a Realtor helps you with the price, don’t get offended by offers that don’t meet your calculations. If a buyer makes a low offer, it’s good to know that there is someone who loves your home enough to even make an offer. Let your Realtor negotiate and learn what the seller likes and dislikes (which may hurt your feelings) so you are able to keep your emotions out of the selling process.

The Bottom Line: Make sure you are truly ready to sell your home. Make a list of the pros and cons of why you want to move and evaluate. Have an experienced Realtor help you once you have made the decision and realize that sentimental value does not translate to monetary value so you will need help pricing your home accordingly. Keep your emotions in check, make a clean break and put your energy and time into making your new house the home of your dreams!

 

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Upgrading a Home To Sell

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There are certain things buyers want in a home when househunting. There are renovations and upgrades that owners can put money into if they want to sell fast and can be confident knowing that they will get that money back in the sale of their home. With a remodeling budget, what should owners focus on renovating?

Laundry Room: A separate laundry room topped the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) list of most-wanted home features by buyers.  Carrying loads of laundry to a basement and then back upstairs again is a thing of the past. Now, buyers want their laundry rooms in a convenient area – near the kitchen or bedrooms with plenty of folding space and cabinets.

Exterior Lighting: This is the most-wanted outdoor feature, according to the NAHB. Adds to the curb appeal as well as a security feature.

Windows: Big ticket items buyers want is new energy efficient windows. Not only are they a great selling point, but they will also save the owners money on energy bills while they occupy the home.

Ceiling Fans: The most-wanted decorative home feature by potential buyers, according to the NAHB. Ceiling fans can be inexpensive and practical – they keep the air moving with the air conditioning or the heat. Plus, now they have reversible controls that allow the air to be drawn up, or blown down.

Hardwood Flooring: A cleaner look, easier to maintain and more durable than carpet. If hardwood floors are already in the home, get it sanded and refinished to make it like new again. If there is carpet – it could increase your home’s selling price by 2.5%.  according to Realtor.com

Appliances: Old appliances, especially in kitchens can turn a buyer off. Even with limited funds, a seller can create beautiful kitchens using Energy Star-rated appliances. A Realtor can get a comp report from the neighborhood and see how other homes have sold and what is on the market to know if a seller needs to update appliances or not.

Fresh Walls:  Take the wallpaper down. One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways that can help to increase a home’s value is also one of the simplest.  Freshly painted walls. Neutral colors are best and can make it easier for a potential buyer to see themselves in the home.

The Bottom Line: A home is a person’s biggest investment, so doing what can be done to upgrade it to boost its value, makes sense. Not all renovations will have the same impact. The best advice a person can get is from a knowledgeable Realtor in the location of the home. Have comps pulled, and find out what upgrades will give the home the most bang for the buck.

 

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Do I Need Title Insurance?

Title insurance assures that you someone won’t show up at your door trying to claim ownership of your home. In the process of buying a home, Title First Agency will research the property’s ownership history. We want to make certain that the current owner has complete ownership of the home, without legal claims such as a lien or levy from a lender, creditor or the government. We will make certain that the home is “clear to close”.

Having title insurance on your home is a matter of being safe rather than sorry. What could possibly go wrong? There may be problems that were not found in any public records or unintentionally missed during the title search process, such as public record errors, unknown liens, illegal deeds, and missing heirs.  With title insurance, you will be covered for potential losses for things such as fraud, survey errors, and encroachment issues.

Title First Agency Insurance will protect you especially with an older, renovated home that has the highest number of claims and involves the highest dollar amounts. Even after the clear title search and the closing, there may be something overlooked that is important that could come back to haunt you. Owning title insurance will help you avoid a financial nightmare later on.

The Bottom Line:  Buying a home is never without risk. Having an insurance policy from Title First Agency simply ensures that this huge investment you have made – your home – actually is YOUR home. You won’t have to worry about any legal issues.

 

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