Selling A Home in January

Unfortunately, many people assume incorrectly that homes do not sell in the winter. Spring wins as people believe it is the best time to sell, but a good realtor will tell a seller that putting their home on the market in January to beat the competition.  After the holidays, people are back at work and looking online for their next move, and with the mindset of so many sellers to wait until Spring, the home on the market in January will have less competition. 

Real Estate becomes flooded come spring and summer and is dominated by high supply and high demand, meaning a home becomes one of the many for sale. Think about selling in a period of high demand but low supply, and being one of the few and standing out from the crowd and with less risk of getting lost in a market overload in the Spring. 

Redfin, a real estate organization, took a look a home sales from 2010 through 2014 to determine how well homes sold based on the season. The findings were surprising for many people, because they went against the standard assumption that winter was a time to avoid trying to sell a home. They found that, indeed, homes did sell best in spring, but only by a small margin. The next best time to sell a home turned out to be winter, followed by summer and then fall. Winter home sales were only one percentage point lower than the figures for spring, with summer trailing quite a bit behind.

The buyers are more serious in the cold, dark months of January and February. It’s not so hard to go house hunting in the beautiful months in Spring and Summer, but to go out in the frigid temps to look at homes means that buyer is motivated. 

January is the most popular month for corporate transfers. People who are transferring for work are highly motivated buyers and are limited to the time they can spend looking for a house. Take advantage of this situation, especially if living in an area with corporate headquarters, or major employers. 

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Smooth Real Estate Transactions

Buying a home can be chock full of complications and setbacks, or it can go remarkably smooth and fast if it is planned carefully.  The Realtor needs to stay focused and be the voice of reason as they facilitate the process at closing and make sure all parties have completed all unfinished business prior to coming to the “closing table”. Here’s a quick list that Realtors can use to ensure a smooth closing. 

Repairs: The Realtor should check on the status of all repairs that were to be made on the home the day before closing. If there was an agreement that something needed to be fixed by closing, make sure that it is. If there was an arrangement for repairs to be taken care of after closing, make sure all the necessary paperwork shows this as fact.  A final walk-through should be done with the buyers. The sellers should make sure, with their Realtor, that the property is in the condition promised and all of their personal items are removed. 

Title Insurance:  All of the title work should be checked to ensure clear title and that the property can be transferred without any obstructions.  Should there be any title issues that might include judgments or liens,  they must be settled prior to the hour of closing.  The moment of truth in a real estate transaction happens at the closing table. Title First Agency will work hard to ensure a seamless experience for you and your clients. From contract to closing, we handle all the details to help a transaction run smoothly and close on time. 

Financing: The lender should be contacted the day before the closing to be certain that all the documents they need have been received. Occasionally, the closing is delayed due to one document or one final verification.  The interest rate for the loan should be locked as well as the final mortgage and monthly payments.  The Realtor should make sure the buyer has all the funds available and ready to close.  Having everything in hand the day before gives both the buyer and the seller 24 hours to review everything and have any questions ready, errors noticed or points not understood addressed. 

The Bottom Line: A thorough Realtor will make sure the buyers are ready for the closing. First-time buyers may not realize all the people that could possibly be at the closing table, and all the paperwork there will be that needs their signature. The buyer needs a cashier’s check or arrangments made to wire the closing funds to the escrow company.  The seller should bring all the keys, garage door openers, alarm codes and any other controls to the settlement. The Realtor should make sure and confirm that all utilities have been disconnected by the sellers and set up ready for the buyers upon closing. 

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Is It Time To Sell Your Home?

Are the walls closing in on you in your home? Are you feeling cramped? Maybe you have TOO much space and have launched all of your children and are ready to downsize. Are you ready to find your next home? Are you on the fence whether it’s a good time to sell or not? Of course, you want top dollar. So what are some of the signals that now is the time – or not?

  • Positive Equity:  The current market value of your home, less what you owe. If you can sell your home for more than you owe, you will benefit from positive equity. This can enable you to have enough money for closing costs and putting money down on your next home. At the very least, you want to be able to sell enough to cover the current balance of your mortgage. If none of this applies to you, there are many things you can do to improve the equity of your home, including home improvements. Speak with a skilled Realtor to know what you should repair, replace or upgrade.
  • Strong Market: You probably have a general idea of what is going on in your neighborhood – what the trend is; who is selling; what has sold and for how much. But, call your local Realtor and get the comps and find out exactly how hot the market is. You’ll be able to learn how long a home was on the market until it sold, what the price per square foot has been and if that number been increasing or decreasing. If it’s been low average days on market, it’s a pretty positive sign the market is hot for sellers.
  • Remodeling Won’t Raise The Value: Sometimes it’s beneficial to make updates in your home and you know that updating your kitchen or adding another bathroom will help you sell your home for top dollar.  But, making an appointment with a reputable Realtor to find out if adding money to your home will be worth it. Depending on the real estate in your neighborhood and what buyers are looking for, doing less may be more. Your Realtor will help you to understand what the market is doing – the rule of thumb is not to raise your home’s value any higher than 10 percent of the average cost of homes in your neighborhood.

The Bottom Line: Is it finally time to sell? There are many signs, we’ve just listed three. Talk to a Realtor, meet with a financial advisor or mortgage lender and make sure it makes sense financially. Being house poor is a reality, and as much as you want a larger home – or even a smaller home – it might not be the right time for you.

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How to Protect Yourself from Real Estate Fraud

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The rapid growth of technology in the real estate industry has brought opportunity as well as a whole new set of challenges. Potential home buyers have the ability to search for homes from their fingertips while home-related fraud has become more prevalent. It’s important to protect yourself against fraud by becoming educated on the most common types of threats.

Title Fraud
What is It:
Any forgery or fraud act that involves the home title. There are many types of title fraud, including, but not limited to, forgery committed by the seller or someone who steals the identity of the current homeowner.

Preventative Steps:
One of the easiest ways to prevent title fraud is to purchase title insurance. This type of insurance eliminates the risk of being held accountable for any type of fraud that happened before you owned the property. Additionally, title insurance protects against other potential issues such as clerical errors or incorrect information. Any errors or misinformation on the property title will be handled by the title company where the insurance was purchased.

Wire Fraud
What is It:
Wire fraud is any scheme utilizing false pretenses to obtain money or property via wire transfer or communication. This type of fraud is particularly harmful in the real estate industry because property is such a large investment. The most common type of wire fraud in the home buying process is a fraudulent request for a deposit on the home.

Preventative Steps:
Once you’re nearing the end of the homebuying process, there are many legal documents and steps involving your personal identity. It’s critical that you protect any personal and financial information while finishing the closing process. Your information is particularly vulnerable through email or other forms of electronic communication.

Here are a few helpful steps to prevent against wire fraud:

  • Never send out any personal financial information via email.
  • Do not click on any links or attachments in unfamiliar email addresses or emails that are unexpected.
  • Clean out your email regularly so that hackers cannot detect any patterns.
  • Change your usernames and passwords on a regular basis.
  • Install and update antivirus and firewall programs on your computer.
  • Report any fraudulent activity to the FBI via the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
  • Ask your title representative, mortgage lender, and real estate broker their typical means of communication. If you receive anything from an unusual method of communication, confirm that it was sent from your real estate professional.
  • Don’t share detailed information about your home purchase on social media.

The Bottom Line:
Whether you’re planning to buy a home in Phoenix or Seattle, be sure to do plenty of research on the home buying process so that you are able to spot suspicious activity. If you ever notice any potential threats, speak directly to your real estate professionals to confirm the security of your transaction. The best way to protect yourself against fraudulent real estate activity is to remain cautious and informed.

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The Millennial Home Buyers Are Out There. What Do They Want?

The “generation Y” or the “Millennials” were born between the years of 1977 and 1995 and have taken the spotlight in real estate news lately.

They are skeptical when deciding to buy a home. They are the generation that saw their parents, relatives, etc. lose a home in the recession of the 2000s. The Millennials are thinking twice before buying to make sure the decision is right.  They analyze and make informed decisions about everything they buy because the internet makes the process easy to do so.

What do they want in their new home?

Updated Bathrooms: Most of their savings will be used for the down payment and furniture. They don’t want to update bathrooms, which can be expensive. If your bathrooms need some love, ask an experienced Realtor what the current design trends are.

Large Open Kitchens: Millennials aren’t looking for dining rooms as the kitchen is the place where their friends and family end up congregating. They see the kitchen as generations of past viewed a living room. It’s important the kitchen is stylish and updated with integrated appliances and gorgeous designs.

Smart Home: The Millennials were brought up in the world of technology and are willing to pay more for homes that have smart home features. They want to know the home has wireless service and internet and cable and telephone are not priorities. There have been cases that a home was dismissed because the signal to their mobile phone was weak.

Home Office: Many Millennials don’t travel back and forth to an office for work. They work from the comfort of their home. A  Realtor will help you dedicate a room to be shown as a workspace/home office.  Staged right, a Millennial will be able to envision themselves in it.

Location: Proximity to public transportation, easy access to major metropolitan areas, walking distance to restaurants, schools, etc. They want their home to be in a location where homes are affordable and jobs are plentiful. They don’t want to deal with long commutes or traffic issues.

Community: Besides the location, the importance of community is at the top of the list. Millennials want to be involved in their neighborhood.  Seventy-five percent of responders to a Fannie Mae survey said that feeling engaged in their community was their main reason for wanting to own a home.

Outdoor Living Space: Entertaining outside is just as important as inside to the Millennials. They will pay more for a home that has an exceptional outdoor space that features a patio, an outdoor kitchen, or a grand deck.

The Bottom Line: Millennials don’t want to buy a fixer-upper. The first step to attract them as buyers is to have a Realtor showcase the home for sale with beautiful professional photos online – the first place they will look. It’s also important to have the most skilled Realtor who understands what Millennials are looking for and will be able to highlight them to increase the chances of a quick and profitable home sale.

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Pocket Listing

What is a “pocket listing” and why do you hear about it so much? Some home sellers like the benefits of a private transaction. Thus, when a Realtor and a seller sign a listing agreement that permits the seller to place their home for sale without adding the information into the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) it is called a “pocket listing”.

The biggest advantage of selling your home as a pocket listing is for the privacy. The general public doesn’t get to see pictures of it online, and they are not able to just come “take a look” out of curiosity. These sellers don’t want strangers wandering through their homes. They don’t want the hassle of the constant showings, they simply want only the pre-qualified and vetted serious buyers.

Homeowners prefer selling their home as a pocket listing for many reasons. If the seller has just gone through a life-changing event (a divorce, death, new baby, etc) and they often want their home sold as quickly & quietly as possible.  Maybe, they just want to test the market, get an idea of what buyers are willing to pay for their home. Being a pocket listing means the general public does not know how long the buyer has been trying to sell it. No listing on MLS means no public eye, which can lessen the stigma that is inevitable if a home sits too long on the market publicly. Another plus? If the buyer wants to lower the price, buyers won’s see it and won’t be able to use it to negotiate.

Bypassing listing a home on the MLS provides a jump start and the home often sells for the full price due to the fact that they are listed in a defined, focused market. But, the unfortunate side to this is that it may sell, but might not be at the very best price.  When the pool of potential buyers is restricted, the seller doesn’t know what the home could actually bear since it is never actually on the market.

The Bottom Line:  Pocket listings can be advantageous in the real estate market, especially in specific cases where sellers require privacy and want to have control over the buyers who see their homes. But along with being a pocket listing comes potential hindrances that can warrant consideration. An experienced Realtor will be able to walk you through all the details of how your specific home would do as a pocket listing.

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Holiday Season Home Buyers Are Serious

Thoughts of selling your home during the very busy holiday season between Halloween and New Years? In the past, people would wait until January to list their home because there were fewer buyers out looking. While that may be true – there are not as many people looking for a home, times are different now and there are plenty of compelling reasons to list your home now.

There is much less competition. Potential buyers are prepared to buy – the fact that they are even looking during this busy season is evidence enough that they are motivated and ready to buy. Fewer homes for sale makes it more likely that buyers will check out your home.

Holiday buyers are also caught up in the season. Emotions are running high and where they are thinking of the past, and more importantly, the future. When a buyer is emotional, they tend to be more excited to purchase because it makes them feel good. Case in point the retail sales at this time of year.

Seeing your home during the holiday season helps them envision their own family celebrating. Use the most experienced Realtor and he/she will be able to guide you on how to decorate – using some restraint in holiday decorating goes a long way. Keep it simple, impersonal and show off your home’s best points. Have a fire going in the fireplace, cookies baking in the oven and a Christmas Tree decorated with only the most special ornaments. Don’t forget the outside, as well.  For example, a simple beautiful wreath on the front door is better than colored lights and blow up Santas on the front lawn.

Loan approval is much faster during this season. The lenders aren’t as busy since there are not a lot of home sales happening. When the loan is processed faster, you get your money faster.

The possibility of tax benefits at the end of the year can get a buyer moving. A home bought now is very beneficial. Many of the expenses used to purchase the home can be written off on their taxes. Plus, plenty of advantages including deductions for mortgage interest, private mortgage insurance premiums, tax credits for real estate taxes, etc.

The Bottom Line: Selling during the holiday season has plenty of advantages. Yes, there are fewer buyers out there, but the ones that are looking tend to be serious. They are ready to make a decision. It can be harder for you and your family to have showings, but if you commit to set boundaries with your Realtor on when the home can be seen, but yet remain flexible and patient it will be less stressful on your family and increase the chances of the right buyer walking through your front door.

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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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Mechanic’s Lien

The financial crisis of 2007-2008, also known as the global financial crisis and the 2008 financial crisis, is considered by many economists to have been the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Since then and because of the losses, title insurance underwriters tightened their guidelines when working with residential properties to prevent further loss.

During the time of the financial crisis, title insurance underwriters often suffered loss due to mechanic’s lien claims.  A mechanic’s lien is a security interest in the title to property for the benefit of those who have supplied labor or materials that improve the property. The lien exists for both real property and personal property. The claim is issued when the work performed was not paid for.

The lien gives the debt holder the right to the property until the debt is paid in full and the property.  This could be an expensive situation for new homeowners, so it is important to ensure a property is lien-free before purchasing a home. This can be confirmed with a lien waiver or a paid receipt for any work completed on the property. A lien waiver is a document issued by the service provider that states they have received payment and waive the right to issue a lien against the property in the future.

Title First Agency will protect all property buyers by providing a clear title of the property. If there is a lien, the title won’t be clear and we will coordinate the activity and documentation from the participants and pull each piece together, including paid receipt of any improvements or repairs to the property.

If you’re planning to purchase a home, make sure you know the full status of the property and any lien claims.  Buying a home may be the single, largest financial purchase in your life and can signify a much-anticipated milestone. That’s why Title First offers a host of resources to help you understand this important personal transaction.

 

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