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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Sell Your Home in August

The most important fact to consider if you want to sell your home in August is the beginning of the new school year. If a family hasn’t found the home they want yet, there is just enough time to find a home, close the deal, and move in, sometimes with time to spare. Make sure your home has the edge by making it move-in ready and priced right. However, be aware that because fewer people are looking for a new house, buyers might try and control the negotiations. It is important to have the best Realtor to make sure that the scales do not tip too far out of your favor.

Consider this if you fear August is not the ideal time to put your home on the market – there are buyers who actually wait because they don’t want to be a part of the Spring homebuying competition. They feel that there are too many buyers out in Spring, ready and willing to raise their offers to beat out any competition. However, again, the importance of a good Realtor can’t be stressed enough to help with negotiations.

Create the very best Summer curb appeal for the drive-bys. Mow your lawn often. Trim bushes, plant flowers, update mulch and sweep the driveway and walkway. Paint your front door and replace the hardware if need be. If you have front porch clean the furniture, add pillows and flowers.

Inside your home, there is nothing worse than a stuffy room on a hot day. If you have ceiling fans, have them spinning and jack your air conditioning down cooler than you like. Let all the light in. Tie back heavy curtains and open blinds.

The Bottom Line: August is sandwiched between two incredibly busy months. Both July and September start out with holiday weekends. August may be the month where some families go back to school, but many school districts around the country actually wait until after Labor Day to start the school year. If you think you missed the boat because you didn’t get your house listed in the normal peak season, August is still a good time to list, and possibly even better! 

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The Visual Marketing of Instagram and Real Estate

Realtors: Instagram should be a part of your social media business marketing plan. While you may not land your biggest home buyer or seller, using this platform to market your business, the culture of your business and the value can absolutely improve your reputation and help you to reach people others can’t. Set up a business account separate from your personal profile and use the analytics you will have access to.

Learn exactly who likes your posts. You will have the ability to reach out to potential leads just by seeing who “liked” your post. Expect 10x more engagement on Instagram than Facebook. Don’t be afraid to be personal.

One billion people use Instagram every month. And, 500 million users login and use the Instagram platform every day.

Instagram is a free form of advertising and almost everyone knows about it. Right now anyone with a smartphone, from kids to a retired relative is on the platform. However, for almost nothing, another option for advertising your real estate listings on Instagram is to promote individual posts. When you have a business account, Instagram gives you the option to reach more people by promoting posts.

It shows off real estate listings. Post stunning photos, video walkthroughs and anything else that might sell the home. Beyond the photos, show your personality. The homes may be fantastic, but sell them YOU so they not only come to see your listing on your page, but your personality and let them learn if you might be someone they want to work with.

Hashtags are the new SEO. As a Realtor, you can rank higher in an Instagram search with the perfect hashtag than you may be ranking with your traditional SEO approach to search results pages. Do the research and find other Realtors that cater to the same audience you want to find. Learn the hashtags they use, the calls to action they include, the captions they write and the content they share.

Make your post beautiful and post often and enjoy the rewards of more engagement and traffic. Posts with a lot of likes will be at the top of the users’ feeds, thanks to the Instagram algorithms. Be sure to use video in your social media marketing strategy. Right now it is the most powerful way to connect with anyone who follows you and their friends. Right now, Instagram allows you to post 15-second videos to your Stories and 60-second videos to your feed.  Use it.

The Bottom Line: Like it or not, the internet has become the go-to resource for would-be homeowners as they prepare to purchase a home and all real estate agents need to be using Instagram to market to potential clients. Using Instagram for real estate takes time and effort, but the process of creating posts and engaging with others online can be rewarding. Have an Instagram presence that you work on daily, even if briefly, and get users engaged in what you have to offer. While running ads on Instagram can be a useful step when starting off, the momentum comes from continued social engagement.

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Buying a Foreclosed Home

Buyers and Sellers

Buying a foreclosed home – bank-owned – comes with risk but can be a great deal. Foreclosed homes are inundating the real estate market and can be a great opportunity.

Get an Inspection. Foreclosed homes are sold “as-is” and are owned by banks that don’t and won’t make repairs to the property. It must be understood that in most cases these homes have been poorly maintained as the owner often vacates the home because they could not make their mortgage payments. The maintenance and condition can be an issue because of the circumstances under which the owner had to move out and the amount of time the house has been unoccupied. Not every bank-owned property needs repairs – but many do. While you can’t get the bank to fix the problems the inspector finds, in many cases, you can use it to negotiate a lower sales price. An inspection helps you to know exactly what you are getting into.

Get comparative market analysis. Never assume that a foreclosed home is listed below market value. There is a common misconception that buyers will get a good deal on foreclosed properties. The bank’s goal is to recoup as much of their money as they can and will put the home on the market for more than it is worth. A good Realtor can help you know what prices of other homes in the neighborhood are selling. Knowing this information coupled with the inspection results, you will be better able to determine what price you will pay for the home.

The process to close on a foreclosure can take more time. The offer you prepare to make will go to a bank, not to an individual seller. There are many layers of approval that the offer must go through. Foreclosed homes more times than not run into title issues, such as uncovered liens on the property that can further delay and complicate the situation. Using a Realtor that is skilled in foreclosures is highly recommended.

The Bottom Line: Learn as much as you can about the foreclosed property as possible. Know your own financial situation because often buyers underestimate how much money they will spend to fix the property to make it habitable. A home in need of repairs is a big project to take on. Assess how you will pay for the property. If you don’t intend to pay cash, you should have a preapproval letter from a bank or other lender. Use a Realtor and consult with a real estate attorney who understands foreclosure law in your state.

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Negotiating When Buying a Home

A great, seasoned Realtor is your best bet when you find the home of your dreams. Negotiation in real estate is an art that any seasoned Realtor will be able to find some common ground that satisfies all parties. Bad negotiations can kill a sale.

  1. If you offer too far below the market value it will damage your credibility as a buyer and is usually insulting to the seller who often has a price range in mind that they’ll accept. If you aren’t even close to the lower end of that range, the offer probably won’t be considered.
  2. Incremental negotiations. Don’t continue to go back to the seller with small increases in your offer ($1,000 or less). The constant back-and-forth can grow tiresome and lead the seller to consider other opportunities.
  3. Take it or leave it. When you make a firm offer the seller can get defensive and consider other offers if you immediately show that you’re unwilling to budge. Even if you won’t negotiate, don’t show your hand.
  4. Being particular after an inspection. If a major issue is revealed, yes, that should be factored into the final sale price. But insisting on a lower price for every minor repair can put negotiations in a standstill.
  5. Asking for more, more, more: Some buyers will request that the sellers throw in add-ons like furniture or appliances that weren’t included in the listing.

The Bottom Line: Before beginning any negotiations, studies have shown that whoever has the most information has the most success on what they are bidding on as opposed to walking into something completely blind. If you have hired a good Realtor, he will be adept at understanding both the big picture and the little details of the home you want to buy. He should be able to read the market the home is in and know if the home you want is one that can be negotiated.

 

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Photos Can Sell A Home

Selling your home? A picture is worth a thousand words. Take photos that show off your home at its very best. It’s Spring, the temperature is fabulous, flowers are in bloom, the grass is green and now is a perfect time to sell your house. Get some good pictures!

Do your homework and find the best Realtor in your area. Have her give you staging tips. You should declutter, clean up, take down personal family photos, maybe even rent a storage unit.  Do a deep cleaning. Get rid of any pet smells in your carpet and window treatments.

Photos Inside: Natural light is best for photos. A camera flash can add shadows and reflect off of mirrors or windows. Open your blinds and turn the lights on. The earlier in the day, the better and especially on a sunny day. Notice of all the reflective objects in your home and be sure to thoroughly clean them. Dust, dirt, or streaks from poor cleaning can easily show up in the photographs. Wipe and refresh your refrigerator, bathroom faucets, and kitchen appliances like the microwave and oven.

Photos Outside: The best time of day for outdoors will be when the sun is behind you to minimize shadows, so, the time of day will depend on which way your home faces. Remove any cars from the driveway. Of course, make sure that your front yard is cleaned up, your lawn is mowed and all of the landscaping is trimmed back and tidy. The outside picture is usually the very first that a potential buyer will see to it must be presented in the very best condition.

Hide any garbage cans, lawn equipment, and any toys. They will distract from the pictures. Show off your patio or deck and open up the umbrella on your table. Throw some fresh outdoor pillows on any furniture to add color.

The Bottom Line: One of the biggest mistakes made is poor quality photos. If you have found the best Realtor, she should have a list of photographers that will come to your home. The average cell phone can’t get the most beautiful photos needed to sell your home. Using quality photos in real estate listings can make all the difference. Capture the best images possible by make your home look its best, using high-quality equipment and consideration of what potential buyers want to see.

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Finding The Best Neighborhood

Location. Location. Location. The best neighborhood will sell a home, Most Realtors will tell you. It also helps your home hold its value and makes it easy to sell when the time comes. If you have found the home of your dreams but don’t know much about the area it is in – how do you make the decision that the neighborhood that the home is the “right” neighborhood?

  • Research the Neighborhood Values Online: Because of the world wide web, anyone can find out any detail about anything and anyone. Become a private investigator! Discover all the information about a neighborhood using your internet skills. Use the MLS, Zillow, Redfin, and Trulia to name just a few to research the sales and rentals over the last few years. Learn the turnaround time of homes that have sold. Have your Realtor get the comparables. Fast home sales indicate a desirable neighborhood.
  • Research Crime Rates Online: Find the crime map that many cities use to display the types of crimes and the density in different areas.
  • Meet the Neighbors: If there is an area of town that you love, become its expert. Go to the local shops, restaurants, open houses, coffee shops and introduce yourself to people. People love to talk about where they live and the people who work in these establishments can give you all sorts of information.
  • Grab a Fancy Coffee: When you see coffee shops and upscale retail chains, it’s a sure sign that the neighborhood is on the up and up, if not already arrived. These establishments have done the research and open where the investment is worth.
  • Research the School District: Find the test scores of the neighborhood’s school system online or stop into the local high school. Home prices are usually higher where the test scores are hearty.
  • Home Values Hold: Again, hit the world wide web and find the historical sale prices in the county’s property tax records. If the neighborhood you love isn’t online, ask your Realtor for the sales trends.
  • Watch for the Red Flags: It’s not as hard as you think to discover a neighborhood on the decline. Look online for the number of short sales, foreclosures and drive around to see the number of vacant properties. Is there a highway being built too close to the neighborhood? A sure sign of decline.

The Bottom Line: Do you think you might move again within five to seven years? If you believe you may, you want to make sure your home will be marketable then. A good Realtor coupled with your private investigator online skills will be able to help you feel confident in the future of the area. Before even looking at homes, narrow down the neighborhoods. Find the community that meets all your needs AND will have homes that will hold their value.

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The Relationship Between a Title Agency and a Realtor

Resources

Title First Agency works hard to ensure a seamless experience for Realtors and their clients. From contract to closing, Title First handles all the details to help your transactions run smoothly and close on time.

Access to Property Information:

Title First Agency can help Realtors by getting the names, addresses and phone numbers for properties that their client are interested in buying. Maybe the buyer wants to find a home of a certain age or in a particular area – whatever it may be, a Title First Agent has the ability to access a lot of data and can find the information needed. Buyers often drive around neighborhoods that they want to live in and see the perfect home for their family. A Title First Agent can look up the information of who owns the home and how long they have been there at the exact address. This will enable the Realtor and the buyer to put together a homebuyers letter to owner.

Advertising and Marketing:

Title First can assist Realtors in promoting their business with our full line of marketing solutions. For your next listing, make a good first impression on potential clients and prospective buyers with a bound presentation of property information. We have the ability to help you design, print and mail your full-color glossy, postcards. Use our Net-to-Seller tool that will help estimate a client’s profit and present it in a professional format to be shared. Or, give our Title First Agent App a try to provide a higher level of service to your clients. This app will enable you to give quick and easy estimates to any real estate financial question. The app features net sheets, quick estimates, closing,costs, prorated taxes and much more. Finally, email us your MLS link, logo and personal photo and let us create a professional full-color info sheet for your listing.

Legal Expertise:

Title First Agency has experienced real estate lawyers who have worked many years through settlements and closings. It’s an invaluable asset to always have legal experts on hand with a good title company. The buyer, seller and you, the Realtor, can have peace of mind that purchases and end-to-end processes of closing on a property are performed seamlessly and on time.

The Bottom Line: At Title First Agency, we measure our success by your success. That’s why we offer a variety of services to help you grow your real estate business. Beyond the above listed services, the issuing of insurance, and performing title searches, we can manage the escrow account for the home sale. We safeguard all money and documents related to the transaction for the parties involved, such as the deed to the home, closing costs, earnest money deposit and the down payment.

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Overpricing Your Home to Put on the Market is A Mistake

When you’re deciding how much to list your home for, don’t make the common mistake of overpricing your home!

If you price your home too high the right buyers won’t even give it a look. Buyers are savvy now, they are able to do homework and find out what a home is worth. They’ve hired skilled Realtors that have gathered all the comps for the neighborhood. Price it too high and your home will sit on the market without interest or traffic and the longer it sits the more of a negative association will come with your home. Buyers automatically assume homes on the market a long time mean that there is something wrong. 

Look for a skilled Realtor that has been in the business a few years and that sells homes quickly. Basically, find a Realtor that does not need your business. You will find these are the agents that will give advice that will work, not advice that the seller wants to hear and fill you with false hope.

The Bottom Line: An overpriced home:

  • Gets fewer showings.
  • Attracts the wrong buyers. You’ve listed your home in a certain bracket now. Buyers looking in that bracket expect more and your home won’t have what they want, leaving your home to sit on the market.
  • Helps your competition. Your neighbor’s home, priced right, will look that much better sitting next door to yours with a bigger price tag.
  • Will have a negative perception. When you eventually lower the price it won’t have the same impact because it has been sitting on the market too long.
  • Will have online search problems. Screening homes online involves putting in certain criteria into a search to screen out unwanted homes. It may seem a small thing, but when you price your home too far above the comps, you remove yourself out of these searches.
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The Closing: The Final Step in a Real Estate Transaction

Buyers and Sellers

You’ve negotiated for the price you want and qualified for a mortgage, and now the only thing standing between you and your new home is the closing, where you’ll sign the paperwork finalizing the deal. But, what happens at a typical closing? Expect many people to be involved, such as your real estate closing attorney, the seller, real estate agents of both parties, and representatives of the title company and lender.

Closings generally take place at the title company that has issued the title policy for the home. This is a neutral place that has access to technology. Documents can be signed, emailed or faxed, and verified. During closing, ownership of a property is transferred from the seller to the buyer. All funds are distributed by the escrow company, and the new deed is registered in the buyer’s name. The buyer also has to bring a check for all of the mortgage and title fees accumulated along the way. A quick rundown:

  • The buyer’s lender provides a check for the amount owed toward the purchase price of the home.
  • The seller signs the deed over to the buyer and hands over the keys to the home. This officially transfers ownership to the buyer.
  • The title company will register the new deed with the appropriate government office and the record will show the buyer as the new homeowner
  • The seller receives any proceeds earned from the sale once their mortgage balance and closing costs have been paid in full.

Once the huge amount of paperwork is signed, everyone in the room will experience a sense of relief. The worst thing that could happen on the closing day is a delay to a future date due to lack of preparation.

The Bottom Line: A good, experienced Realtor, will have made sure that on the actual day of closing, you are prepared with all of your real estate closing documents, a government-issued photo identification, as well as your form of payment to cover the real estate closing cost. This will usually be in the form of a cashier’s check or a wire transfer, but also bring along a checkbook in case any unexpected fees come up.

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