Are You Ready For Your Interior Home Inspection?

It’s in a seller’s best interest to make sure their home is as ready as possible for inspection. All homes that have been lived in usually have a bit of damage from simply living in it.  After your home has been on the market and someone is interested in buying it, you have to pass the inspection.  Home inspection seems nerve-wracking but they are necessary before any sale. There are a few things you can do to be prepared for the day when the interior of your home is being inspected. 

Heating, Cooling, Water Heater: Each should have a date of their last inspection on them. If not, they could be flagged by the inspector.  If you can’t find a sticker, have your Realtor give you the name of a licensed contractor to come to have a look to see if any repairs or changes should be made and make sure all are running properly. 

Bathrooms: How is the grout in the shower, around the sink and in the tub looking? This one is an easy remedy if you see any cracks – match the grout color and fill in the damaged areas.  Make sure any pipe work that was performed meets legal standards and guidelines. For example: If you put in your own custom shower, note that the inspector will check below the surface to make sure that the membrane was installed properly and there isn’t water leaking below the shower that could damage the sub-floor and drywall.  The inspector will flush all the toilets and listen for any leaking sounds. Often you will just need a flapper valve if you hear a sound.  Cheap fix. 

Electrical: Test your outlets. For as little as $10, an outlet tester can be picked up at a home improvement store. An inspector will try every single one in your home. Be sure the cover plates are not cracked – another cheap and easy fix.  Every light fixture should have a working bulb and your smoke detector should work. 

Plumbing: Fill all your sinks part of the way and then pull the plug to see if they drain normally. Did it take a long time to fill the sink? It might be because you have low water pressure and is often a really easy fix. Occasionally, this could be an indication of a bigger problem within your plumbing system. It’s best, at that point, to hire a professional to come to see before an inspector. Check inside cabinets under sinks for moisture or around the valves.

Kitchen Appliances: Repair any that may need to be fixed as the inspector will run the dishwasher, the stove, oven, garbage disposal, vents, and fans. If you bought a new appliance while you lived in the home and installed it yourself, mistakes may have been made during setup. Check the water and drainage lines from a new dishwasher or refridgerator

Windows & Doors: Each window should be able to open, close and lock. If you find any hard movement, it can be easily fixed using spray silicone from the hardware store. Repair any caulking around the doors and make sure all the knobs/deadbolts are working properly. 

The Bottom Line: This is just a quick checklist of some of the things that you, as a homeowner, can look for and fix before an inspection inside your home.  Some of the issues may need the help of a professional.  The best advice we have heard is if you want the inspection to go smoothly, have your home inspected before it even goes on the market. This way, anything you can’t fix yourself, you will have time to find a reasonably priced contractor instead of rushing and paying top dollar after the fact. 

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Facebook Can Sell Your Home

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Take advantage of Facebook to sell your home — and be certain that the  Realtor you choose is social media savvy. The Facebook universe is voluntarily giving up its demographic information daily and 1.5 billion members can be directly reached. 

Video: Currently Facebook is fond of videos versus still images, which means the powers-that-be are at work with the algorithms of the platform that make the decision as to what a user will see on their newsfeeds, and video is at the top right now. Giving a tour of your home either live or prerecorded focusing on the best selling points of your home should be one of the first things posted. Invest in a photographer/videographer, it will pay off in the end.

Photos: Hiring that photographer/videographer will come in handy for these. People love pictures. Plain texts on Facebook rarely get the views that a post with a beautiful photo gets. Take advantage of the fact that social media users are visual beings and are attracted to properties they see while casually scrolling through Facebook. 

Post with a link within the text: In other words, put up one of your beautiful photos, with a short, well-worded text and the link at the end to click. Facebook wants us to stay on its platform and not navigate away. If the picture is the link to the MLS listing, the weight for the algorithm will be weighed much lower and miss newsfeeds. 

Facebook ads: Put aside a little money beyond the costs of advertising in your local classifieds, and consider buying a Facebook ad that goes to a web page showcasing your home.  The precision is incredible – you can target users according to various criteria, including location, gender, age, education, workplace, etc. Best of all? You don’t need to spend a lot of money on an ad. Start low – even just $5. 

The Bottom Line: Embrace Facebook for home selling. Over 90% of homebuyers start their hunt online and they will never even get in the car to go see a home for sale if the online presentation is not compelling. Write posts about what made YOU buy the home. Make the posts personal and detailed. Facebook’s ability to target posts and ads to your core demographics are invaluable.  69% of Realtors use Facebook because it works. Find that Realtor


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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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Title Insurance on New Construction Home

Most people know how important it is to have title insurance when buying a new home. The buyer needs to have protection against defects or problems because of liens, encumbrances or defects in the title when there is a transfer of property ownership.  But, what if the home being sold is new construction since there isn’t an actual previous home that has a title? 

When a home is sold, the original seller transfers the title deed to the buyer. The hope is that the seller has had full possession of the title without any liens on the property and has the right to sell it. A title company will research public records looking for problems that might be associated with the property – filing errors, forgeries, undisclosed heirs – and once searhed will provide a poliy to protect the buyer from an issues that may be uncovered later.

All of the above makes sense if a home that is being bought has been owned by someone else. What happens when a buyer is purchasing the land to build a new house on? Why would title insurance be needed? Because the land was owned and may have been broken up from an even larger parcel that has undiscovered claims. The title to that land may come into dispute in years to come. Most land is not completely claim-free, thus there is history. Furthermore, the builder may have bills unpaid to subcontractors and suppliers resulting in a lien on the new home. 

A title policy is the best and safest way in protecting the buyer of the land that the new home is being built on.  There will be no question of ownership in the future, especially if the home in the new subdivision was not properly subdivided. 

The Bottom Line: The lender will want to be sure that there is a clear title on the property.  Someone owned the land on which the new home is being built before the buyer and the title to that land may at some point come into dispute. And, while there is no question the owners could experience disruption during a dispute, the title insurance will ease the pain by covering the bills during the process. 

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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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