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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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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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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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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Fall Home Selling

It’s always been said that Spring is the best time to put a home on the market to sell. But, Fall might just be a perfect time and often homes can sell faster at this time of year.

Buyers are more serious in the Fall. During the Spring months, there are many homes on the market giving buyers more time to look at them in great detail and be more particular. Once September arrives, there aren’t as many homes listed, the competition is less, and buyers are more rushed to buy, close and move in before the holidays and even Winter weather becomes an issue.

Curb appeal is still so important. Be sure to rake dead leaves and debris in your yard. If there is overgrown vegetation blocking windows, remove it and cut bushes and tree limbs. Put bright mums in pots at the front door and plant in gardens where it looks empty from pulling the dead Summer flowers. Leaves in gutters should be removed often.

The days are shorter, the sun sets lower and earlier in the horizon so be sure to turn the lights all over the home before a showing. Pull up the blinds, open the shutters, push back the drapes on every window.  Make sure each room is bright! Closet lights, appliance lights – anything to make the home shine! Many buyers want a showing after work so it will most likely be dark outside.

Be sure to have the furnace, boiler and even the fireplace checked.  Nothing would be worse than a cold Fall day and buyers come in only to discover that there are heating problems. Additionally, having a roaring fire in the fireplace might be just the ambiance needed for buyers to “see” themselves in the home.

Price the home to sell in the current market. A skilled Realtor will help set the price using the comps in the neighborhood coupled with the time of year – which does not necessarily mean the home should be priced lower, but priced right. The home might sit on the market longer as we head into the Holiday & Winter Season making it even harder to sell if it’s priced too high.

The Bottom Line:  There will be fewer showings when putting a home on the market to sell in the Fall. The good news is that the buyers that are looking are more serious and motivated. Most importantly, find a Realtor that has a great track record of selling homes, no matter the season. Do the homework, ask neighbors, friends and search online to find the most experienced Realtor.

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Starter Home Advice

The number one advantage to owning a home -the “American Dream” – is the opportunity to put money each month towards an asset that is building equity.  Begin with a “starter home” that is a worthwhile buy and you will be financially ready when the time comes to move to the “forever home”.

Realtors and lenders often recommend waiting at least five years before selling a starter home. The good news is there is always a constant demand for these homes and prices tend to rise as first time home buyers make up the biggest market.

Starter Home Advice

  • Don’t get emotional and fall in love with any one home. The heart always seems to rule the head when shopping for a home and too many times buyers end up living beyond their means.
  • Be content to compromise on location. If you work in a larger city, realize that the homes closer to town will be more expensive than a few miles farther out.  If you want a shorter commute, you might have to give up space for a home you can afford.
  • Realize that you will be selling the home you buy at some point and keep certain aspects in mind: the school district, the neighborhood, the condition of the homes on the street, zoning, development and anything else that would affect your home for resale.
  • If you are going to renovate and upgrade at all, know that you don’t want to put more money into the home then you will be able to get out of it.  A skilled Realtor will be able to go over the pros and cons and help you keep your emotions in check.

The Bottom Line:  Make sure you have the best Realtor in the area that you want to live that will be truthful with you. This is possibly the biggest purchase of your life. You will want to be sure this is the right time to buy a home – rushing and buying before you are ready can end up costing you more money. Have realistic expectations and focus on 5 years forward.

 

 

 

 

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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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Tips For A First Time Home Buyer

Purchasing a first home can be daunting. Here are a few tips that can help make the process a bit easier.

Location. Decide on this first to eliminate “buyers remorse” down the road.  Do the homework and research neighborhoods. School districts, local safety, and crime statistics can affect a home’s value. Even if you have found your “dream home”, the neighborhood could be completely wrong.  Drive through the neighborhood at different times of the day and night and watch the traffic, how are the streets and sidewalks? What are the neighbors like and how do they take care of their homes? Is the home close to places you might frequent (gym, grocery, schools)? Are there children playing safely outside?

Shop Online: Now that you know where you want to buy a home, there are plenty of online options to start the search. Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, and any local real estate agency.  Narrow down Realtors that you want to connect with by reading their online reviews, looking at their websites, social media platforms and googling. The Realtor you choose will be the expert you will rely on most. Interview several before settling on one.

Be Frugal: Zero in on homes that are listed for less than the amount of money you have been approved for. Many first time homebuyers don’t calculate the other monthly expenses or problems that go along with homeownership (broken appliances, etc).  Furthermore, other than the down payment, there will be money needed at closing.

Negotiate: This is where having the best Realtor will come in beautifully. Once you make an offer, the seller might come back with a counteroffer and after discussion of the pros and cons with your Realtor, you will know if you should offer more or walk away. Keep your emotions out of the entire process. Too many people pay too much for a home because they have “fallen in love” and this type of emotion can lead to very bad financial decisions.

Do an Exhaustive Inspection: Do the homework and find the very best Home Inspection Company with the top ratings. Be there with the inspector and learn about the home, ask questions – you need to know that the home you are purchasing is structurally sound.  See the good and the bad – what repairs will be needed? Is the electric adequate for today’s use? How are the water pipes, heating, and air conditioning systems?  When the inspection is complete, get a verbal and a written report. Bonus – the company will be available at a later date for more questions.

The Bottom Line: The above tips are just a few important ones to help navigate the process, save money and avoid common mistakes.  Find a Realtor. While it’s easy to go through online homes and narrow down what you want, it’s not so easy to get from that point to the closing. There is the transfer of the deed, title search, negotiating, asking for “extras” that you might be entitled to, completing all paperwork and being the single point of contact with the seller.

 

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