The Daily Scoop! Blog by™ Real Estate

When you've got to buy a house from across the country, start with a winning strategy.

Searching for a house locally is not without its difficulties. Add hundreds or even thousands of miles to the equation, and it becomes infinitely more complicated.

Though long-distance house hunting has its unique challenges, it’s not impossible. In fact, with the right agent and the convenience of modern technology, it’s never been easier to buy a house remotely.

Here are a few critical factors to keep in mind when you find yourself in a home search from afar.

Do your homework

When it comes to long-distance home shopping, “the Internet is your friend,” remarks Meghann Shike of Synergy Realty in Nashville. “You know the neighborhoods you live around, but you know nothing about your new one. You don’t know where the mall is, the [grocery store], or the schools.”

Though nothing can substitute checking out the neighborhood in person, Shike recommends looking up commute times to work, crime rates in the area, and, most importantly, how the schools rank. Even if you don’t have children or don’t plan to have children, it’s still good to know the quality of the schools for resale purposes.

One of the biggest pieces of the long-distance house-hunting puzzle, however, is to make sure you’re researching who the best local real estate agents are. It’s always crucial to hire an agent you trust, but with a long-distance search the agent can make or break the experience.

“You’re going to want someone local on the ground — someone who is very familiar with the city, neighborhood, and prices,” Shike says. “You need to get a feel for how that person operates. Are they available to talk to you? You’re going to have more questions than you realize, and your agent is going to need to be there to answer them.”

Have a travel budget

When Kyle and Samantha Steele found out they were going to be moving from Oklahoma City to Columbus, OH for Kyle’s new job, the couple looked at listings online, got in touch with real estate agents, and picked an upcoming weekend to house hunt in person.

The Steeles’ agent showed them multiple houses, but nothing was quite right. Then they found out that many of the older neighborhoods in the area didn’t have great access to high-speed Internet. That’s when they decided to build.

Their agent was instrumental in guiding them on their short house-hunting weekend, and in finding a builder. “[Our agent] basically helped us with everything, every step of the way,” Kyle states. “When we couldn’t find anything, she helped us find model homes in the area we’re building in, and showed us three different model homes. She answered questions, and helped us find the building company. She even helped us find a hotel for the weekend.”

Inevitably, unexpected appointments came up during the building process that required one of the Steeles to be present. “We had to make an appointment to meet with the design studio to pick out the floors and the carpet,” Samantha remarks. “So far, I’ve been to Ohio twice.”

The couple advises long-distance house hunters to prepare and plan ahead, especially for last-minute travel. “Be flexible,” Kyle says. “Make sure you have a few thousand dollars in reserve that you can spend on plane tickets and a hotel — because you will have to go back and forth.”

From the agent perspective, Shike recommends planning a house-hunting trip that’s at least four to five days long, so you’re not cramming in tons of showings that you won’t remember at the end of the day.

Know what you want

When you’re in the market for a home, you should always have a running list of features you want, but it’s especially crucial when you’re buying from a distance.

“I like to tell my clients to do a ‘top five.'” Shike says. “What’s your non-negotiable? Is it being able to step out the front door to walk your dogs? Do you want to walk your kids to school?”

Knowing exactly what you want out of a house and location allows your agent to help you narrow down neighborhoods and homes more easily, and assist you in making an offer quickly, which is especially important in a fast-moving market.

“Buyers need to get over the fear of writing an offer when they haven’t seen the house in person,” remarks Shike. “I can video chat our way through the house, but I can’t get you on a plane [to get here] in the same time the local people can who are shopping.”

Overcome remote home-buyer jitters

For those buyers who are nervous about making an offer sight unseen, Shike says there is the possibility of adding a clause in the contract that the sale is contingent on the buyer seeing it.

Of course, there is also always the option of renting first before you take the plunge. “You could rent for the short term or get a six-month lease, which is enough time to get settled in your job or routine,” recommends Shike. “That can be nice for buyers who are a little more anxious about the process — to relieve that anxiety.”

Overall, buying a house from a distance shouldn’t necessarily be looked at as a negative experience. In fact, Shike believes it can give many shoppers new opportunities, and buyers are often more excited when purchasing long distance.

“It can be a nice change of pace for people,” Shike adds. “Another benefit to moving long distance is a fresh start: a new neighborhood, new culture, new people, and new experiences everywhere.”

To view the original article click here             Apply to Buy a Home             Apply to Refinance

Posted by Jackie Graves, President on March 14th, 2018 5:39 AM

Get maximum improvement for minimum cash with these tips for transforming your home’s exterior.

A polished home exterior makes for an inviting experience for any visitor or passersby, which is especially important if your home is on the market.

All sellers should focus on exterior home improvements, says Tallahassee-based realtor Joe Manausa of Joe Manausa Real Estate. “Buyers are searching for homes online, and the exterior picture of your home will be the most likely culprit for somebody to reject your home,” he notes.

Check out our tips to get the most curb appeal for the lowest cost — while turning your neighbors’ heads and getting prospective buyers to your door.

Clean up

Sometimes the most obvious way to enhance curb appeal is simply dedicating a weekend to deep cleaning the exterior of your home.

shutterstock_123204070Photo from Shutterstock.

Sure, you’ll want to trim bushes, sweep, and mow your lawn, but there’s so much more to curb appeal than keeping a tidy front yard. Turn the nozzle on your garden hose to the strongest setting and clean off your driveway, sidewalk, windows, and fence.

If dirt and grime is really caked on your home’s exterior, you can rent a power washer for around $50 to $75 a day — but steer clear of any area with caulking, like windows and doors, as you can strip some of the sealing. And as tempting as it may be to power wash your roof, you may want to hold off to avoid damaging the shingles’ coating.

Spraying off your windows with a garden hose isn’t enough to make them spic and span, however. For maximum sparkle, clean your windows outside and inside. Instead of relying on a glass cleaner, try a mix of detergent diluted in warm water.

Add shutters


Photo from Zillow listing.


An easy way to accentuate the size of your windows is to add shutters. Not only does it make your windows look larger, but it adds visual interest by disrupting a bland exterior wall. Choose a color that contrasts with the color of your home to make it pop for maximum curb appeal.

Paint accent areas

Paint is a quick and easy curb appeal-booster. Instead of painting the entire exterior of your home, focus your attention on the trim, door, and shutters.

You can typically find a gallon of exterior paint for $20 to $30 a gallon. But before slapping on that paint, consider exterior color scheme trends, while keeping in mind your home’s natural style.

Give your door a face lift

If you’re not in love with your front door, you don’t need to dish out loads of money to replace it. Think beyond paint and consider also adding molding, which offers a decorative frame for your door, welcoming visitors while serving as a grand entrance.

You can also glam up your door by adding metal house numbers, which you can find for as low as $5 a number. Manausa also suggests adding a wreath or seasonal decorations to your door as a bonus.

house numberPhoto from Zillow listing.

Replace your house numbers

If you’d rather not add house numbers to your freshly painted door, here are some alternative DIY ideas:

  • Paint a terra-cotta planter with your house number and place it by your doorstep.
  • Add house numbers to a post planter near your front porch.
  • Make use of your front porch stair riser’s real estate by hanging or painting numbers there.

Update your light fixtures

Replacing your exterior light fixtures is another curb appeal must. You can usually find outdoor sconces for around $20 at home centers. Just make sure your new light fixtures have the same mounting system. And if you want to save on lighting, a fresh finish can do wonders. Try spray-painting them — a can of spray paint costs around $10.

Be deliberate about porch furniture

Manausa advises homeowners to limit their use of personal decor and furniture. Just as you would aim to simplify the interior of your home when your house is on the market, the exterior of your home should allow prospective buyers to envision their style in the space. in:Education and tagged: Real EstateUpgradingHomeownerRenovationHome Improvements

Posted by Jackie Graves, President on March 12th, 2018 8:38 AM

What Is a Short Sale?

When you owe more on your home than it’s worth and you need to sell, the transaction in which you will sell your property is called a short sale. You need your lender’s approval to do a short sale because they’ll be accepting less than they’re owed at closing. There are many reasons homeowners opt for a short sale, but one of the most common is to avoid going into foreclosure.

If you’re a buyer, a short sale can enable you to buy a property at a discount because the seller is distressed and has fewer options. But you’ll need to be patient because buying a property in a short sale may take some time. Let’s review more details about how short sales work for sellers and buyers.

How Do Short Sales Work for Sellers?

Short sales are an option for homeowners who are underwater on their mortgage to sell their property, and to avoid going into foreclosure. For many distressed homeowners, short sales are an alternative to foreclosure. Here are the steps sellers need to take in order to sell their properties in short sales:

  1. Provide proof of hardship: When you owe more than your home will sell for, you can’t just list your home to start. You first need to provide proof of hardship to your lender. The two most accepted hardship cases are proof that lower income has made your home unaffordable, or that you’re subject to a mandatory job relocation. When reviewing your hardship case, your lender will analyze your income and assets. If your debt-to-income ratio has risen, it will help your short sale approval. If you have money saved, they’ll require that you contribute these funds to minimize their loan payoff loss. You will also need to provide a market analysis as well as indicate any liens on your property.
  2. List your property: Once the lender has approved the short sale, you can list your property with a real estate agent. You’ll need to present any offers to the lender for approval. This process can take two weeks to several months. If you have a second mortgage, both lenders must approve each other’s terms, making the process longer.
  3. Lenders approve the sale of the property: The lenders will review the buyer’s offer and decide if they will approve the sale. Once approved by the lenders, the short sale can close as soon as the buyer can get their loan approved, funded and closed.

What Happens After Closing for the Seller

Typically, your credit score will drop by 75 to 200 points after selling your property in a short sale, which is less severe than a foreclosure. (Experts estimate that a foreclosure will lead to a dip in your credit score of about 200 or 300 points). Lenders often won’t consider a short sale approval for your property until you’re two to three months behind on your payments. This means your credit score drop will be at the higher end of the range if this is the case. The rest of the drop will depend on whether the lender reports the short sale as “settled” debt or “paid” debt. You should try to negotiate for the latter, but the former is more common, and hits your credit score harder.

The short sale will stay on your credit report for seven years, but you can finance a new home purchase within one to four years of a short sale depending on credit score, loan type and down payment. Again, a foreclosure is even more severe. With a foreclosure, that time ranges from three to seven years. Ask your lender to advise on options. Prior to the housing crisis, the lender’s loss was taxed as income for the seller, but now short sellers have no tax liability.

How Do Short Sales Work for Buyers?

Buying a short sale property can allow buyers to purchase a home at a discount, but the downside is that the transaction can take significantly longer than the sale of a property that is not a short sale. Here are the steps a buyer needs to take in order to purchase a property in a short sale:

  1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage: Buying a short sale property begins the same way as buying any other home: get pre-approved by a lender. They will tell you how much you can afford, how much cash you need, and what your monthly costs will be.
  2. Shop for properties: If you find a short sale property that you want to purchase, you must work with your real estate agent to identify how much the seller owes, how many loans they have, and whether they’ve been approved by their lender(s) for a short sale.
  3. Make the offer: Making an offer on a short sale is the same as offering on any other property. However, it may take more time, so be patient. You work with your agent to identify fair market value based on recently sold comparable homes nearby, and write your offer price accordingly.

Locking in Your Rate

Locking in a rate for a short sale property can be tricky. The short seller’s lender will often require that you make a loan application with them to ensure you’re qualified, but that lender cannot require you to use them. Most rate locks are only for 30 to 60 days, but the seller’s lender can take months to review and approve your offer. As such, you won’t be able to lock your rate right away, so ask your lender to brief you on the rate outlook and what it might mean for your final terms and costs.

Moving the Sale Forward

While waiting to lock, you’ll need to advance the loan process for purchasing the property. Appraise and inspect the property as your lender requires, because the seller’s lender may also require these reports. And of course, you’ll need to be patient. Taking these steps ensures that when the seller’s lender has finally approved the short sale, your loan will be mostly done and you’ll be able to close quickly. Short sales are known for taking more time than usual to complete, so it’s a good idea to do everything you can on your end. Your lender and real estate agent should be very familiar with short sales, and they can help you understand all the steps you need to take for the short sale transaction.

To view the original article click here         Apply to Buy a Home             Apply to Refinance

Posted by Jackie Graves, President on March 7th, 2018 6:57 AM

2018 is going to be your home's cleanest, most organized year yet.

Here’s an easy way to get on top of your home maintenance checklist in the new year: Take it one small chunk at a time!

Little steps add up to big results. And if you dedicate some time to home maintenance — two hours a week, an afternoon per month and a couple of days a year — your home will remain in tiptop shape this year.

Here’s our easy-to-follow checklist:

Weekly home maintenance

Your weekly home maintenance ritual will be largely determined by the features of your home, but may include some of the following tasks:

  • Give all your carpets a thorough vacuuming. Or, if you have hardwood floors, give them a good once-over with a large dust-mop.
  • Plan to spend 30 minutes performing one small maintenance task in your yard, such as pruning a tree or shrub, painting a mailbox, or blowing leaves and debris from a garden path or sidewalk.
  • Do some bathroom maintenance. Again, we’re talking about biting things off in small chunks here! Some examples:
    • Pick a drain used by a person with long hair, and clean it out with a Zip-It tool.
    • Spend some time repairing damaged tile grout in a shower or tub.
    • Clean the mineral sediment out of a showerhead.
  • Freshen up your garbage disposal. Run a tray of ice cubes through it, along with some baking soda or lemon rinds, and voila! It’ll be clean and fresh again.
  • Clean the outside of all appliances and the inside of one appliance per week. For instance, if you clean out the refrigerator this week, run a cleaning tablet through your dishwasher next week, and wipe out your dryer the following week.

Monthly home maintenance

These are the projects we all know we should do regularly but often don’t get to. Just pick an afternoon, and go for it!

  • Clean the range hood and filter. This is one of those areas that we often forget about, but if you don’t take care of it on a regular basis, it will become unmanageably greasy and dirty over time.
  • Clean the furnace filter, and replace it if needed. This will help your furnace run efficiently, keeping utility bills down.
  • Polish wood furniture, dust light fixtures and wipe down baseboards.
  • Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they’re functioning and don’t need new batteries. If you have a fire extinguisher, make sure it’s fully charged.
  • Visually inspect the outside of your home for problems or issues, such as loose shingles, damaged siding, insect nests, or overgrown trees or shrubbery. Make a note to correct the problems!

Yearly home maintenance

Schedule these tasks in a way that makes sense to you. You can do them on a seasonal basis or just schedule one or two days per year to knock everything out.

Here are some bigger tasks to take on once a year:

  • Clean and organize your garage, basement or attic. This is a maintenance task that everyone dreads doing, but it feels so good once it’s done! Plus, you’ll most likely discover some forgotten treasures to either donate to charity or sell online.
  • Wash windows and window screens, and let the sunshine in! While this task is often done in the spring, you can do it any time of the year.
  • Take on one major outdoor improvement project per year, and schedule a day or two to complete it. For example, you might want to install a fence, refinish a large deck, patch up an asphalt or concrete driveway, or install raised garden beds.
  • Clean out gutters, check under the eaves, remove trees or shrubbery that are encroaching on your home, and install wire grates in any holes to keep pests out.
  • Freshen up one room in your home. Pick any room, and give it a mini makeover. For instance, you can repaint it, switch curtains, move the furniture, and add plants and knickknacks to give it a whole new look. If you do this with one room per year, in a few years, your whole home will look terrific!

By following this easy checklist, you can have a wonderfully maintained home with a minimal investment of time and energy.

To view the original article click here

Posted by Jackie Graves, President on February 23rd, 2018 6:54 AM

Buyers who aren't paying cash for a house aren't necessarily out of luck. Here's how you can gain an edge over cash buyers.

Buyers making a cash offer on a house are active in many markets, and they can strike fear in new buyers who are bidding on a home. Cash home buyers can perform and close quickly and provide sellers with a sense of comfort.

But does this mean a solid buyer putting down 20 percent or more shouldn’t attempt to compete with cash home buyers? Absolutely not.

What if you can’t make a cash offer on a house?

The truth is, a buyer getting a mortgage can still compete against cash home buyers and win.

These are the questions that can make the difference:

  • Do you have a 20-percent down payment?
  • Are you well employed?
  • Do you have cash reserves in addition to your down payment?
  • Do you have very little debt?
  • Do you have good credit?

If you answered yes to most or all of these questions, your purchase should be as bulletproof as a cash home buyer’s.

Paying cash for a house doesn’t guarantee a buyer will win over the seller. Well-qualified buyers who put in a little extra effort can seal the deal.

How can you compete against cash home buyers?

  • Be up front about your finances. Make your competitive offer as strong as cash by providing the seller the confidence they need to accept your offer. In addition to a pre-approval letter from your lender, be open to allowing your agent or lender to provide financial information with your offer. Tell them what you make, and how much money you have in the bank. Show bank statements and even a copy of your credit report. Overload the seller to show them that you’re as solid as the cash buyer.
  • Ask your lender to get a head start on the mortgage. See if your mortgage professional can move the process along sooner. Send the lender a copy of the preliminary title report, if available. If you’re buying a condo, find out if a condo questionnaire is available and give it to your lender. If you take any of these steps, let the seller know. Of course, if you have not already, provide the necessary financial documentation to your lender right away.
  • Shorten the loan and appraisal contingencies. Ask your lender how quickly they can send an appraiser to the property, and how long the loan would take to turn around. In some parts of the country, loans are being approved in less than 14 days — sometimes even 10.
  • Pre-order an appraisal. This may not be as easy with a bigger bank. But smaller banks, direct lenders or mortgage brokers can line up the appraisal in advance. At the time your offer is written, tell the seller the appraisal has already been ordered. If you can get the appraiser out within 24-48 hours of coming to terms with the seller, it’s half the battle.
  • Inspect quickly. Along with the quick appraisal and loan contingencies, get your inspector in and out. Shelling out a few hundred dollars and getting the inspections done within days of having your offer accepted shows the seller you mean business. It also gives them comfort that they’ll get over the biggest hurdle quickly.
  • Overpay. Cash buyers nearly always expect a discount from the seller simply because they’re offering cash and are a sure thing. As a result, the cash buyer will often make a lower offer. To increase your chances, top the cash offer, even if means paying a little more than you think the home is worth. If a seller is faced with a few thousand dollars’ difference, the seller probably wouldn’t risk it. But what if your offer is five percent higher than the cash buyer’s? The seller, perhaps wanting the best of both worlds, may ask the cash buyer to raise his or her offer. Some cash buyers will offer more, but not always enough to match. If you plan to live in the house for many years and it’s the home of your dreams, paying a little more to get the deal might only translate into $20 per month over the course of a long-term mortgage.
  • Make yourself known to the seller. Some buyers write “love letters” to sellers, hoping to appeal to their personal side. Does this work? Sometimes! If you’re competing with a cash buyer, particularly an investor who plans to rent the home out, it can’t hurt to get a little personal with your real estate offer letter. The seller almost always wants to know more about the potential buyer. Ask your agent to write a cover letter and an introduction. Let the seller know who you are, why you like the home and what your intentions are.

Do the best you can and be realistic. Make sure your financial “‘house” is in order. Work with a good local real estate agent, and start working with a local mortgage professional well in advance. Structure your offer to show that you’re ready to roll.

To view the original article click here

Posted by Jackie Graves, President on February 22nd, 2018 9:35 AM

Once you decide that this Spring you want to buy a new home — or your first house — the question is, "Where do we start?"

The answer lies in two sets of decisions:

#1. Start With Success: Begin by deciding what success means to you. Clarify what you really want and why, not just what's "in" right now. Explore this practical side before viewing properties. What matters is not the number of homes you see, but zeroing in on genuine good matches. For instance, a couple who wanted to add a mortgage-paying basement suite to their next home, decided to search for houses with an existing basement bathroom since this would be the most expensive part of creating a rental unit.

#2. Who's "We"?: The other essential to a good start is to decide who "we" is going to be:

  • Will friends or family come along to share their construction or real estate ownership expertise?

  • Will you have a contractor on-call to provide renovation-cost estimates to back up your offer price?

  • Who will you select as your local real estate professional to be sure you see all the best matches without being dragged through definite "nos." For instance, a condominium specialist may not be the best match if you are intent on a detached house with rental suite potential. How much do you need to learn about real estate before you will be comfortable when it's time to sign on the dotted line? If you have a steep learning curve, you'll benefit from a real estate profession who is well equipped to inform as well as provide access to the best-fit real estate. Then there's the professional negotiation skills you'll want to tap into.

If you want to buy this Spring, when should you start?: How quickly you can find a home to buy and move into it depends on many factors:

  • The transition from searching for an ideal property to moving in can be condensed into a few weeks. This is often the pace for corporate relocation. Frenzied decision-making may not generate the best long-term results unless you are ultra-prepared and an experienced real estate buyer.

  • At the other extreme, stretching the search for that "perfect forever home" over many seasons or even years may work for those who want a specific location or type of property and are not displeased enough with their current home to accelerate the process.

Somewhere in between those extremes lies your ideal time line:

  • Buying within a market cycle, enables your real estate professional to identify specific properties that present the best return in that buyers', sellers', or flat market.

  • If you have a busy work and personal life, carving out time to consider listings, view properties, explore neighborhoods, investigate financing, and deal with all related details can be a stressful juggling act. Your priorities coupled with how quickly new listings sell will determine how you prioritize your home search. Consider how well you make major decisions when under stress.

  • When the goal is to enroll children at the start of school year or to arrive at a new job on time, back calculating with your real estate professional will reveal when the search should begin. When in doubt, start sooner, so you don't end up faced with time-pressured decisions.

  • Hot real estate markets are the hardest to plan timing in. You may be eager to purchase, but lose out on property after property in multiple offers. Decide what your worst-case scenario would be and act accordingly.

  • Waiting for your local real estate market to change gears so prices drop is risky. Timing the real estate market is no easier than timing the stock market. The best advantage in any market lies in selecting ighly-knowledgeable, experienced professionals fully committed to working with your best interests as their top priority.

  • You may not be 100% certain this is the Spring for you to plunge into the market, but if you're more sure than not sure, invest time finding the right professionals. If the timing is not right for you, that will become evident and you'll discover what your options are and why.

Real estate professionals, committed to understanding market pace in areas they work, can help you manage timing. One thing they may suggest, is not to wait for the Spring Market, but to get ahead of the mass of spring buyers and jump into real estate now. For instance, sellers who are listed now are serious about selling and, depending how long their property has been on the market, they may be more receptive to negotiation.

Whether you decide to wait until Spring or jump in now, here are Five Savvy Buying Tips that ensure you'll get the best property for your needs, at the best price, with the minimum amount of hassle and disappointment:

#1. Apply Smart Buying Rules: If you consider yourself a smart buyer when purchasing a car, a phone, or travel, apply that savvy to buying real estate. Understand what you need and why. Set a realistic budget. Learn how things work. With all these issues, the right professional should save you time, stress, and money.

#2. Ensure Location Overrules Features & Decor: Real estate is an immoveable object. That reality dictates that where you buy is the prime value concern. Smart buyers look for the least property in the best area, so their real estate improvements result in increased market value. Values within a neighborhood or community are not uniform. There are specific streets, even ends of streets, that represent the highest local value just as boundary streets and other locations may represent lower prices. Particularly in urban areas, proximity to the most highly-regarded schools, popular shopping areas, and sought-after local features like parks dictates price, as your real estate professional will explain.

#3. Maximize Move-In Timing: The more flexible your move-in date, the more room to negotiate with sellers. Agree to their ideal move date and that may generate concessions in price or inclusions. When you have a fixed move-in date, you may find yourself paying more to buy what you want, when you want it. Timing is a significant consideration when deciding whether to buy your next home before you have sold your current property, that is, taking the risk of paying on two mortgages at once. Since the market where you are selling may be different from that where you want to buy, timing decisions should involve the experience of a real estate professional or two.

#4. Own The Money Factor: Affordability encompasses costs ranging from purchase price (including legal fees and other costs), mortgage financing, and the cost of customizing the living space to including ongoing expenses like heating, cooling, commuting, and anything else that matters. With mortgage rates on the rise, reducing consumer (car) loans and credit card debt may open up borrowing room. Mortgage professionals can help you shop a wider range of lenders. These money experts can also explain why there is so much more to consider than just interest rate.

#5. Face Reality Head On: Compromises to your "must have" list can maximize value and returns.

  • You may want four bedrooms, but if two younger children share a large room until the eldest child goes to college, maybe that 3-bedroom with significantly-better location and greater appreciation potential will really work for your family.

  • If cosmetic or minor renovations don't daunt you, this could also provide a location advantage and may even mean a larger home is affordable.

  • Compromising on location can also mean more living space, just be sure that commuting costs, including needing an extra car and possible lower appreciation rates, don't swallow up that saving.

  • Your buying perspective is also an important consideration. Do you expect to stay until a second child appears or until all the kids finish school or are you in for the long haul? Shopping for a "forever home" is a popular approach. Just take care that projections are fact based and not fantasy that leaves you buying more home than you can comfortably afford in a rising interest-rate world.

Most people have more real estate choices than they realize. Are you sure you want to wait for Spring to get started?

To view the original article click here

Posted by Jackie Graves, President on February 20th, 2018 6:49 AM

If you dread the negotiating process when buying a home, never fear. Your real estate agent is an experienced negotiator who helps keep the bargaining from becoming emotional and veering off track.


Your agent must know your desires by heart and have quick access to you if a negotiation point needs to be made. It's important to stick to the strategy you and your agent have agreed upon -- showing the seller how strong your offer is.


First, get preapproved for a mortgage loan. That means your mortgage lender has reviewed your credit history and assets, checked employment and income, examined your debt-to-income ratios, and has preapproved you for a certain amount, terms and interest rate so you know exactly how much you can spend.


Being preapproved shows sellers that you are prepared and able to buy. Before you submit an offer, ask your agent to find out more what the seller wants as far as terms. The more your offer matches up with the seller's requests, such as a closing date, the more likely your offer will be accepted.


Find out when the house will be vacated, if any repairs or improvements are planned, and if the seller has any pressure points such as a relocation deadline. Also, you'll want to review the seller's disclosure of the condition of the property.


Your agent must also find out if other offers are on the table. Your position is stronger if there are no other offers. The seller may be less likely to bend on price concessions or repairs if there are other offers.


Have your agent pull up the most recent CMA (comparable homes recently sold or on the market) within a reasonable radius of the home, so you can sculpt your offer price. Be sure that you are comparing apples to apples in terms of updates, size of the home, amenities, location, schools districts, etc.


Once these steps are made, you are ready to write an offer.


Making the offer


Make yourself think like the seller. It helps you anticipate what the seller will accept in price, terms, and other conditions. By considering the seller's position, you will likely create an offer that is either accepted or strongly considered.


Your offer should be clear on the terms, closing dates, repair requests or other conditions the seller needs to meet and it should be accompanied by a letter from your lender that you are preapproved to buy the seller's home. Include a cover letter summarizing your strengths as a buyer in terms of creditworthiness, flexibility in closing, and the strength of the offer.



Don't insult the seller with an offer that's too low or requires too many concessions. The seller may be nostalgic about his or her life in the house and may not like the idea that you want to remodel.


The only thing a seller can't argue with is a strong set of comparables that show the home is overpriced or out of date. These are homes that have sold that are nearby (within two blocks) and similar in age, size and features. If you can show that a similar home has sold within the last two months for less than the seller is asking, that's good.


Be sure all conditions, repairs, etc. are agreed to in writing. Some sellers may feel that a handshake covers a promise, but it's essential to be clear on paper what is expected and when. A seller's promise to paint should be included as an addendum to the contract and include all details, such as primer, exact color and type of paint, how many coats, and when the work will be finished for inspection.


Negotiating after inspections


The offer is negotiated and accepted, the earnest money is at the escrow agent's office. Now the inspections occur, and this is where the contract negotiations can break down.


No home is perfect, not even brand-new construction. During the inspection process, the inspector is usually required to tell you about any condition of appliances, heating and cooling systems, roofs, electrical and plumbing systems, etc, and if your future home is up to current city codes.


Sellers are usually not required to bring a house completely up to current local building codes. Negotiate a repair only when a system is unsafe or a major repair is needed to make the system operate effectively.


As long as the seller has a reasonable explanation of what your position is and why, and communication remains open, the seller should have as much desire to make the contract work as you do.


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Posted by Jackie Graves, President on February 19th, 2018 6:42 AM

Whether you’re in the market for a new home or selling the one you own now, chances are you’ll want a real estate agent to help you navigate the process.

Listing agents help you market and sell your home, while selling agents help you find and buy one. And while their titles might sound similar, their roles in the transaction are quite different.

If you’re serious about buying or selling a home, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the role each type of agent plays, and the advantages of having one in your corner.

What is a listing agent?

A listing agent represents the seller in a real estate sale. Their job is to set a competitive price for the home and then bring in potential buyers to see it. While it’s certainly possible to sell a house yourself, working with a listing agent gives you access to their knowledge of the local housing market. They have the most current and detailed information on the sales of comparable properties in your neighborhood, which allows them to price your home competitively.

Once you’ve set a price, listing agents actively market the property. They’ll help stage and style the home to present it in its best light, and even will hire professional photographers to take high quality pictures of your home looking its best. Listing agents not only show the home and hold open houses, but they help evaluate potential buyers to, ensuring that you, their client, receive only serious offers.

Looking for a great mortgage rate? Check out these mortgage offers.

When an offer is received, the listing agent walks the seller through the negotiations, helping handle any paperwork and ultimately closing on the sale. For those services, listing agents typically charge around a 6 percent commission on the sale price, which is typically shared with the selling agent.

What is a selling agent

A selling agent represents the buyer in a home sale. That might sound confusing, but there’s logic behind that terminology. Prior to a contract being signed, the agent representing the buyer is often called the buyer’s agent. After the two parties agree to terms and the house is under contract, the buyer’s agent is then referred to as a selling agent. Why? Because they produced a buyer who purchased the home. The titles selling agent and buyer’s agent are typically used interchangeably and their duties are the same.

Do you know how much house you can afford? Find out with our mortgage calculator.

A selling agent identifies properties their clients might be interested in purchasing; contacts the listing agent to set up showings; presents the sellers with offers from their clients; and guides them through closing once an offer is accepted. These services are typically paid for out of the commission paid by the people selling the home.

Do you really need one (or the other?)

The internet has changed the way people shop for homes. In fact, half of the homes purchased in 2016 were found online. Still, 88 percent of buyers use representation to manage the transaction and another 90 percent of sellers use a listing agent.

You can certainly put up a “for sale” sign or go house hunting on your own, but you might consider enlisting the help of a professional. In some cases, it might be a necessary: some listing agents will only accept offers from a buyer’s representative. Those agents feel they can’t fairly represent the interests of both parties involved.

If you’re interested in working with a listing or selling agent, interview multiple agents and ask for references from their former clients. Taking the time to find the right agent could help you realize your home’s best value or get you into your dream home.

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Posted by Jackie Graves, President on February 16th, 2018 6:43 AM

Holding an open house for your soon-to-be-listed or newly on the market home is a lot like being on a game show where edging out the other contestants in a short period of time is key. In TV game shows, such as "Jeopardy," the contestants don’t automatically know answers to so many trivia questions; they study and they plan and they make it appear to viewers like they walk around with that body of knowledge every day. Open houses need to be thought of similarly. Once your home is on the market, an open house is your opportunity to plan and strategize how you are going to win over buyers in very short time.


Even in a strong real estate market where houses sell quickly, it’s still important to ask your agent to hold as many open houses as possible until the home sells. One reason is that even buyers with agents still like to look at homes on their own without feeling the pressure of a home tour. Sometimes their agent is out of town when your house goes on the market. Many buyers are not represented by an agent and the only way for them to tour a home is through an open house. Your agent will plan the open house to include everything from signage to freshly baked cookies. As a seller, you should take the following steps:




Back to the game show analogy, think of depersonalizing as studying the answers and questions before trying out for "Jeopardy." Your house is lovely for how you live in it, but buyers don’t want to see you in your house. In fact, the more your house makes it difficult to guess who lives there (age, religion, gender etc), the better. Take down personal photos, religious emblems, the cute collection of mini ceramic frogs, etc. Analyze your stuff for whether it’s morally, politically, or otherwise socially objectionable and remove all of it. You don’t want to eliminate buyers because they are turned off by your personal tastes.




While you are depersonalizing it’s also a good time to declutter as the two go hand in hand. The more simple and understated your home is, the more likely buyers can see the home for what it is and imagine themselves in it. When you have too much stuff cluttering walls and counters and shelves, buyers turn their focus toward those things and sometimes even make the assumption in logic that if you are cluttery, then you are disorganized, which means maybe you don’t take care of the house as well or as on time as you should. A good rule of thumb is to box up or store at least half of the smaller items displayed in your home. 


For example, how much is on your kitchen counter right now? Now imagine reducing that number to just three things. What would you choose to keep versus store? Some sellers are benefited by going to other open houses in their area and looking at how other people have decluttered and arranged what is left. Online pictures, such as what is found on Pinterest, can help too. Often you can get some good ideas on what works visually just by seeing how others do it. When you are all done decluttering, clean your home like never before because buyers notice dirt and grime. Hire a maid service if you have to.


Lure Them In


The outside of your home is as important as the inside, especially the front entry area. Before an open house, take care of simple yard maintenance such as mowing, edging and weeding flower beds. A fresh layer of mulch adds color especially in winter months when not much is blooming. At your front door, clean off spider webs, blown leaves, and place a large, colorful pot of annuals or anything you can buy in season.


Complete Your Honey-Do List


While you have the yard power tools out, dust of your workbench and take a walk around your house inside and out. Make a list of all maintenance issues such as wiggly door handles, missing fascia, paint that has chipped, etc. and repair them before the open house. Buyers see even the smallest of maintenance issues as an extension of the condition of larger items such as roofs, plumbing and major appliances and assume you haven’t taken care of the home. You might talk to your realtor about a pre-inspection to deal with all home maintenance and problems upfront, before you get into contract with a buyer.


Be Cautious


Once you have taken the above steps and you are ready for the actual open house, there’s one last thing to plan. Protecting your valuables and identity. It might be rare, but criminals do use open houses as a way to case a house or to find collateral to steal identities. Make sure indoor safes are locked and hidden. Store heirlooms, checkbooks, prescriptions, and valuable jewelry away from prying eyes. Utilize a reliable, trustworthy, identity theft protection service to see you through the entire listing and sales process.


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Posted by Jackie Graves, President on February 15th, 2018 6:43 AM

You'd love to buy a house, and if it weren't for that pesky down payment, you'd be sitting pretty in a place of your own, right? You're not alone. Not surprisingly, the "top challenge for would-be homebuyers is the down payment requirement," said The Mortgage Reports. In a recent study, "Over half of potential buyers claimed saving a down payment was a bigger issue than credit scores, income needed or housing prices."


There are some creative ways to get there.


Look for down payment assistance


Many homebuyers don't realize that these programs even exist. "Down payment grants are designed to help eligible buyers bridge the gap between their savings and the required down payment for a mortgage," said The Mortgage Reports. "This money doesn't usually have to be repaid."


Grants are available through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and typically have eligibility requirements that are tied to income. In addition, "You must be a first-time buyer purchasing a primary residence," they said. You can check for available grants here.


Save your pennies


Every little bit helps! Get used to paying for things with cash, which is another tip financial analysts recommend to keep track of spending. At the end of the day or week, put aside any change. You'll be surprised how it can add up over a few months.


Shop for a better savings account


Some banks offer special rates or even kick in money if you open a new account and maintain a certain balance. If you already have a good head start on your down payment, this could be a great way to get a bump. Also pay attention to any fees you are currently paying at your bank just to have your savings and checking accounts. If you can't negotiate to get them removed, it might make sense to open fee-free accounts elsewhere.


Among the best out there: "Discover Online Savings has no minimum deposit requirement and offers a competitive APY of 1.40%. In addition, there's no monthly fee and no minimum balance requirement," said NerdWallet in their review of the best savings accounts of 2018. "Discover is a decent choice for simple, stress-free savings." Discover also offers bonuses that are tied to a $15,000 minimum deposit.


Do automatic transfers


Setting up an auto transfer from your checking to your savings on payday is a relatively painless way to pump up your down payment. You'll want to keep track of what's coming out, and when. This is no time to get hit with an overdraft fee.


Get a gift


For many types of loans, the down payment can come via a gift. Just make sure you know the rules so you don't run into trouble. "Even though lenders do allow gift funds, they also require mortgage applicants to disclose the source of these funds," said Cherry Creek Mortgage. "There are specific rules for using gift funds as a down payment. For starters, your lender will need information about the donor. Donor requirements vary by lender and mortgage program. Some programs only allow gifts from a blood relative, or in some cases, a godparent. Other programs, however, will also allow gifts from a charitable organization or a non-blood relative. Speak with your lender for information on acceptable donors."


Save all raises and bonuses


If you get a raise or a bonus during your saving period, don't celebrate by blowing it on a new living room set. Pretending it didn't happen and socking the money away will pay off in the end. "For a set period of time, consider saving all extra income you receive from work," said Quick and Dirty Tips. "For instance, if you get a 3% raise, increase your down payment savings percentage by at least that amount. Or if you get quarterly or annual bonuses, transfer the full amounts to savings."


Shift some money toward repairing your credit


That might seem counterintuitive if you're trying to get together as much cash as possible to buy your house, but it might just be that doing a little credit repair can improve your buying position, which could lower your interest rate and lower the amount of money required by the bank for your down payment. A conversation with your lender or broker and a detailed look at your credit history may yield some surprising suggestions.


Pare down


This is a great time to take a good look at your stuff and decide what's going with you, and what's not making the trip to your new place. "You likely have some used furniture you no longer use or old clothes that are no longer in style. Sell it to make a few more bucks to use for your down payment," said Bankrate. "You can sell your items on sites like Craigslist, eBay, Facebook and Amazon to turn your trash into someone else's treasure."


Call your cable, Internet, and phone providers


There may be lost money floating around out there. Bundling your services with one provider can create dramatic savings. It might also be time to look at new providers - just make sure you won't incur a penalty or cost when you move and have to have your services set up again.


Make your coffee - and your lunch - at home


"If there are two people buying one coffee each at $4 every day, or $8 total, that adds up to $240 per month! So by getting a good coffee maker and putting it in a TO GO cup, you can potentially save more than $2,880 over the course of a year," said Blue Water Credit. "If you think coffee was expensive, add up all of those $12, $20, and $25 lunches at restaurants when you step out from work. Even if you only buy lunch three times a week, that could easily end up with $50 a week in savings per person, or about $400 a month, or $4,800 per year!"


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Posted by Jackie Graves, President on February 14th, 2018 8:38 AM