An Open Letter from an Agent to Anyone Considering Selling Their Home

So you’re thinking about selling your home? I realize you didn’t arrive at this decision lightly, and that you might be nervous or scared. There are so many things that are probably going through your head right now. I’d like to help you by offering some advice, and hopefully putting your mind at ease.

First, do some research.
It’s important for you to understand how much money you can expect to get for your home. We need to be realistic. Unfortunately, checking online sites like Zillow or Trulia isn’t going to give you the most accurate picture of your home’s value. This is why it’s important to sit down with a real estate agent that understands the market and will give you a realistic home value estimate by comparing similar properties that have recently sold in your area.

This meme is pretty funny (and rather sarcastic)… but at the same time, it illustrates a painful reality.

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Discuss your situation.
Discussing your situation with a real estate agent will also help you identify any other aspects of the transaction that you might be forgetting. For instance, there might be something glaringly obvious that could get in the way of a smooth home inspection that you might not be considering… or, on the other hand, a unique feature that your home might have which could help maximize its value. Also, discussing the process with an agent will help you understand how much money you can expect to walk away with after the closing.

Considering braving it alone?
If you’re considering selling your home without an agent, remember that you’re doing so at your own risk. There are quite a few things that can go wrong (many of them legal) which an agent is trained and perfectly set up to handle. Also, do you really want to deal with random strangers showing up at random times throughout the day, wondering whether they’re even qualified to buy a house or if they’re just bored and looking for something to do?

Or said a different way…

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Let an agent worry about these things; you’ll thank yourself later.

Pick the right agent.
Working with the right person can mean the difference between a smooth transaction and a less-than-memorable experience. How do you pick the right one?

First, make sure you feel comfortable with the person. You might spend a lot of time with them, so it’s important that you have a rapport.

Secondly, if the agent is giving you some inconvenient feedback or information, don’t dismiss them. The best agents will tell you the truth because they understand that setting the right expectations is more important than promising you the world.

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Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Lastly, ask as many questions as you need to until you feel comfortable with your level of understanding. The right agent will be patient with you and will understand just how big of a deal this is.

Don’t stress!
This might be easier said than done, but try to keep things in perspective. Your home is probably your most valuable asset and the most consequential transaction that you’ll ever work on. But people buy and sell their homes every day, and there’s a very comprehensive system in place that helps facilitate those transactions. Your agent will help guide you through the process and will help you feel at ease. Remember, you’re not the first and you won’t be the last person to feel the stress.

Expect the unexpected.
It would be lovely if I could promise you that everything will go perfectly smooth, but it rarely does. Obstacles almost always come up during a real estate transaction, but that doesn’t mean you should pull your hair out worrying. Agents know there will be bumps in the road, and they’ll also know how to get over them and get your home sold with as little stress for you as possible.

So don’t stress, be realistic, find the right agent to help, and remember that small hiccups are just part of the transaction.

And by the way, feel free to give me a call. 🙂

I’ve created a free guide to help my clients properly prepare their house for sale. If you’re thinking about selling your starter home in the near future (or ever…), grab a copy!  How To Prepare Your House For Sale

Eliminate Pet Odors in Your Home

Eliminate Pet Odors In Your Home

Eliminating bad odors from your home is incredibly important, you want to make sure you’ve removed them before putting it on the market. Often times, the first thing buyers notice upon entering your home, is how it smells. If there is an odd odor, it will instantly put them off. No matter how beautifully staged and presented it is, strong odors or stale air can make your home unappealing to prospective buyers. Opening windows and exhaust fans will only go so far in removing foul odors, but won’t generally eliminate it completely. To ensure you don’t lose potential buyers, follow these odor eliminating tips to ensure your home smells and feels fresh and new.

Don’t Use Artificial Freshening Sprays
Don’t make the mistake of spraying artificial room freshener sprays in hopes that it will remove the bad odor. Deodorizers will quickly fade, and only mask the smell, sometimes in an overwhelming way. If a buyer walks into your home, your air freshener can cause a reaction, like a runny nose or a headache, and will make them suspicious of an underlying foul odor. Instead of trying to mask it, locate the actual source of the bad odor and get rid of it.

Best Pet Carpet Cleaners for Accidents
We all love our furry friends, but unfortunately, they can get your home pretty smelly. Whether the smell is on the carpet, furniture, or even on the walls – it’s essential to have it removed. Most odors stem from accidents. You always want to attend to the accident right away. Blot them with a paper towel and use mild dishwashing liquid to help remove the odor. Once completely cleaned, blot again with fresh paper towels to dry the spot. If the accident is not recent, use an enzyme cleaner to eat the bad bacteria. Another great idea is to use activated charcoal. It is a form of carbon that has been activated to make it extremely porous. You can get activated charcoal meant for pet odors at most pet stores.

Green Cleaning Products
Using natural odor eliminators is a great green alternative to most of the chemicals sold at stores. One of the most recommended products is to use baking soda. You can place an open box of it in a room to help absorb unwanted smells. It also helps to remove musty aroma in dark spaces, like a basement. On top of being used to remove pet odors, it also works great for cigarette smells. If you don’t wish to use baking soda, most pet supply stores will have green cleaning products that help remove odors, while still being safe for your household.

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Reasons You Should Sell Your Starter Home

When buyers are ready to purchase their first place, most are in the market for something relatively small and economical — in other words, a starter home. These diminutive dwellings are a smart first move for newbies because, ideally, they offer a chance to build equity without over-burdening the budget or requiring more maintenance than a novice homeowner is prepared to undertake.

But, as time passes, that once-sufficient space begins to feel a bit cramped and owners may find themselves pondering putting their starter home on the market.

If this feels like a scenario you can relate to, there’s no time like the present, as the old saying goes. “Why?” you ask. Read on!

Inventory is disappearing
Anyone who’s been shopping for a modest starter home lately knows it’s slim pickings out there. It’s not just your area that is suffering a shortage either; it’s nationwide. In fact, according to Trulia Inventory and Price Watch, the number of starter homes has dropped 8.7 percent in the last year.

One reason inventory is limited is that senior citizens who previously sold their houses and moved to assisted living facilities or nursing homes are embracing the aging-in-place trend.

That decision is making it difficult for millennials and first-time homebuyers to find affordable houses for sale. According to Trulia, those 55 and older own 53 percent of U.S. owner-occupied houses, which is the largest percentage since the government started collecting data in 1900.

Investors, too, are responsible for the shortage of starter homes available at attractive prices as after the 2008 recession many swooped in and scooped up lower-priced houses to improve and flip, upping property values exponentially.

Prices are soaring as bidding wars erupt
A decrease in supply means an increase in prices. New homebuyers are finding themselves forced to spend an average of 2.9 percent more of their annual income on a new home, particularly in popular markets.

With a limited number of properties available, being in possession of a starter home is a bit like owning Mickey Mantle’s 1952 Topps Baseball Card. In short, it’s more valuable than you might have initially realized.

In fact, starter-home owners might be shocked by the level of interest and the amount they could get for their abodes.

What starter homes lack in square footage they’re more than making up for in investment potential. According to Forbes.com, 55 percent of offers written by Redfin agents ranging from $200,000 to $400,000 faced competition earlier this year, while 60 percent of offers from $400,000 to $800,000 sparked bidding wars.

If you’d like to lock in a profit, this could be your chance.

Interest rates are low
According to Freddie Mac’s latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey, interest rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage are currently at 4.72 percent, which is near record lows in comparison to recent history.

Lower interest rates give buyers greater purchasing power. So, if you’ve been hoping to upsize, here’s your chance.

There’s no shortage of luxury homes
There appears to be a relative glut of premium homes available. While the market share of starter and trade-up homes both dropped to 22.1 percent, the share of premium homes rose 55.8 percent.

I’ve created a free guide to help my clients properly prepare their house for sale. If you’re thinking about selling your starter home in the near future (or ever…), grab a copy!  How To Prepare Your House For Sale

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Why Fall Might Be The Best Time To Buy A Home

A lot of people think the best time to buy a house is during the Spring market.

And, it is…

…in the sense that more houses are listed for sale in the Spring. But, there’s also a heck of a lot more buyers trying to buy those listings.

The thing is, some of the houses listed back in the Spring don’t end up selling. (Usually just because they were overpriced.)

Now, it isn’t like new listings don’t happen in the Fall. There are always new listings coming on the market. But it’s not like, just because it’s Fall and not Spring, prices are necessarily going to fall. In other words, new listings aren’t likely to list for a lot lower than you would have seen in the Spring.

However, the homeowners who did list back in the Spring, are much more likely to be anxious (perhaps even desperate) to sell their home. They’ve created their own problem…they missed the boat by pricing too high.

Which is great news for you, if you’re looking to buy a home:

  • Less competition. (Many buyers stop looking at this time of year…for no good reason.)
  • Motivated sellers. (They’re sick of being on the market, and wondering why nobody bought their house.)

But it isn’t always easy to find those listings. They don’t wave a white flag, or lower their price to some ridiculous amount everyone would notice. If only it were that easy…

Just because someone listed their home back in the Spring doesn’t mean they’ll be all that negotiable.

There are certain things a great real estate agent will know to look for.

And I love rolling up my sleeves and finding the ones we can most likely negotiate the best deals on.

So, got anything you want me to roll up my sleeves and look for? Real estate deals won’t just fall in your lap, but I can certainly help you find one this Fall.

Bonus
Want another reason to buy a home in the Fall?

You can take advantage of year-end sales to outfit your home!

Hardly anybody buys a home who doesn’t want (or need) to make improvements, however small. So why not coordinate your purchase with sales on items you’ll need? According to Consumer Reports, September is an ideal time for buying carpet and paint. In October lawn mowers go on sale, and the same goes for appliances and cookware in November.

I’ve created a free guide to help my clients properly prepare for purchasing a home. If you’re thinking about buying a home in the near future (or ever…), grab a copy! The Ultimate Home Buyer’s Guide

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What Or Who Are Fannie And Freddie, Anyway?

If you are a home buyer or seller or pay any attention whatsoever to the housing market, you have probably heard about “Fannie” and “Freddie.” Fannie stands for Fannie Mae but is really the acronym – FNMA – For Federal National Mortgage Association. Freddie is for Freddie Mac, or FHLMC, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. These two companies keep the money for mortgages flowing. Here is how they do it and why they are important.

Both Fannie and Freddie are backed by the federal government, so the U.S. has a vested interest in helping them provide money. These two companies buy the mortgages that have already been made by banks, and are often referred to as “the secondary market.” Then, they pay themselves back by packaging big bunches of existing mortgages and selling them to big investors, such as pension funds, insurance companies, etc. who are looking to collect the interest. Fannie and Freddie have also created guidelines – and forms — that just about every lending institution uses for just about every loan.

You are probably wondering why banks cannot just fund loans, keep them, and earn the interest. If you live in a largely populated area, the big banks probably do have plenty of cash to lend. But let us say you live in a smaller area, such as Flagstaff, Arizona or Joplin, Missouri. Your local lending institutions may simply not have enough money to continually make home loans. So, they make you a loan according to certain common guidelines, and then they turn around and sell it to either Fannie or Freddie. Now, the local lending institutions have more cash to continue making more home loans. The truth is, without Fannie and Freddie, the mortgage market and housing market would dry up in many parts of the country. Not good. This is another reason why the government gets behind these two entities – homeownership is generally seen as good for the country.

Another thing that these entities have done is create the 30-year loan. If we had to pay off our homes in, say, five years, home ownership would be pretty unaffordable in large parts of the country. And the longer the loan term, the more interest is charged and the more profit is made by the large investors. Win-win, right?

Some economists and politicians want to privatize Fannie and Freddie and stop the government from backing them. They argue that there is too much risk if the government, and an endless flow of money from taxes, is involved. It is thought that this may have contributed to the 2008 economic crash. There are lots of views on this issue, but the majority agree that maintaining the status quo is a good thing. If you would like to know more, please check out the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac websites.

Fannie Mae: http://www.fanniemae.com
Freddie Mac: http://www.freddiemac.com

Image courtesy of www.FutureAtlas.com.

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Dealing with a Past Bankruptcy? You Can Still Buy A Home—And Sooner Than You Might Think

In the past 6 years, more than 5 million Americans have filed for bankruptcy. And while many people believe that filing for bankruptcy causes long-term financial ruin—and will keep them from ever being able to purchase a home—it turns out that might not be the case.

According to The Cost of Bankruptcy, a recent study from Lending Tree, within a year, 43% of people with a bankruptcy on their record are able to get their credit score to 640 or higher, which is the credit level typically necessary to qualify for a mortgage. Within two years of filing bankruptcy, that number jumps to 65% and at five years, 75% of people who filed bankruptcy have a FICO score of 640 or above.

Now, if you have a bankruptcy on file and a credit score on the lower end of the qualifying spectrum, you’re likely to pay higher interest rates. But if you can get your score up, your bankruptcy is unlikely to have a major impact on your loan. According to the study, people with a credit score between 720 and 739 who applied for a mortgage three years after filing for bankruptcy were offered similar interest rates to those without a bankruptcy on their credit file.

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Majority of Buyers Favor School District Over Home Features

Like the old saying goes, when it comes to homeownership, the most important thing? Location, location, location.

According to a recent report from Realtor.com, getting their kids into the right school was the top priority for a huge portion of buyers. And those buyers were more than willing to give up other features in order to buy a home in their desired school district.

According to the report, a whopping 91% of buyers with children (and 73% of buyers total) said that school boundaries were “important” or “very important” to their search. And of the buyers that purchased a home in their desired school district, 78% willingly gave up desired home features—like a garage, large backyard, or updated kitchen—in order to make sure they got their children into their school of choice.

The Takeaway:
When you invest in a home, make sure it’s in a good school district, whether you have children or not—for many buyers, it’s one point they’re just not willing to negotiate on.

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Why You Need An Agent For New Construction

Are you ready to buy a home and considering going along the route of new builds? It may seem like an easy enough process, where you get to call the shots of how you want your dream home to be, but there is a lot of risks when it comes to new construction if you are going in blindly. It’s unfortunately not as trouble-free as we’d like to hope if you don’t have the right representative by your side to help with the things that need to be looked out for from a professional’s eye. Below, we’ll dive into the many reasons you need a professional buyer’s agent representing you in the sale. They are, after all, on your side. And it’s their role to ensure you aren’t taken advantage of by the builders and their representatives in the transaction.

1. Hiring the Right Builder
The most important part of finding an agent is having a professional’s perspective to finding a builder with a great reputation. You get to benefit from your agent’s network of vendors, lenders, and home builders. They have the industry expertise to connect you with a builder that matches your needs, and more than likely, have already had experience with the builder with a past client. Or, if they haven’t worked with a builder you want to use directly, they can gather person-to-person recommendations from other agents to know the expected experience with said builder. They will help you find one, that not only delivers exactly what their clients want, but in a timely fashion.

2. The Right Lot in the Right Neighborhood
The lot you choose to go with in a new build can either be a positive to your new home, or detrimental. In the excitement of the process, we tend to overlook important features of a property. It’s important to have a professional to ensure you make a purchase that will best serve you. They’ll be able to find a neighborhood that best fits your lifestyle and a lot that has a location that works for you. Whether you’re single with pets, or a family with children, the lot location can really make a huge impact. Especially when it comes time to selling it in the future. These are important things your agent will be able to help walk you through, so your decisions work in your favor in the long term, as well as now.

3. Upgrades and Plan Modifications
Not only will your agent be able to ensure you get the upgrades and modifications that will best suit your life style, but will also help you make decisions that will increase the value of your home in the long term. They are working for your best interest long term, and with an agent’s guidance, you can be sure to make changes that end up benefiting you.

4. Handling Contracts and Paperwork
Your agent will handle the contract and all of the paperwork, and they will be sure to review it to ensure that it is in your best interest. They will be able to help you break down the best loan types, purchasing processes, and steps to take that benefit YOU, not the builder. They are, after all, working for you. They’ll make sure there are no overlooked terms in a builder’s contract that could end up hurting you after you move in. Or even during the building process. You want to make sure you have a professional who is experienced with the paperwork and contracts and knows how to make revisions that work in a way that make you happy.

5. Negotiations
It is imperative in the purchasing process to have an agent that is able to represent you and negotiate for you. The building process is so much more than having the builder put in your favorite counters and floors. They will be able to get you a price that actually benefits you – not the builder. They will be able to run a comparative market analysis to ensure you are paying a fair price for the property. You don’t want to end up overpaying for the home – it could put you in a tough spot when it comes time to sell. They’ll also be able to negotiate terms around building time frame, closings costs, and so many other aspects of a contract that you may otherwise overlook.

6. Builder’s Agent Represents Them, Not You
It may seem easy just to pop into an office of a new build, or a builder’s office, and use the onsite agent. But keep in mind that this agent works FOR the builder, NOT for you. So they will be working to make sure the builder gets the best deal at the end of the day. By having a buyer’s agent of your own, you can ensure there is a professional on your side that can walk you through the process and avoid being taken advantage of during the transaction. They will also have a better handle on things when you hit bumps along the way. If you end up working with a builder who isn’t holding their end of the deal, they will have the power to make connections that ensure the builder holds their end of the contract terms.

I’ve created a free guide to help my clients properly prepare for purchasing a home. If you’re thinking about buying a home in the near future (or ever…), grab a copy! The Ultimate Home Buyer’s Guide

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New Survey Finds Misconceptions About Down Payments Keeping People From Purchasing Homes

One of the main reasons people aren’t buying homes is they think they can’t afford it—especially the down payment. But, as it turns out, there are plenty of buyers out there who actually can afford to purchase a home, but their misconceptions about affordability are holding them back from making a move.

According to a recent survey by lender Laurel Road, 53% of Americans are concerned about their ability to afford a home. But a lot of that concern is because they don’t know what their options are.

A solid 58% of Americans surveyed said they planned to put down a 20% payment on a home, but 35% (and 46% of millennials) didn’t think they could afford to save that kind of down payment. But with alternative lending options, you don’t need 20% in order to buy a home! According to the National Association of Realtors, the median down-payment for first-time buyers is at 6%—significantly less than the 20% the majority of Americans believe they need in order to purchase a home.

The Takeaway: Your misconception about how much you need for a down payment could be holding you back from purchasing property. Explore the alternative loan options available to you and make your dream of owning a home a reality!

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Home Prices Predicted To Rise Nearly 5% By January 2019

According to the most recent CoreLogic Home Price Insights Report, housing prices across the nation are expected to rise a total of 4.8% between January 2018 and January 2019. While that’s not as high as the 6.6% growth the market saw between January 2017 and January 2018, it’s still substantial. According to CoreLogic’s predictions, a home that was listed for $350,000 last January will cost you $366,800 in January 2019—a change of $16,800 in just 12 months.

And not only are homes getting more expensive, but so are mortgages; according to a recent report from Freddie Mac, mortgage interest rates are predicted to rise a full percentage point by the end of the year (from 3.9% for a 30-yr fixed-rate mortgage at the end of 2017 to 4.9% by the end of 2018).