How to pick a real estate agent that suits your needs.

 

Many factors contribute to the experience and success of buying and selling homes, but even in the digital age of a more transparent real estate market, working with a good real estate agent continues to be one of biggest impacts on either side of the transaction.
But how do you pick the right person to represent you or your home?
Before you just start asking your friends or digging through the fliers in your mailbox or hunting online, here are a few dos and don’ts you should seriously consider when selecting an agent.

 

Do:

 

  • Ask people you trust for agent recommendations, but take what they say with a grain of salt. Did they recently buy a home in your same price range?  Have they had a      successful time selling their home? Just because this agent worked out well for them does not guarantee the same experience for you.
  • Research. Most real estate websites, including Zillow, have online agent reviews. This can be a good starting place.
  •  Find an agent that specializes in what you’re trying to do. Don’t select an agent who sells $2 million homes to help you find a $200,000 home. Check out current home      listings. Do you like the photos, the description? Try contacting the agent to see if they’re available for you.
  • Interview the agent. What is their specific marketing plan for your home? How will they negotiate so that you can be the winning bidder on your dream home? Why are they the best option for you? Can you call some of their past clients?
  • Set up expectations. What do you want from them? Outline your needs from the get-go so there won’t be any surprises down the road.
  • Make sure you get along with the agent. You don’t need to be best friends, but ultimately there should be some sort of rapport that allows for a successful business      relationship.

 

Don’t:

 

  • Pick friends or family. You don’t want to jeopardize a friendship if the buying or selling process gets difficult. Also, be wary of hiring even a friend of a friend, or someone recommended. If you’re serious about real estate, find someone that you can be honest and professional with. Unfortunately, that may not include your cousin or your best friend’s spouse.
  • Pick someone who dually represents the buyer and the seller of the property you’re looking at. They may not be able to be fully transparent with you.
  • Be afraid to break up with your agent. Be honest and simply tell the agent it’s not working out. List your reasons and be respectful.
  • If you’re not quite ready to be tied down to a particular agent, it’s better not to engage one until you’ve made a formal decision. You can communicate with an agent and ask    for advice, but be clear upfront where you stand.

article by Erika Riggs/Zillow

Great tips for the home buyers out there!

Here is a great article on getting to closing day without a hitch.

by-Deidre Wollard, Real Estate News

Three Tips For Avoiding Closing Day Glitches

Closing day is the most exciting day in the home buying process. The long journey is finally over and you will sign your papers and get your keys. Once you have been told that your home mortgage has a closing date you may want to move in immediately but while most home sale transactions are smooth, some may hit a few speed bumps on the road to homeownership bliss.

The most important part of the transaction is to get all of the necessary parties and necessary documents together on the right day at the right time. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately as many an experienced agent reports, it can be a bit like herding cats. Although your Realtor will be your guide through this process it’s still a good idea for you to be aware of all of the dates, steps, and procedures as you lead up to the big day.

Many issues surrounding a problem at closing can actually be tackled earlier in the process. It’s important to keep on top of your mortgage approval process, home inspection and repairs, and the title discovery process as these are the areas where things can often go wrong. For more information on this check out our post on why pending sales can fall through. Below are three last-minute things that can delay a closing.

1) Be certain the home is ready for you to take occupancy. If you notice something on your final walkthrough, bring it up immediately. It’s your responsibility to make sure that the home is being delivered in the agreed-upon condition. If something is wrong and the home is not cleaned out or agreed-upon repairs aren’t completed, it’s time to spring into action. Your agent can work with the seller’s agent to solve any potential problems. From there you can determine what is necessary and what it will cost. It may be possible to do some last minute negotiations, either changing things so that the seller pays more of the closing costs or putting proceeds in escrow until repairs are completed.

 2) Make sure the paperwork is in order. Review all documents ahead of time if you can. Misspellings, missing information, incorrect addresses or loan amounts can hold up a closing and if they can’t be easily corrected your closing could be delayed by hours or even days. When you review your loan documents make sure that the payment amounts and interest rates are as you expected them to be. If you are using a real estate attorney you will want to have an appointment to review the real estate contract, settlement, truth-in-lending statement and the mortgage. Your attorney should verify that the seller has made all repairs that were agreed upon and that he will bring the deed to the real estate closing.

3) Make sure you have your funds ready. Closing costs will be due and a personal check is not permitted.  Be sure to either bring the down payment to the closing yourself as a certified check or arrange for the transfer of funds a bit in advance so that any potential delays during transfer won’t hold up your closing. Closing costs can amount to a small fortune. All of these costs were outlined to you during the mortgage application process. Loan origination, mortgage loan, mortgage points and credit report fees are all closing costs to be paid at the closing. In addition, you may need to pre-pay interest for a partial month depending on the date you closed and when the first payment is due to lender. Title insurance is one of the more expensive fees and is required by all lenders to insure there are no liens against the deed. Finally, the last charge to pay to the lender is the fee for recording of the deed, which may include a real estate transfer tax.

Great tips for Home sellers!

Here are some great tips that I found from an article about selling your home quickly! Please let me know if you need a list of trusted contractors for those home repairs, I will gladly provide with it.

 5 tips to help your home sell quickly-By Karen Aho of MSN Real Estate

To many buyers, a house that’s been on the market a long time must have hidden problems. And that could lead to unnecessary and endless price reductions. Luckily, even in a distressed market, there are ways to prevent roots from sprouting under the ‘for sale’ sign.

 

Leave it to the pros

Welcome to the wacky world of home sales, where a little stubborn behavior can be costly. But there’s a tried-and-true solution that can be summed up with two basic points:

  • Find a seller’s agent whom you like and trust. 
  • “Make sure you interview three great agents that focus on your area,” says Alan Mark, president of the Mark Co., a real-estate marketing and consulting company in San Francisco. “Then realize that you’re hiring a professional who knows how to do this.”
  • Listen to that agent. More on that below, but the key is to separate the emotional qualities of your home from the basic functional qualities of the house.

“To start with, your house is unique — and so is everybody else’s,” Mark says. “Everybody thinks their house is unique. Get over it.”

It’s never easy to relinquish control, particularly when it’s your home and your money. But if the goal is to sell, and to sell fast, then you’re better off trusting the expert, even if his advice appears trivial — like the paint on a couple of walls — or counterintuitive, such as undercutting the price.

To get a sense of what we mean, see the five tips below, all from experienced agents who say these are areas where home sellers often need some persuading.

 

1. Price it right; price it low

Some may find Katya Dennis a bit offbeat — or at least bold — in her pricing strategy, which at first blush appears to be undervaluing the property. But Dennis, an agent in Northern California with David Lyng Real Estate, swears by her method.

“I always tell my sellers, you can never price a house too low, because the market will take care of it,” she explains.

Dennis recently listed a home for $535,000, even though it had been appraised at $560,000. The house sold within weeks — for $575,000. The reasoning is simple, she says. The low price drew quick and competing bids.

Had she listed the home for $560,000, she’s certain the sale would have dragged and brought in even less than the valuation.

“If you start high and start lowering it, you will never get to the number that you will get to by starting low and going up,” Dennis says. “Because when you start lowering the price, people will start wondering what’s wrong with the house. … And if it’s been sitting awhile, people will try and lowball.”

 

2. Try a fresh sales approach

Even on the phone, it’s clear that Leis can be tough. But her success stories may provide peace of mind to sellers who find themselves initially put off by agents’ edgy tactics.

 

3. Don’t try too hard to fight the market

Sometimes a seller has to accept that there’s only so much an unfriendly marketplace can offer.

 

4. Remember, renovations aren’t a magic bullet

Be flexible with price. “Price is still what’s moving.” And if you want the house to move, find an agent willing to be brutally honest.

 

5. Don’t, repeat don’t, skip the online sales push

One last tip from agents: A home that relies on its good personality alone won’t cut it in today’s market.

“The days when a buyer shows up at my office and says ‘Where are we going today?’ those days are long over,” Romano says. “They show up with a list of homes they’ve seen online. Some of them, you look at and say, ‘Why would you want to look at that?’ and you see it looks really good online.”

A year earlier, he took a home that had been on and off the market for two years and sold it in 11 days after telling the sellers to follow his rules, which included staging the home and lowering the price.

“The market had continued to decline,” Romano says. “Even if a buyer were interested at that (higher) price point, the buyer won’t get a mortgage because it won’t appraise out for that. It doesn’t do anyone any good to list at above the appraised value.”

Useful tips for the First Time and Experienced home buyer

Here are some great tips for the First time and experienced home buyers by Diedre Wollard-Real Estate News

What You Need to Know About Radon and Asbestos Before Buying

When you are buying a home, making sure that it is safe for you and your family is of prime importance. It’s not just critical for your health; it’s also vital to ensure that the home is a sound investment. As you go through your inspection process, your agent may recommend inspections for both radon and asbestos, especially if your home was built before 1960. Both of these materials are carcinogens known to cause cancer through heavy, repeated exposure. Radon is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, according to EPA estimates.

What is radon?

Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium in the soil. Because the air pressure inside your home is usually less than that of the soil it stands on, this acts as a vacuum, drawing radon gas (if it is present) into the home. Radon is a fairly common occurrence. Half of American homes have a radon level above the average level. One in 15 homes has a level high enough that the U.S. government has recommended that action be taken to control the leakage. Radon comes in through the foundation, where the foundation comes in contact with the soil; through gaps, cracks and cavities in walls where plumbing enters; and through construction joints.

A simple home test shows whether radon is above the safe level. The kit is placed in the lowest lived-in area of the house, generally the first floor or basement, for two or three days. The average outdoor level of radon is 0.4 pCi/L,  and the average indoor radon level is estimated to be about 1.3 pCi/L. Generally, a level below 4 pCi/L is considered safe. If testing reveals an unacceptable level of radon in the home, the good news is that radon remediation methods are highly effective. Your inspector can make recommendations for licensed treatment experts, or you can find one online or through your real estate agent. Radon mitigation is like many other home repairs — you may want to get a few estimates before choosing your radon contractor.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a heat- and fire-resistant material that was used in homes before 1960 in insulation for heating pipes and attics, as well as roofing and siding materials. Asbestos is made of long fibers that can be breathed in easily. When inhaled, these fibers can become lodged in internal body tissues, and this can cause cancer. Most people develop no symptoms unless they are exposed to high amounts of asbestos. In older homes, often the best thing you can do is to leave asbestos material that is in good condition alone. You are not in danger unless the material is damaged and fibers are released and inhaled. The inspection will determine if the asbestos is deteriorating and causing a problem and needs to be removed.

If either radon or asbestos is found in the property and you like the home, you shouldn’t necessarily pass on buying it. With the help of your real estate agent, you can get a recommendation for experts who can prescribe treatment and give you estimates. From there, you can decide whether it’s worth it to negotiate purchase price of the property with the home owner. Often the professionals licensed to treat these problems are licensed for both radon and asbestos, so you can deal with one person. Both situations are common enough that they can be taken care of easily and do not need to stop you from buying the home.

 

Sellers market tips

This is a sellers market! That being said, here is a great article for the home seller or those wanting to put their home on the market.  By-Diedre Woollard for Real Estate News.

Deciding to move isn’t a step anyone takes lightly. Your house is more than just an investment, it is your home. As you begin the process of distancing yourself from the place where you made so many lasting memories you will begin to think about what your home will be worth to someone else.

When you are ready to meet with a Realtor you may already have an idea of what your home is worth. You may have seen what other homes in your neighborhood have sold for or kept an eye on local listings. Your agent will prepare for you a comparative market analysis (CMA) that is an in-depth version of any research you may have done on your own.

The CMA is used to help evaluate how your home will fare against the competition. It takes a look at both homes that are currently listed and those recently sold. The purpose is to find the highest price that will still make the home competitive on the open market.

A Portrait Of Your Home And Its Surroundings

The CMA includes a fact-based portrait of the home including information such as number of bedrooms and baths, approximate square footage, size of major rooms, age of the home, property taxes, and desirable amenities such as fireplaces and pools.

Depending on the market the CMA will go back in time as long ago as a year or a month or week ago.  The range can also vary. Some will just cover a few streets around your home, CMAs can cover areas as narrow as one or two streets surrounding your home, or as broad as an entire subdivision.

Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder (Or Potential Buyer)

Selling a home isn’t just about the facts. There are many pieces to the puzzle and it’s often the indefinables that impact a potential buyer’s perception of the home. A home purchase remains fundamentally personal. Speaking at the Luxury Roundtable: State of Luxury 2013 conference, Camilla Papale, the chief marketing officer of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, defined real estate, especially at the high end, as being primarily emotional.  She said that 90 percent of Douglas Elliman’s transactions are influenced by the buyer’s emotions versus rationalization. Perception can alter reality and so this is an important consideration when looking at a CMA. People make decisions based on curb appeal, light, design choices and many other factors.

At the end of each home’s information on the CMA report there will be a brief statement provided by the listing agent that will address some of these subjective  factors such as recent remodels, historic features, or things that might be of interest to the buyers. The agent will be marketing the home and is already thinking about how it will be presented as a product to tempt the public.

The Changing Face of the CMA

The CMA today is different than it was before the internet era partly because the potential seller does so much of their homework ahead of time.  Jeff Rightmyer, a sales agent with Building Bridges Partners Keller Williams explains how technology has changed the CMA: “If anything, it has increased the amount of avenues now available to display more accurate and precise information ranging from short sales, standards, all the way up to luxury. It also has allowed little room for error as clients can accurately research the information for themselves.”

There are still resources that agents have access to that most sellers do not. Also agents have the experience of listing, marketing, and selling many homes on their side. A local expert will know what buyers in the area look for and be able to easily assess how your home measures up. Together you and your agent can find a price that brings you what you need and will be attractive enough to attract your home’s new owner.

How many people ask this question when they buy or sell a home?

Here is a great article that I thought had great information for anyone buying or selling a home.

Real Estate News-Diedre Wollard

When you are getting ready to sell your home, dealing with inspections and appraisals is part of the process. Your home is now a product that is being sold and needs to be evaluated. Many people think that appraisals and inspections are essentially the same thing but there are some key differences. If you’ve ever watched “Antiques Roadshow” on PBS, you’re already familiar with the concept of an appraisal on personal property. The idea is similar in the realm of real estate valuations. Each property is unique, and the appraiser relies on his or her general expertise and specific research to arrive at an opinion of value.

An appraisal provides valuable information for the buyer and the seller, but the appraiser’s primary mission is to protect the lender. Lenders don’t want to own overpriced property and that’s why the appraisal takes place before the lender grants final approval of the buyer’s loan.

The Appraisal Process

Appraisers use a variety of factors in their decision making. They weigh the location of the home, its proximity to desirable schools and other public facilities, the size of the lot, the size and condition of the home itself and recent sales prices of comparable properties, among other factors. Appraisers aren’t interested in whether or not the house is clean but they do notice signs of neglect such as cracked walls, chipped paint, broken windows, torn carpets, damaging flooring and inoperable appliances.

Federal law requires states to establish minimum standards and licensing practices for real estate appraisers. In California, for example, trainees must take several courses, pass an examination and complete 2,000 hours of supervised experience.

If the buyer is applying for a mortgage that will be insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the appraiser must survey the physical condition of the home and disclose potential problems to the buyer. No such obligation exists for non-FHA mortgages.

If a home receives an appraisal lower than the purchase price there are some ways the purchase can still go through. The seller can reduce the purchase price, the buyer could make a bigger down-payment, or if it’s a question of needed repairs, a separate escrow account can be set up to fund those repairs.

How Is An Appraisal Different From An Inspection?

An appraisal isn’t a substitute for a professional home inspection in fact they have some key differences. The appraiser formulates an opinion of the property’s value for the lender, while the inspector educates the buyer about the condition of the home and its major components. The appraiser is primarily focused on the value of the home whereas the inspector keys in on the home’s condition with an eye toward both existing and potential future problems.

Exciting news about some developments for the Columbia Pike corridor

Arlington continues to grow by leaps and bounds and is a great melting pot of nationalities, we also have the developemnt and growth to go along with that and here is some exciting news that I just read about from UrbanTurf.com that I thought was great news!

The Columbia Pike corridor continues to grow.

Construction is about to start on a condo and townhome project on Walter Reed Drive, a block from the rapidly developing Pike, reported ARLnow late Monday.

Columbia Place, developed by Evergreene Homes, will contain 14 two-bedroom, 1,283-square foot condos and eight single-family townhomes and will be located at the corner of Walter Reed Drive and 11th Street S. in Arlington (map). The condo portion of the building will rise five stories, while the townhomes will each be four stories tall with rooftop terraces. Ground floor retail will activate the street level.