Saturday, December 30, 2006

When is the best time of year to sell?

Selling your home is a big decision and I have found in the past that people go from no thoughts of selling to listing their home usually in just a matter of days. Why is such a big decision so impulsive? Well I think there are a few reasons.

1. Money Problems - If there are money stresses in your housgold and you suddenly realize that you can use some equity in your home you may just go ahead and sell.

2. Move up, move down ideas - Empty nesters do not think of themselves as empty nesters until they see it one day and decide to move into a condo. This is ususally a lifestyle type decision that gets sparked by an add or a casual conversation.

3. Friends buying or selling homes - If someone at work is looking at new homes they will talk, this may get you interested as you hear what their priorities are and compare them with you own and suddenly you have a Realtor in your house and are listing it to sell.

Now that you can see some of the motivations you should also know when you should sell your home. Usually there is a drop in the number of listings on the market in December and January and the sales are still happening so by February or March you will see great conditions for a pricing uptick.

Remember that real estate is a very strict supply and demand market. When there are few buyers and lots of sellers prices drop and as there are lots of buyers and nearly no sellers then the prices will increase.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Property Condition dislosure forms

I have seen this tip before and would like to let you know that it is dangerous. Some well meaning people say never to sign a property condition disclosure form about the condition of your property because it will cause a possible law suit if there is a problem with the property. I say who cares, sign it anyway.

That seems like crazy advice doesn't it. Well look at it this way. If a buyer is going throught the forms to buy your home and sees that you have declined to sign a property condition disclosure form then the first thing they are going to think is that you are hiding something. maybe you are , maybe you are not but the point is the offer will probably now come and in this market it is important to make the buying decision easier for potential home buyers.

What is this property condition disclosure form anyway? The form usually will just say that as far as you are aware there are no structural, plumbing and electrical problems with the home that you are selling. Hardly controversial. In quite a few areas of North America you have no choice as a home seller but to sign the property condition disclosure form at the time of listing your property and as a for sle buy owner not signing would make things much more difficult at the lawyers office at closing for the buyers of your home

Saturday, September 30, 2006

List with an agent or as a FSBO

Selling your home yourself?

Your first big decision is whether to sell your home yourself or use a real estate agent. Some sellers feel more comfortable relying on the expertise of a real estate agent, while others want to avoid paying a commission.
The Klines have heard that real estate agent commissions can be as high as 7 percent and they aren't excited about paying that much to sell their house. They are thinking about selling their home themselves. Agent-free selling is what people in the real estate industry call "FSBO" (pronounced "fisbo," which stands for "for sale by owner").

If you're not under any time constraints, you might want to give selling your own home a shot. If you fail, you can always hire a real estate agent later.

Pros and Cons of Being a FSBO

The number one reason to sell your home without an agent's help is to avoid paying a real estate commission. In Minnesota, real estate commissions run as high as 7 percent of the home's sale price, although you may be able to negotiate a lower rate.
Time and expertise are also major factors in determining whether or not to sell your own home. Do you have a minimum of one hour per day to spend on advertising, screening buyers and showing your home? FSBOs need the flexibility to schedule showings at convenient times for buyers. If your home isn't shown, it won't get sold.

Business savvy also helps. When negotiating the sale, will you be able to keep your cool if a buyer wants to knock a couple of thousand off the price because the home is "obviously going to need a complete redecorating job?" Agents are used to negotiating and can be objective about the value of your home. Can you say the same about yourself?

And, as a FSBO, you won't have access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) used by real estate agents to locate homes for buyers. This computerized service lists homes for sale and homes that have sold by neighborhood, price and features. However, you may be able to list your home on the Internet with a variety of companies for a fee.

Tips For FSBOs

If you're still unsure about whether or not to sell your own home, find out more by talking to several people who have tried to sell their homes themselves and get a book from the library or bookstore. Sometimes, school districts offer adult education classes on selling your own home.

Additional Tips Include:

Keep your home clean and ready to show at all times.
Price your home according to what similar homes have sold for in your area not by how much cash you need from the sale of your home and how much you paid for improvements.
Consider selecting an agent in advance to list your home if you can't sell it in a few weeks. Get the agent's advice about pricing and repairs.
Hire professionals to help you along the way. These can include a closing agent and/or a real estate attorney. You will also need a home inspector if an inspection is required by your city.
Keep a notebook with potential buyers' names, addresses and phone numbers so you can follow up with them.
Don't stop advertising your home when you receive a bid. A buyer's offer may not survive the negotiating process.
Prepare and make copies of a fact sheet about your home to hand out to potential buyers. Have a blank purchase agreement for interested buyers to take with them.
If you're having trouble selling your home, consider offering a sales commission to a buyer's agent. Determine what commission will entice local agents. By offering a sales commission, you'll still save what you would have paid a listing agent to advertise your home.

If you want help advertising you home, consider hiring a company that specializes in sales by FSBOs. They will also assist you with legal documents and the terms of the sale. Look for them in the real estate section of your Yellow Pages, or get a referral from another FSBO.

Hiring A Real Estate Agent

If you're thinking of hiring an agent, interview several different agents. Talk with friends and family about agents they've used. Find an agent who will work on your terms. Make sure what you're asking is realistic, however. Here are some things to discuss with prospective agents:

"Have you sold homes in my neighborhood in the last year?" If the answer is yes, ask for the names, addresses and current phone numbers of the sellers, as well as the sales prices of the homes. If the agent hasn't sold homes in your area, find one who has. They'll have a better feel for the market in your area. And, if the agent won't give references, be skeptical. Don't accept excuses about why he or she can't give you the information.

"I'm not willing to pay the commission that you're asking." Many agents will give you the impression that their commission is not negotiable. However, their fees are always negotiable. For example, Ellen Bower hopes to negotiate a lower commission because she lives in a popular development. Other homes on her street have sold quickly, so she thinks her home will be easy to sell. (Of course, this is what most people think!)

"Are you willing to put your sales strategy in writing?" To make sure you get the services you're paying for, ask interested agents for their sales strategy before you hire one. When you agree to list your home with an agent, you could be forced to pay the commission even if you don't get the service promised. So when you find an agent you like, ask to make the commission contingent on the agent sticking to his or her sales strategy. Any understandings you have with the agent should be in writing in the listing agreement. (See Appendix for sample listing agreement.)

"What will you tell potential buyers when they ask whether the price is negotiable?" Make sure the agent will convey the information you want to be conveyed to buyers.

A final note about agents: Your real estate agent is obligated to get you the best possible price for your home as quickly as possible. Ask your agent to send you copies of your MLS sheet and any other marketing materials for your home. Also ask the agent to call at least twice a week to update you about potential buyers. Make sure your agent knows you are going to hold him or her accountable for getting the job done!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

More bad signs about Real Estate markets

This time some ideas of how Realtors can skew the markets by relisting and other tricks. This article from Columbas is by Kenneth Harney.

In cooling real-estate markets, the hottest question is: How do you value a piece of property when home sales are down 20 percent to 40 percent from last year, inventories of unsold homes have ballooned by 200 percent or more, and all the trend lines are negative?

It can be tough. Traditionally, real-estate appraisers focused heavily on sales of similar properties — "comparables" that closed in recent months — to make their valuations. But that doesn’t work well in markets that were superheated — prices rising at 1 percent to 2 percent a month — but are stalled-out or falling. It also doesn’t work well in markets where recent closed sales prices often were inflated by incentives provided by sellers to buyers — contributions to closing costs, buydowns of mortgage interest rates and other sweeteners not always on the public record.

"It’s getting pretty dicey out there," said John D. Bredemeyer, a residential appraiser and spokesman for Appraisal Institute, the industry’s largest professional group.

"Just looking at historical data can be perilous. You’ve got to open up the window and see what’s really happening now."

Some mortgage lenders and relocation companies expect appraisers to examine a range of data that they never emphasized during the boom years. Gary Crabtree, owner of Affiliated Appraisers, said that besides the traditional "recent comps," he factors in at least eight other types of data in reaching the value of a house:

• Pending sales under contract.
• Current listing prices of houses in the area.
• Market supply and demand.
• Length of time unsold on the market for current listings.
• Price reductions or increases on current listings.
• Notices of defaults and notices of trustees sales.
• Known concessions provided to buyers to facilitate sales.
• Personal interviews with real-estate agents on what they’re experiencing with sellers and buyers.

Even some of these factors can be tricky, however.

Crabtree said some realestate agents increasingly are playing what he calls "the relist game." Because multiple-listing-system data reveal how long each property has been on the market, agents with unsold houses sometimes cancel the listing — take the property off the market for a short period — and then list it again with a different price and multiplelisting code.

"Now the house no longer looks like it’s been sitting dead in the water for months on end," Crabtree said. "It looks like a new listing," and it’s reported in that misleading way in the data that appraisers use to gauge the overall market.

Crabtree said one house he tracked was first listed last October at $299,900. It sat unsold for 122 days. Then the listing agent pulled it out of the system briefly and brought it back as a new listing at $269,000. When it didn’t sell in 30 days, the agent again yanked the listing and reported it as a new one at $259,000. Now the house is on the market for $229,000 and still not selling.

Kenneth R. Harney covers housing issues on Capitol Hill for the Washington Post Writers Group. You can write to him at P.O. Box 15281, Chevy Chase, Md. 20815

Prices are high in Australia as well

What we all need for a strong real estate market is new blood all of the time. You need renters moving up to home ownership and this will make sure that there are lots of buyers and sellers in the market. Right now there is also high house prices in Australia so renters are having trouble buying there as well. Here is a story that I picked up from the

There is a new registry in Australia that allows homeowners to check on the reputation of renters and this article speaks to that issue.

TENANTS who default on their rent might never escape the renting cycle as their bad debts could stop them getting a mortgage, according to a property industry expert.

Landlord insurance provider Terri Scheer says many tenants are not aware that defaulting on their rent will be recorded on a national database. Every time they apply for credit or a home loan in the future, this information could be on their record, she says.

"Defaulting on rent doesn't just leave your landlord out of pocket, it can also have a significant impact on your ability to own your own home," Ms Scheer says.

"Being a model tenant is more than just having a good relationship with your landlord, it is also about building a good credit rating for the future."

Real estate property managers report to, and access, national databases so they can screen out proposed tenants who might have a history of not paying their rent. Ms Scheer, chief executive of Terri Scheer Insurance Brokers, also said that some chronic non-payers often seek out landlords who independently manage their properties. This was because the tenants assume the owner will not have access to a credit data base, which might otherwise cause the landlord to choose someone else.

Tenants Union Victoria spokesman David Imber said the residential tenancy databases were set up because state laws do not allow real estate agents to have access to credit data, so they set up their own system to keep track of non-paying tenants. However, Mr Imber said the tenancy databases often have incorrect information and in some cases include malicious reporting by agents.

Mr Imber said real estate agents or the database managers do not have to inform tenants when they send a report about them, for things such as not paying the rent on time, property damage or violence. However, under the privacy laws, if a tenant asks to see if there are any references to them on one of these databases, they must be shown the information - but only if they ask. Tenants also have the right to challenge any information and get it corrected through the privacy commissioner but this was often a long and difficult process, Mr Imber said.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

How to avoid dangerous morgage lenders

What are dangerous morgage practices?

There are a lot of good morgage lenders across the country, both banks and small lending budinesses. But, There are many dangerous lenders that will try to hurt you financially buy getting you a morgage for terms and conditions that are very high and that can ruin you financially. Here are some things to watch out for and avoid when choosing a morgage lender. Bad morgage lenders will try to do the following:

  1. Sell properties for much more than they are worth using false appraisals.

  2. Encourage morgage borrowers to lie about their income, expenses, or cash available for downpayments in order to get a loan.

  3. Knowingly lend more morgage money than a borrower can afford to repay.

  4. Charge high interest rates to borrowers based on their race or national origin and not on their credit history.

  5. Charge fees for unnecessary or nonexistent products and services.

  6. Pressure morgage borrowers to accept higher-risk loans such as balloon loans, interest only payments, and steep pre-payment penalties.

  7. Target vulnerable borrowers to cash-out refinances offers when they know borrowers are in need of cash due to medical, unemployment or debt problems.

  8. "Strip" homeowners' equity from their homes by convincing them to morgage again and again when there is no benefit to the borrower.

  9. Use high pressure sales tactics to sell home improvements and then finance them at high interest rates.

Watch out for these warning signs!

  1. A lender or investor tells you that they are your only chance of getting a morgage or owning a home. You should be able to take your time to shop around and compare prices and houses.

  2. The house you are buying costs a lot more than other homes in the neighborhood, but isn't any bigger or better.

  3. You are asked to sign a sales contract or morgage documents that are blank or that contain information which is not true.

  4. You are told that the Federal Housing Administration insurance protects you against property defects or loan fraud - it does not!!!!

  5. The cost or morgage terms at closing are not what you agreed to.

  6. You are told that getting a new morgage or second morgage can solve your credit or money problems.

  7. You are told that you can only get a good deal on a home improvement if you finance it with a particular lender.

Armed with this information I hope that these lists of bad morgage practices and ways to spot bad morgage lenders will help you out and save you a lot of pain and heartache

10 tips on protecting yourself when buying a home

Here are 10 great tips for making sure that you keep yourself protected when buying a home. This can be invaluable information as quite often the time between deciding to buy a home and the actual buying of the home is quite short

  1. Interview several real estate professionals (agents), and ask for and check references before you select one to help you buy or sell a home.

  2. Get information about the prices of other homes in the neighborhood. Don't be fooled into paying too much.

  3. Hire a properly qualified and licensed home inspector to carefully inspect the property before you are obligated to buy. Determine whether you or the seller is going to be responsible for paying for the repairs. If you have to pay for the repairs, determine
    whether or not you can afford to make them.

  4. Shop for a lender and compare costs. Be suspicious if anyone tries to steer you to just one lender.

  5. Do NOT let anyone persuade you to make a false statement on your loan application, such as overstating your income, the source of your downpayment, failing to disclose the nature and amount of your debts, or even how long you have been employed. When you
    apply for a mortgage loan, every piece of information that you submit must be accurate and complete. Lying on a mortgage application is fraud and may result in criminal penalties.

  6. Do NOT let anyone convince you to borrow more money than you know you can afford to repay. If you get behind on your payments, you risk losing your house and all of the money you put into your property.

  7. Never sign a blank document or a document containing blanks. If information is inserted by someone else after you have signed, you may still be bound to the terms of the ontract. Insert "N/A" (i.e., not applicable) or cross through any blanks.

  8. Read everything carefully and ask questions. Do not sign anything that you don't understand. Before signing, have your contract and loan agreement reviewed by an attorney skilled in real estate law, consult with a trusted real estate professional or ask for
    help from a housing counselor with a HUD-approved agency. If you cannot afford an attorney, take your documents to the HUD-approved housing counseling agency near you to find out if they will review the documents or can refer you to an attorney who will help you for free or at low cost.

  9. Be suspicious when the cost of a home improvement goes up if you don't accept the contractor's financing.

  10. Be honest about your intention to occupy the house. Stating that you plan to live there when, in fact, you are not (because you intend to rent the house to someone else or fix it up and resell it) violates federal law and is a crime.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Just a little note about some new sites I have created

I have been working feverishly to create a bunch of great sites with some content that everyone will find useful in one way or another

Car maintenance and buying tips
Everyone owns a car right? Well I ride a bike but it is nice to know what to look for when buying or maintianing your car

Dogs and dog resources site
Pets anyone? I love dogs as do millions of other people. Here is some great stuff for all you dog lovers

Fly fishing site
Fishing is one of North Americas most popular outdoor pastimes

Computer and telephone headset resource
Telephone headsets from Plantronics and a host of other companies are a great way to be hands free while working and talking

Healthy benfits of herbs site
I take some herbs but there are many people that knwo a lot more about them than I do

Nursing careers and nursing resources
Nursing is one of the real growth industries now and as baby boomers retire over the next few years. An aging population is looking for nurses and they are in short supply

Hotels in Prague Czech republic
Prague is a beautiful city with many large and very old historic hotels. Why not stay at one on your next trip to europe

Mystery shopping for fun and profit
Mystery shopping is when you go to stores as a prospective customer and help the business rate it's sales staff. Easy work but very rewarding and fun.

Filling our surveys to make money
we hjave all seen surveys on the internet. what are they and can you really make money from them?

Webtips for Internet Marketing
Internet marketing is an exciting business and a great way to make a residual income.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Soft landing in the housing market?

The biggest global housing boom in three decades may end not with a bang, but with an extended whimper that will keep the economy growing.

Markets for dwellings in the United States, France, Spain, New Zealand and parts of China are slowing down as home-price inflation slows in response to higher interest rates. So far, the rise in borrowing costs has been modest, giving builders and buyers time to adjust.

"We're seeing a cooling-off of the housing market," said Raghuram Rajan, chief economist at the International Monetary Fund in Washington. "We haven't seen a bust."

Housing prices in industrial countries have doubled in real terms in a decade, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates. If prices ease rather than collapse, the world economic expansion may be able to continue without sustaining too much damage.

"The global economy should remain buoyant," said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist of Global Insight. He sees world growth slowing to 3.3 percent next year from 3.8 percent in 2006.
The moderation in housing should help bring world trade back into better balance. The boom has been concentrated in countries with big trade deficits: In the United States, consumers have used the equity in their homes to finance a spending spree that included imported consumer goods. As the boom ebbs and consumers pull back, trade deficits will shrink again.

In the first quarter, the average global house price was 6.1 percent higher than a year earlier, according to an international real-estate adviser, Knight Frank. That is down from a 9.3 percent year-to-year increase in the first quarter of 2005 and a peak of 10.9 percent in the third quarter of 2004.
The odds of a debilitating price bust will rise if the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, the European Central Bank president, Jean-Claude Trichet, and other central bankers lift rates sharply to fight inflation.
Paul van den Noord, a senior economist with the OECD, concluded in a paper last month that a 1 to 2 percentage- point increase in rates would increase to 50 percent or more the chance of a home-price collapse in the United States, France, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand and Spain.
That is what happened in 1980, when Paul Volcker, then the Fed chairman, raised the benchmark rate to 20 percent, sending the U.S. housing market and the economy into a tailspin. The Fed, which lifted its rate to 5.25 percent last week, also indicated that it might take a break after two years of increases.

U.S. home prices were 12.5 percent higher in the first quarter of 2006 than they were a year earlier, according to data compiled by the government's Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight. That was down from 13.3 percent in last year's fourth quarter, and is the slowest rate of appreciation in more than a year.

"We're right on course for a soft landing in the housing sector," said David Lereah, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors in Washington.

Historically, just 17 percent of local housing booms in the United States go bust, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance, a government agency that regulates banks. And that typically occurs only when local regions are under severe economic stress, like Texas in the mid-1980s after oil prices plunged.

"Busts have been pretty rare," said Richard Brown, chief economist at the FDIC in Washington.

"The most common way for a boom to end is through an extended period of stagnation."
Some of the hottest housing markets in Europe are also slowing down. Annual house-price appreciation in Spain declined to 12 percent in the first quarter from 15.7 percent in the first three months of 2005. In France, prices for existing homes rose at 14.2 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, down from 15.7 percent in the first quarter of last year.

Even in markets like Ireland where prices are still galloping, a slowdown is likely as tighter credit begins to bite.

A region-wide crash does not look likely. Julian Callow, chief European economist for Barclays Capital, expects euro-zone house prices to rise about 7.5 percent this year after increasing 8.5 percent in each of the last two years. He said that a long-awaited revival of Germany's economy and housing market should help offset weakness elsewhere.

Harvinder Kalirai, head of research in Sydney at State Street, said Asian housing markets would be helped as living standards rise to industrial-nation levels. "Countries are getting richer, and housing prices will rise with incomes," he said. "It's a multiyear, if not multidecade, view."

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Where does the commission go?

I’m amazed at the craze the last couple years regarding Realtor commissions. As you are aware, the real estate market has been quite impressive over the last few years. Record sales prices, record number of transactions and amazing new construction growth has brought everyone who is anyone into the real estate business. With so many Realtors and so little inventory, competition amongst Realtors has grown fierce. Suddenly, the traditional 6% commissions fell to 5%. Then, the 5% commissions dropped to 4% and in some cases even lower than that. Now, I am an advocate of competition. I feel it keeps a healthy market healthy. However, what many Realtors fail to explain to their selling prospects when negotiating a listing agreement and commissions is how the money is actually used and where it goes.

Where Does the Commission Go?

Despite what the general public believes, the whole commission does not go into the pockets of the Realtor. In fact, Realtors only get a small portion of the total commission. Below is a traditional breakdown of what happens to a commission when it is paid upon closing.

Let’s say you sold a $300,000 house this year and paid 5% commission. At $15,000 total commission, traditionally it is split between both the buyer’s broker and the seller’s broker. Therefore, both brokers would gross $7,500. Then, your listing agent and the buyer’s agent would each get a portion of the $7,500 each of their brokers received. The portion amount will differ for each agent depending on their split agreement with each of their brokers. Let’s just figure an average 60%. 60% of $7,500 is $4,500. Now factor in all the advertising costs including flyers, mail-outs, ads in the various papers and industry magazines, open house costs, installation of signs, virtual tour costs, etc. Suddenly of the $4,500, the agent is netting less than $3,000. Under extremely favorable conditions, the time it takes to list a home, market it to be sold and take it to the closing table is 50 days. If you do the math, and based on $3,000 take home for the Realtor, they earned $60 per day while actively selling your home.

If your Realtor is highly professional and very knowledgeable about the market and marketing homes, they are worth EVERY penny they earn. As an employee, your Realtor is responsible for the marketing and negotiations of a VERY expensive product, your home. In most cases a house will be the largest priced product you every buy or sell.

Do you really benefit from negotiating a lower commission?

I would also like to discuss Realtors that are so easily willing to reduce their commissions to get your listing. First of all, you have every right to negotiate a lower commission for Realtor services. But what are you really negotiating? As mentioned above, the Realtor commission is split up in so many ways to where nearly 4 people get a cut and another large portion goes into marketing costs. So, if you are the seller and traditionally a seller pays the commission, you are actually negotiating AWAY your marketing dollars and Realtor’s paycheck. In other words, you are negotiating away the earnings of the expert that is supposed to work hard at reaching your ultimate goal…selling your property at the highest possible price with the fewest hassles. When this occurs your Realtor has no real incentive to work hard for you and the sale of your house. In other words, a Realtor might decide not to market your property as much as they normally would if paid a higher commission.


The title of this article is Realtor Commissions: Do They Really Get Paid Too Much. The value of a Realtor is really based on the level of service you expect and the results you expect your Realtor professional to deliver. If you have been disappointed in the level of service and/or results your Realtor has delivered, I would suggest you interview many Realtors before making a decision as to who will ultimately be responsible for the marketing and sale of one of your highest valued assets. If you want more information about choosing the right Realtor and what questions to ask in your interviews, you can request a FREE REPORT on my website.



Passion. Focus. Dedication.

What Sean brings to his clients is a commitment and dedication to provide quality service. He does what it takes to make things happen and you always know he’s working with your best interests in mind. He offers reliable communication and follow through that will guide you in the right direction when it comes to your most important decisions. You’ll receive the one-on-one attention you deserve, with a warm and caring style that is all his own.

Most importantly, Sean knows what counts: Passion. Focus. Dedication. To Sean, these are the key elements for success and the foundation for the way he approaches all your real estate needs. You owe it to yourself to give him a call today. You’ll be glad you did.

If you have any questions about this article or any real estate related questions, please call or email me. My contact information can be found on my website at

Monday, June 26, 2006

First time buyers don't beware

ARM loans. FHA loans. VA loans. PMI. WHEDA. Buying a house can be an exercise in muddling through alphabet soup.

And if you’re a first-time home buyer, that soup doesn’t look real appetizing.

A home is likely the largest single purchase a person or couple ever makes, and the task can be daunting. But armed (not ARMed) with the right information, a home purchase can be a reality for many.

As it is with a home, though, a home purchase is going to be better if built on a solid foundation.

"There are three things that are really important for first-time home buyers," said Greg Mc-Bride, senior financial analyst with "First, months in advance buyers should check their credit reports and clear up any errors. You don’t want to let someone say something about you that isn’t true."

Clearing up errors can im-prove your credit score, and the higher your score the more likely you are to get a favorable interest rate.

"Second, you need to understand how much house you can afford and how much money you can afford to borrow," McBride said.

(Mortgage calculators are available at, or type "mortgage calculators" in your browser’s search engine.)

"Finally, you want to get preapproved," McBride said. "Do these things before you’ve even stepped out to start looking."

A visit to your loan officer is a wise, early course of action.

"Probably one of the biggest things is to be comfortable with your loan officer," said Dennis DeGrave, personal mortgage consultant with First Choice bank. "We can help them understand what kind of loan program is best for them, but it’s easiest to do face-to-face."

A preapproval letter also makes you more attractive to sellers who have another offer, aside from yours, to consider.

"The seller wants preliminary assurances that the buyer can afford the home," said Debbi Conrad, director of legal affairs with the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

"It’s the person who has preapproval who will have the advantage," McBride said. "It really gives you a leg-up."

Down payments

The days of a 20 percent down payment on a home are a thing of the past, mostly.

"Probably 90 percent or more of my clients have had less than 20 percent down on their home purchase," DeGrave said.

"Twenty percent just isn’t the norm anymore," Conrad said.

In fact, many lenders offer 100-percent financing to qualified individuals.

"The fact that someone doesn’t have any down payment shouldn’t deter them from looking into a home purchase," DeGrave said. "It’s nice to start with a starter home and build equity in it. Then, a few years down the line, they’ll have the equity and can use it as a down payment for their future home."

But McBride cautioned against accepting 100-percent financing blindly.

"A lot of people don’t have money in savings," he said, noting that last year, 42 percent of first-time home buyers didn’t have any down payment. "Yeah, you should try to come up with some kind of down payment, but don’t erase your savings. (Home buying) will take cash, one way or another. You need a cash cushion and the ability to squirrel away money, because you will need it."

Loan products

When deciding among the many loan products out there, experts suggest looking at the amount of time you expect to be in the home. Those who expect to set up shop for a while in one home may consider different products than those who expect to turn around and sell in the near future.

"For some people, it may be beneficial to avoid PMI (private mortgage insurance required of those whose loans exceed 80 percent of the home value)," DeGrave said. "They can do that with two loans. But keep in mind that PMI eventually can and will drop."

McBride suggests those hoping to be in their homes 10 years or longer will benefit best from a 30-year fixed mortgage, while anyone looking at less than 10 years in a home would be better off with a loan product that has a low fixed rate for a period of time - generally three, five, seven or 10 years, depending on the product - but will adjust annually after that initial time period is over. For example, a 7/1 loan will have a fixed interest rate for the first seven years, but that rate will adjust annually thereafter, depending on market conditions.

"If you plan to sell before the initial term is up, it’s tantamount to a fixed-rate loan, but the rate is less than the rate on a 30-year fixed loan," McBride said.

Other considerations

Do you need a Realtor? Conrad says yes.

"They can steer you through the legal documents and all the forms, disclosure and hazards," she pointed out.

What about an attorney?

"An attorney can be of most help once you’re ready to write the offer," Conrad said.

Is an inspection necessary?

"It’s an absolute must," Conrad said. "Even if the seller is honest on all the disclosures, they just may not be aware of all the problems. It’s also necessary for the buyer to understand that the home won’t be perfect. None are."

This story appeared in the West Bend Daily News on June 26, 2006

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Finding a great Realtor

Not everyone can buy or sell a home. So finding the right real estate agent to help you with your next real estate deal can make he difference between you making an OK deal or a great deal. Real estate deals are complicated, and if you’re like most home buyers, a good portion of your assets are on the line.

But all real estate agents aren’t created equal. Some Realtors get personally involved every step of the way, while some farm out a lot of the work to other associates. The amount of formal education a Realtor has is important. But so is the knowledge he has about the neighborhoods you want to buy into.

Before you get started, it’s important to understand exactly who you’re shopping for. Many people use the terms “Realtor,” “real estate agent” and “real estate broker” interchangeably, but they aren’t mutually inclusive.

A real estate agent is a person who has a real estate license from the state in which they practice. Keep in mind, though, the requirements for getting a real estate license in most states are pretty minimal. A Realtor is a real estate agent who has earned additional certification from the National Association of Realtors. And a real estate broker is a Realtor who has yet more training and a different license than either real estate agents or Realtors. Got that?

The exact title of the real estate professional you work with isn’t as nearly important as the level of commitment, energy and local knowledge he/she may have. But trying to find the real estate agent who embodies all the above can be a challenge.

The following tips for choosing a real estate partner will put you ahead of the game:

1. There are only a few types of real estate agencies out there; small ones, large ones, franchises and independent agencies. Don’t get hung up on the differences because the individual agent is more important than the real estate agency.

2. Know the type of representation you need. Most agents are seller’s agents, meaning they only represent sellers’ interests to the disadvantage of buyers. This is great if you’re a seller, but if you’re looking to buy a home inquire about buyer’s agents — brokers who represent the buyer’s interests in real estate transactions. Their fees for finding you a home are usually covered by the seller, not the buyer.

3. Finding the right agency requires some legwork. There are a lot of real estate agencies listed in the phonebook or online. If you choose one at random you’ll probably live to regret it. Explore the neighborhoods you’re interested in buying into and look for Realtors/brokers who are nearby or who already have several signs placed in yards. There’s a better chance that these Realtors are already familiar with this neighborhood.

4. Search first for a real estate partner, not individual homes or properties. You may be looking through your newspaper’s real estate section one day and fall in love with a home that a particular real estate agent is listing. However, the agent might tell you that property is taken, but they have others you’d love. Less reputable agencies will often use this bait and switch trick to lure in customers. Chances are you’re not going to get the first home you fall in love with anyway.

5. Look for experience. The real estate profession has a high rate of turnover, which means there are a great many untested agents who are constantly moving in and out of agencies. If you like the personality or appearance of an agent, the next question you should ask is how long they’ve been practicing. If it’s been less than two years, keep looking; that is unless you’re entirely comfortable with that agent.

6. Look for commitment. Many real estate agents only practice on a part-time basis and they might not have the time or drive to give you the attention you deserve. Also, many brokers are only interested in representing properties within a certain price range. If your home isn’t in it, they might not give you the attention you deserve.

7. Interview real estate agents you’re interested in working with. It’s a good idea to sit down and visit with at least three prospective Realtors. This is the best way to get a feel for them and what they can do for you. Don’t be afraid to ask how well they know your neighborhood and exactly how often you’ll hear from them. Ask for references and check them out. Your relationship with your real estate agent will be a working one, and if you don’t think you’d work well with him or her, you’re probably right.

8. Ask friends to refer you to real estate agents they’ve had good experiences with. Or if you prefer, you can start your search at the National Association of Realtors’ Web site; they have listings of Realtors in your area.

9. Select a real estate agent who can work with your schedule. If your schedule only allows you to see homes on evenings and weekends, you won’t go very far with an agent who only works days.

Ask any prospective real estate agent what they’ll do to sell your home. It sounds elementary, but not all agents work the same way. Some brokers will advertise your property and spread the word to other agents they know. Others will just add your property to the Multiple Listing Service and wait for inquiries. The bottom guiding line is, “The more proactive your Realtor, the better.”

A middleman to listing your home

I have just run across an article about a strange new website called The idea behind hungry agents is that if your are looking to sell you list your home on this site and Realtors are supposed to bid on your listing. With the number of Realtors in most markets I am not sure why this service would be necessary but anyway here is an article that talks about the service.

Home sellers caught in the current ebb in real estate sales can't help getting a bit discouraged after putting up a "for sale" sign, only to see few prospects look at their property. It's a trend that has vexed Realtors who've been fighting a vicious circle that has seen interest rates go up while home sales go down. About the only way to sweeten a deal without chopping the purchase price would be to negotiate the 6 percent to 7 percent commission paid to real estate agents.
An online service,, offers home sellers the option of doing just that, often netting home sellers a commission rate as low as 3 or 4 percent.

This is in fact a new service that has not been offered online before.

"It's been good for my business," Wiszowaty said. "I think it's been great for homeowners, because they can find some competitive rates with good companies that are out there," he said.
He suggested HungryAgents has been a godsend for a lot of homeowners who are desperate to sell their home but are either unwilling or unable to pay prevailing commission rates. He scoffs at suggestions that a participating agent may unwittingly label his realty a discount broker.
Wiszowaty points out that preliminary negotiations between agent and seller are done online and are completely anonymous until the seller decides he wants to make contact with an agent. The number of agents is pared down to three, who then meet with the seller in person and bid for the listing by offering bare-bones commission rates and a description of what services will be provided.

After a home seller signs with a Realtor and the home is sold, HungryAgents collects a $795 fee from the seller, irrespective of the sale price of the home. Wiszowaty dispels any notion that Realtors working in his office — or at competing real estate agencies, for that matter — might resent participating agents for raking in sales generated by their acceptance of reduced commission rates.

"Nobody in the multiple listing service knows that a listing is taken by a HungryAgents Realtor," Wiszowaty said.

The only place the amount of the final commission appears, he said, would be on a closing statement.

Wiszowaty said there is no stigma attached to agents who accept lesser-priced commissions. He said commission rates are kept confidential to preclude other Realtors from refusing to show listings obtained through HungryAgents.

Vince Rizzo, a real estate broker and a co-founder of the St. Louis-based company, emphasizes that HungryAgents is not a real estate agency. Rather, he explained, it's sort of an online "dating service."

He expressed optimism about the future of the company after launching the company's Web site about a year ago. Even with limited advertising in Chicago, Indianapolis and Kansas City, the results, Rizzo noted, surpassed company expectations. "They really weren't expecting to be in all 50 states for a least a couple of years," he said. "They bypassed that goal in about six months."

Rizzo also brushed aside suggestions that participating Realtors jeopardize their operations by accepting bargain-basement commission rates.

"If you're an agent, you're not going to put a sign in your window that suggests you're selling homes at 3 or 4 percent" commission, Rizzo noted.

So now that you see how this system works it seems that there are people willing to let a company charge them $750 to get into the middle of a regular early part of the real estate tranaction process.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

For Sale by owner pitfalls

There are a few pitfalls if you try to sell your home on your own. offers a few reasons why you should not sell your home on your own and of course they do have good reasons here.

1. FSBOs can't list their home in the MLS. FSBOs aren't permitted to put their home in the multiple listing service (MLS) because these industry membership organizations are open only to licensed real estate brokers and agents. FSBOs are also locked out of many home search engines and Web sites, including the gigantic Sure, a determined FSBO can put a for-sale sign in his or her front yard and run a tiny advertisement in the local newspaper, but the home won't receive nearly as much exposure as it would through the MLS.

2. Agents won't show for sale buy owner homes. In a typical home sale, the buyer's agent receives a percentage of the commission that the seller pays the listing agent. Without a listing agreement, there's no guarantee that the buyer's agent will be compensated for his or her services, unless the buyer has signed a buyer's brokerage agreement that specifically provides for such compensation. Even if a FSBO offers to pay the buyer's side of the commission, most agents won't want to go through a transaction with an unsophisticated self-represented seller across the table. That means the pool of potential buyers for FSBO homes is limited primarily to unrepresented and probably unqualified prospects.

3. For sale buy owners usually overprice their home. Like most homeowners, most FSBOs honestly believe their own home is worth more than comparable homes in the same neighborhood. Usually, they're wrong. A real estate agent can provide an update on market conditions, an assessment of the likely selling price of the home and tips for improving the home's buyer appeal. Overpricing a for-sale home is a sure way to deter potential buyers.

4. Buyers will feel intimidated trying to buy a home from a by owner. Potential buyers will spend less time in a for-sale home if the owner is present during the showing, and they'll be shy about discussing its pluses and minuses with their own agent if the owner is within earshot. Buyers will also be less inclined to make an offer if they know they'll be negotiating directly with the seller. Having an agent on each side creates an effective emotional buffer between the seller and buyer.

5. For sale by owners are likely to stumble into legal trouble. Real estate transactions are fraught with potential liability for unwary sellers, particularly in states that have extensive disclosure requirements (e.g., California). A FSBO who overlooks even one required form or legally mandated disclosure could face a protracted and expensive buyer lawsuit after the transaction closes.

Take heed at these if you are going to try to sell your home on your own. The other thing to think about is that a buyer buying a home from a buy owner is going to discount the price by the amount of commision that you would have had to pay.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Interest rate fears

I hate trying to be a real estate analyst but if you are planning to sell this year this is probably your best time. The markets around the country are hot right now and it looks like interest rates are on their way up for the rest of the year.

Actually to be really clear about it interest rates are incredible low and if your are thinking of making a move up be aware that rates could go up 3 percent over the next couple of years on fewer of the American dollar not being able to compete with international currencies as well as war and oil issues both domestically and abroad.

is there a real estate bubble. you bet, the trouble is people have been saying at least for a couple of years that the bubble is about to burst and as we all know no one has got it right yet.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

When is it time to sell your home?

Your friends just sold their home for an amazing profit. You are considering putting your home on the market, but how do you know if the time is right.

Whether you are simply a homeowner or a real estate investor, you may have been paying attention to the market. It has been exceptionally hot for the past few years. In many areas, price appreciation has been through the roof. And though there is a slowdown happening in the market, there are still plenty of properties that are selling quite well.

One thing that is working in many sellers' favor right now is a fear of where the market is going. In areas where appreciation has been modest, rising interest rates are causing a few homebuyers to jump on properties before they can no longer afford them. Many consumers are afraid that they will pay to much if they wait much longer.

While interest rates are on the rise, they are still at a very low point. They haven't risen enough to knock the majority of potential buyers out of the market. Add in new loan programs designed to lower the monthly payments, and you will find that there aren't a lot of people shying away from buying.

In fact, most buyers buy because they are ready, not when the market is ready.

And perhaps that is the way to sell a home. Are you ready to move on? Do you have substantial equity in your home? Is your home in good shape?

If you answered yes to all three questions, then you are probably ready to sell your home. You can get an idea of what your neighborhood market is like by watching it yourself. Look at home that are similar to yours in style, size, age and location. See how long they remain on the market.

You can also talk with a Realtor about your decision to sell. Ask how long their listed properties are staying on the market. Is this up or down from last year? Where do they see the market heading?

The market is an interesting force. The thing is that we tend to focus on what it is doing right now, instead of looking at overall trends. Is the rise in interest rates really hurting the consumer when it comes to a potential for foreclosure? Even when interest rates were declining, foreclosure rates were increasing. Maybe they aren't as tied as we think.

What should determine whether you should sell your home or not? Consider your job status, your income level, your age, your family and all the other factors that are important to your everyday life. Yes, we would all like to make a huge profit on our homes, but no matter what the market is like, chances are you will not get any more than your home is worth.

So are you ready to sell your home? Are you ready to buy a new one?

Look to yourself and your finances and not the market. The market isn't always easy to pin down. Let your timing be right, not the market's. When your focus is on your own finances, you are able to make better decisions. Good luck.

Martin Lukac, represents, a finance web-company specializing in real estate/mortgage market. We specialize in daily updates, rate predictions, mortgage rates and more. Find low home loan mortgage interest rates from hundreds of mortgage companies! Visit today

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

What to look for in your homeowners insurance

Most Homeowners insurance companies will simply send out a reminder for a renewal of your home insurance policy when the end of the year is up for your insurance coverage. Many will also automatically renew your policy unless you call and let them know that you want to change or cancel that policy. This makes it easy for many homeowners to simply begin sending in the next set of payments for another year without reviewing the policy to make sure it adequately reflects their needs for the year.

Whether you have upgraded or remodeled the home, added a deck onto the back, turned the home into a rental property or realized that you may have problems with flooding in your area, there are several reasons to review your home insurance policy every year to assess whether the coverage still meets your needs.

Even if you have just begun a new home insurance coverage policy, it is important to review the policy as soon as you receive it to make sure the policy has the correct coverage amounts and coverage needs you have asked for. Remember that this policy will be in place for an entire year and will most likely cost between $300-$2000 so be sure that you are getting what you want.

If you asked for personal liability of others in the amount of $100,000 and the policy only shows $50,000 don’t be afraid to call the insurance agent back to have this problem corrected. The problem can simply be solved by issuing a new policy or a policy change.

Once the year time period has expired on your current policy and you are getting ready to renew again, it is always a safe bet to call the insurance agent and ask if the replacement cost value has gone up on your home or on anything in your home.

Remember that the financial market continues to increase and with this rates of building and replacement tools will go up, so there is no shame in calling to ask if the figures on your policy need to be changed.

If you have done any renovation of the home in the last year, such as replacing countertops or flooring, or even adding on a deck, it is important to inform the insurance company of these changes. This protects you from being underinsured in case of damage or loss.

If you have acquired any major purchases of personal property, it is also important to contact the insurance company about changing the coverage amount on your interior belongings. This could include major electronics equipment like an LCD television, a personal computer or laptop, an expensive piece of jewelry or fur coat, or even new furniture or a new piece of artwork.

It is also important to review your insurance coverage policy every year to determine if you have adequate peril coverage and liability insurance. Although some basic plans cover certain types of natural disaster and others cover personal liability, you may want to consider adding on specific insurance clauses for flooding, hurricanes, or tornados if you live in a high risk area.

If you started a plan out with little or no hurricane insurance but realized that the previous year brought major hurricanes to your area, then you may want to reconsider the amount of coverage. As well, some policies do not require homeowners to have personal liability insurance but this is a good idea if you are planning on having others in your home quite often.

This could include construction workers who are remodeling a kitchen or bathroom or even a babysitter or housekeeper. You will also want to change your policy if your children are starting to get older and invite over friends to play in the yard or to spend the night. Personal liability insurance will cover any accidents that happen while others are in your home.

One final reason to review your insurance policy each year is to assess discounts or possible price quote deductions that you may be able to receive. When you purchased the home it may not have had a security system installed, fire sprinklers or been equipped with up to date smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

But if you have installed this equipment over the past year, it is a good idea to call and inform the insurance company to see if you this makes you eligible for a discount. You may also be able to receive a discount if you started receiving car insurance from the same company, turned a certain age, or began a membership to a certain club or organization that the insurance company recognizes and gives discounts to on a regular basis.

Credit: Ian W Anderson of, the homeowners insurance information site. For more homeowners insurance information and articles like this one visit: Homeowners Insurance

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How to decide on seller financing

Why offer seller financing when you sell? A higher price, a good return on your money, a faster sale and to sell a property that is otherwise difficult to sell. Some good reasons, but how do you do it safely?

1. Get a large downpayment. The most obvious way to be safe, and not always possible.

2. Get other security. If they want it with little down, and you like the return you'll get, make it safe by putting a mortgage on other property the buyer owns, to be released when they've paid down the balance to a certain level.

3. Check their credit. Have them pay for and bring you a credit report. Bad credit may be okay, but type of bad credit is important. Unpaid hospital bills they're disputing are not as relevant as unpaid loans.

4. Trust your instincts. If you are usually right about people, give some weight to your judgement of their character. I'd trust a man who felt morally obliged to pay his debts over a playboy that happens to have decent income at the moment.

5. Consider the whole picture. Suppose a bank will loan 90%, and is okay with you taking back a $5,000 second mortgage, allowing the buyer to get in with what cash he has. If you're getting $6,000 more than you expected by accomodating the buyer's needs, where's the loss? You're okay if he never pays the $5,000, right?

6. Talk to a lawyer. Maybe in your area it takes two years to get a foreclosure on a mortgage through the courts, and only six months to foreclose on a "contract for sale." Knowing these things can help you sell in the safest way.

Offering seller financing makes it easier to sell, and to get a higher price. Just be safe about it. Have a real estate lawyer review your paperwork, and use the tips here.

Steve Gillman has invested in real estate for years. To learn more, and to see a photo of a beautiful house he and his wife bought for $17,500, visit

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Reasons to refinance your home

Many people will take whatever mortgage they can get when trying to purchase a home. Sooner or later, you will start wondering if you can get a better deal. Welcome to the world of refinance.

Reasons to Refinance Your Home

Traditional mortgages are like any other loan in one important respect. You can pay them off early, although mortgages will sometimes have prepayment penalties for the first few years of the loan. In the world of real estate, people prepay loans all the time by taking a second loan to do so, better known as refinancing. Why would someone do this? There are a variety of reasons, but here are the most common.

Purchasing a home can be a bit stressful. Between home inspections and the escrow deadline, buyers tend to feel pressure to get any financing they can. As time passes, however, they start to realize they could have obtained a better deal on their mortgage. Even a quarter point reduction in a mortgage interest rate can save thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. With this in mind, they start to look at refinancing their original mortgage to cut down on the total interest paid on the loan.

In tune with this idea, many homeowners also look to refinance to gain cash flow flexibility. Instead of looking to cut the total payments on a loan, they look to find terms that will allow them to lower the amount of the monthly payment. Saving $400 a month on payments puts an additional $4,800 in your pocket each year, which can be attractive if cash flow is a little tight on a monthly basis.

On the opposite end of the scale, many homeowners will refinance to pull cash out of the home. They have built up equity over time and wish to convert that non-liquid asset into funds that can be used for something else. Often, this can be to pay for expenses associated with an emergency situation, such as a health crisis, or to put their kids through college. The reasons vary, but the purpose is the same.

The decision to refinance a mortgage is much less stressful than originating a loan. There is no deadline to act, so you can shop for the best possible deal for your situation.

Dan Lewis is with Great Western Mortgage - San Diego home loans provided by San Diego Mortgage Brokers. Great Western Mortgage is a San Diego mortgage company providing San Diego mortgages, San Diego home equity loan and San Diego mortgage solutions.

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which mortgage - long or short

Discussions of mortgages often focus on interest rates, but there is a much more basic decision to make. Should you go with a 30 year mortgage term or a 15 year mortgage term?

30 Year vs. 15 Year Mortgages

Any discussion of mortgages tends to turn on two points. How can you qualify for the most money with the lowest payment? How can you get the lowest interest rate for the mortgage? While these are two important issues, there is an addition one that people fail to consider, resulting in significant wasted money.

The term of a mortgage is extremely critical for a couple of reason. First, it sets the length of the obligation you are undertaking. Second, it defines the amount of interest you are going to pay over the life of the loan. These are huge issues when it comes to building equity.

The longer the loan, the more total interest you are going to pay. The trade off, of course, is you are going to have smaller monthly payments the farther you stretch out the obligation. While this may sound like a good goal when you first get the mortgage, it can backfire on you in the long run.

Most people focus on interest rates as a way to save money on mortgages. This is a valid approach, but playing with the length of the loan is a better way to save money. If you can cut the payments in half by going with a shorter loan, you can save huge amounts on the total interest repaid to a lender.

The decision on the term of the loan is relatively simple, but entirely dependent upon your personal situation. There is no absolutely correct choice. First, you need to determine if you can comfortably afford the higher payments that come with a shorter term loan. In general, a 15 year mortgage will have payments 20 to 25 percent higher than a 30 year loan. Of course, you will pay the loan off faster, to wit, be building equity in the home quicker.

The modern mortgage industry has a variety of different term length products. When applying for a loan, take the time to evaluate the different terms to see if you can find a loan that is perfect for your situation.

Dan Lewis is with Great Western Mortgage - San Diego home loans provided by San Diego Mortgage Brokers. Great Western Mortgage is a San Diego mortgage company providing San Diego mortgages, San Diego home equity loan and San Diego mortgage solutions.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Make your home sell faster

Every home seller wants two things: a quick sale at the highest possible price. Neither of those desires is unreasonable, but in order to achieve those goals, you'll need to do a few things to make you home more saleable and different from your competition--all the other homes for sale in your neighborhood and price range.

First, look at the outside of your home, since that's what prospective buyers will see first. If you've ever bought a home, you know that you passed up potential homes simply because they looked shabby and unkempt from the street. It's just a quirk of human nature that makes a person think that if a home looks bad from the street, it will be just as bad on the inside--so don't let your home make a negative impression on the outside.

Keep the lawn and landscaping as well-manicured as possible. Keep perennials looking good, and if possible, plant some nice-looking annual flowers to dress up the appearance of your home. Make sure your front door creates a warm, inviting feeling. If it needs a coat of paint, do it. Paint is cheap, and the rewards will be worth the effort.

The kitchen and bathrooms are crucial to making a favorable impression on potential buyers. They'll be spending a considerable amount of time in each of them, so they'll be looking at the kitchen and bathrooms with an especially critical eye. Paint can help immensely in these rooms, as well as making sure that the faucets don't leak and that everything looks fresh, livable, and odor-free.

Of course, the rest of your interior rooms need to be neat, clean, and clear of clutter to make them look bigger and more appealing. Again, if paint is needed to brighten a room, do it, using colors proven to attract your specific buyer's profile. If the buyers want to change it, that's fine, but you want every room in your home to make a favorable impression from the very beginning.

You don't have to spend a huge amount of money to make your house appealing to potential buyers. However, as the old saying goes: you only get one opportunity to make a good first impression. So walk around your house, inside and out, and try to look at it as if it's the first time you've ever seen it. What things do you see that would make a less-than-favorable impression on YOU if you were looking at them for the first time? Those are the things you want to address--long before the first potential buyers pull up in front of your home.

Copyright © 2006 Jeanette J. Fisher

Jeanette Fisher, interior design instructor, helps home sellers with color psychology to make their homes more saleable. Jeanette Fisher, author of interior design, real estate investing, and home staging books teaches home sellers five ways to get more money from their home sale. Home Selling Articles Free home seller's reports Sell Home Fast.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

10 mistakes in choosing a Realtor

Top 10 Mistakes Sellers Make When Choosing a Realtor
By Crissie Cudd

Selling a home should be like any other business transaction, but all too often sellers make emotional or impulsive decisions that cost them money and time. Choosing the right Realtor to market a property and negotiate the sale is the most important step in the process.

“My friend (or family member) sells real estate.”
Friendship alone isn’t enough to establish a professional’s credentials. Use tough standards when selecting an agent, just as you would when hiring an attorney, a doctor, or an accountant to handle your taxes. A true friend will understand and appreciate that this is a business decision and will offer their credentials and expect to compete for the listing. Besides, if a problem or challenge develops while selling your home, do you want to risk damaging a friendship or family relationship?

“Your presentation sounds good. I’ll list right now”
Look at more than one presentation and consider the advantages and disadvantages of each. Making an impulsive decision when caught up “in the moment” could be difficult to correct later. Since you normally contract to list your house with the agent for a specific period of time, you may find yourself unable to “switch” to another if you find yourself unhappy with the service you receive.

“You’re the only agent who agrees with my selling price.”
Some agents tell you what you want to hear. In the real estate profession, this is known as “buying a listing” and is employed by shortsighted agents who are more interested in themselves than they are in you. However good it works as a short-term “sales tactic” in getting your listing, it is an extremely poor strategy in selling a home at the highest possible price.
You see, your house gets the most attention from other agents when it is a “new” listing. If priced properly, lots of agents will show it to their buyers. If you price it too high, no one will show the house and it will sit on the market for some time. When you finally drop your price to reflect its real value, your house is “old news” and buyers may think you are growing desperate. Therefore, the prices you are offered will come in lower and lower – and you may find yourself accepting a price that is below what you could have received had the house been priced properly to begin with.
Besides, pricing your home too high will only make similar houses for sale look that much better. Overpricing helps sell those houses, not yours.

“I don’t need references. I’m a good judge of character.”
A snap judgement isn’t good enough. You also need to determine if the agent is competent and the best way to do that is to check up on references. Ask for references on recent sales -- check up on references of recent customers. Find out how an agent’s customers feel about their selling experience.
Remember that how long an individual has been in real estate isn’t necessarily all you should look for. Experienced agents can grow jaded and not work as hard – newer agents sometimes make up with enthusiasm and effort what they lack in experience.

“I’m going to list with the agent who has the lowest commission.”
You get what you pay for. Paying a cut-rate commission will often get you a sign in the front yard and placement in the Multiple Listing Service, but little additional effort from your agent.
Realize that agents and real estate companies put up their own funds to market and advertise your home. Marketing and advertising costs money -- the lower the commission, the less incentive for an agent to put up his or her own money to market your home.
Incentive plays a very important role in sales. A “full service” agent earning a full commission will often “drop everything” to handle any challenges that come along – an agent earning a small commission does not have that same incentive.

Incentive is also important to the buyer’s agent. Since there are almost always two agents involved in every sale, they split the commission according to the listing agent’s instructions. One agent is your listing agent. The other agent is the buyer’s agent. When your listing agent dropped his commission, did he also reduce the commission that will be paid to the buyers’ agent? If so, you won’t find as many agents willing to show your house – they’ll be showing houses that offer a customary commission to the buyer’s agent.
Finally, negotiating ability is an important skill in a listing agent. Are you willing to put your faith in an agent who can’t even negotiate his or her own commission?

“The agent is what counts – not the company.”
Agents who work for large well-established companies with lots of agents do have some advantages. Large companies generally have longer office hours, so someone is always available to answer an ad call on your home. Large offices often have larger budgets and can spend more on advertising. The ad space for your particular home might not be huge, but because the total ad is so large it gets lots more attention.
Large real estate companies often have lots of agents. This is important because when your house is newly on the market, the company may stage an “office preview” where every agent in the office comes through and tours your home. Every agent who views your home and is impressed is another agent on your sales team.
Additionally, larger companies are often better at offering ongoing education to their agents. As a result, your agent may be better qualified and prepared to offer a quality service. Although most states require real estate agents to enroll in “ongoing education” to keep pace with changes in the real estate market, many agents only take the “bare minimum” in ongoing education courses. Sometimes, large offices are better at convincing their agents to go beyond the minimum.
There are exceptions to every rule, of course. Some very effective agents go off on their own and open private offices or “boutique” agencies.

“All realtors passed the same test so they must know the same things.”
The real estate profession is constantly changing and, as mentioned above, the best real estate professionals stay abreast of those changes by continuing their education. Some go beyond the required minimum requirements. Many agents acquire “professional designations” that show they took additional specialized courses.
For information about professional designations, click here.

“This agent will hold an open house every week.”
Open houses can and do sell homes, but usually not your home. Only a small fraction of the homes held open are sold as a direct result of the open house. More often, “open houses” are a way that real estate agents “prospect” for potential clients. If they develop a rapport with those visitors to your open house, they can find out about their housing needs and sell them the home that most closely matches those needs. Meanwhile, the person who eventually buys your home may be visiting someone else’s open house.
Good agents know better than to pin all their selling efforts on an open house. They use their time in more effective marketing methods. The most effective marketing is not directly to the public, but to other agents. By getting other agents interested in your home, your listing agent multiplies your sales force beyond just one individual.

“I want an agent who lives in my neighborhood.”
Knowledge of the local market isn’t only acquired by living in the immediate neighborhood. Sure, your agent should have intimate knowledge of recent sales, models, schools, businesses, and so on, but that is easily achieved through extensive research. Convenience shouldn’t be the primary reason for choosing an agent.

“This agent sold more homes last year than anyone else.”
That should only be the beginning. What is more valuable -- an agent who listed 32 homes and sold 25 – or an agent who listed twelve homes and sold all twelve? So you need to ask some questions. How many of their listings did not sell? How many were reduced over and over before they sold? How long were the houses on the market? How smoothly was the process handled? How accessible was the agent when there were questions or problems?
Quantity is important, but only if all of the quality questions have been answered satisfactorily.

The best agent is the one who will do the most effective job of marketing the property, negotiating the most favorable terms and conditions, and communicating with the seller to make the process as smooth as possible.

By Crissie Cudd - Crissie is a Realtor for Prudential WCI Realty in Naples Florida. To visit her web site, click here.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Renovate or sell

Many people think about selling their home but first decide to renovate so that the house will sell for more money. This is a mistake and I would like to explain why.

When you are living in a house you do the upgrades necessary to keep your house up, things like changing windows, painting, upkeep on gutters and roofs and even sometimes a small addition for the kids to have an extra room. These changes and updates to your house are things that you have to do in the course of owning a house for years. When you go to sell your house buyers will be comparing your home to other houses in the neighborhood and hopefully it is the same because those buyers are there to buy a house in a certain price range.

Lets say as an extreme that your neighborhood has houses that are in the 150,000 -180,000 dollar range and you decided to add an extra floor to your home that costs 50,000 dollars. Now once you have put that extra floor on the house you will want to sell your house, trouble is since you just sunk 50,000 into the house and you would like to get 60,000 for your trouble then you will need to get 240,000 for the house when it is listed and sold.

The kind of buyers that buy a 150,000 dollar house and the kind of buyers that buy a 240,000 dollar house are different people that have an idea where they would like to own. No one wants to have the best home in a poorer neighborhood instead they would like to have an OK house in a better neighborhood.

In the end you will of course get your home sold but you are not likely to get what you wanted for it. I remember the days back when I was a Realtor and you would go through a fantastic house that really didn't belong in the neighborhood that it was in, Realtors would marvel at this and that in the house but in the end didn't bring offers. People looking in that price range were not interested in the neighborhood they were interested in another area altogether.

Please remember that if you are thinking of doing an addition or adding some feature to your house that is out of place with where you live that it is better to thing of it as a feature that you want to have and live with and not think about how it will affect the resale price of your home.

Monday, February 20, 2006

New Kitchen Appliances site

I am always on the lookout for more sites that have to do with home purchase and home sales. I just found a new one that has articles on Kitchen Appliances as well as top sites for kitchen appliances. The Kitchen appliance site is broken up with lots of info on individual topics like GE microwaves or Amana Fridges that kind of thing

Monday, February 13, 2006

Real Estate Investment

Many people are interested in becoming real estate tycoons like Donald Trump. There are many ways to make money in real estate but the very best way is to become a real estate investor. To become a real estate investor you must do the following.

1. Buy a property with low or no money down
2. Rent out the property
3. Take the extra monthly income and buy another property
4. Repeat until you have a ton of houses

The key to this process is to buy a house with as little money as possible and also to make sure that your mortgage, tax and other costs are paid for by the renter that you have put into the house or apartment. For most people to do this they need to have some seed money, this in this day and age is difficult as you will need a lot of money to get into the market. The following books will show you how to buy properties with no money down.

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There are a lot of scams out there to try to part you from your money so watch out.. The next thing that you have to work on is finding these properties. Often the best markets for buying investment properties are out of major cities as what you are looking for is a low purchase price so your monthly costs are low. When you have more money coming in from your renter then you have to pay out for the property then you are in a position known as positive cash flow. Positive cash flow is the holy grail of real estate investing as it allows you to go as long as you want with your property without putting money into it.

Good luck with your new real estate investment business!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Getting PreQualified for your mortgage

It is important that you understand the basic difference between being "pre-qualified" or "pre-approved" by a mortgage lender as you are looking for a home to purchase. A pre-qualification is not the same as pre-approval. The buyer, seller, and agents involved in the transaction need have the same agreement regarding the buyer's ability to close the purchase.

Your realtor will want you to talk with a mortgage company as soon as possible. The reason is that the realtor needs to know the top price range you can afford and housing expense you are comfortable with. It also helps your realtor when presenting an offer to the seller's agent to show that you have taken steps to approval. It may very well help persuade the seller to accept your offer. In many housing markets the pre-qualification or pre-approval letter is accepted as part of the purchase presentation to the seller's agent.

When you are speaking with a loan officer to be pre-qualified you are giving information about your financial condition. The loan officer will also ask questions regarding your credit. There may even be a credit bureau drawn to see where you stand. Then the loan officer will give you an opinion of how much you can afford based on the information you have told that person. This is not a commitment to make the loan! You should be given a letter that states the pre-qualified mortgage amount and type of loan. It should state further that loan approval could be issued after the information you gave is verified & formally underwritten.

When you receive a pre-approval it has more weight than a pre-qualification. The pre-approval letter will give the maximum loan amount with the specific details of the total mortgage. It should have only conditions such as clear title report, underwritten appraisal, general closing conditions and no negative change in your status as a buyer.

If you are serious about buying a home, and you are satisfied with the mortgage company, you should get as solid a pre-approval as you can. You don't want any surprises along the way.

About the Author

Bill Wehr has been in home loan origination for over 25 years. He is the owner of Great Pacific Northwest Mortgage , a residential mortgage company serving Oregon and Washington.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Interviewing Realtors

When it is time to pick a Realtor then it is also time to interview. The best way to choose a Realtor is to have a few com in and tell you what your house is worth and what they will do for you. Here is a good start.

When you are ready to select a REALTOR®, here are a few questions you can ask.

Make sure the REALTOR® presents a "listing presentation" to you. This presentation should answer many of these questions. If you will need a buyer's agent, also make sure everything is explained up front.

  • How long have you been a REALTOR®? Full or part time?

  • What professional organizations do you belong to?

  • Do you have a valid Department of Real Estate License?

  • What is your responsibility to me as your client?

  • Do you represent both buyers and sellers at the same time? If so, Who's best interest are you looking out for?

  • How will you keep me informed of new listings that I may be interested in?

  • What does the listing agreement entail, what are the beginning and expiration dates, and what are the fee amounts I will be paying?

  • Is there a charge or contract when working with buyers? (Some brokers/agents DO have contracts and fees)

  • What is your marketing philosophy? Ask for their complete marketing plan A-Z.

  • What can the Realtor's company do for you? What is their company's share of the local market? Are they part of a large or world wide referral network?

  • What types of things separate you from your competition and will you give me some feedback? How effectively will they advertise? Do they have 24-hour advertising capability?

  • What disclosure laws apply to me and what do I need to be aware of?

  • How does the Realtor market to other Realtors?

  • Are they a Realtor or a Real Estate agent? (There is a difference)

  • Does the Realtor have a strong internet presence? If not, why? Will your home have enough exposure for all potential buyers to view? (85% of buyers go to the internet first)

Cecilia Sherrard is a full time dedicated Realtor in Northeast Ohio. With years of experience and knowledge, she has maintained a multi-million dollar producer status.

Servicing areas such as: Westlake, Lakewood, North Olmsted, Rocky River, Cleveland, Brook Park, Parma, etc. Visit her website at

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

How to sell as a FSBO

This article is written by a Realtor knowing full well that most people that try to sell on their own end up using a Realtor if they have to sell. great tips for the do it your selfer.

Do you know that homeowners across the country sell their own homes every day? It is true that 80% of Fsbo’s’ end up listing with a real estate agent. But with these 7 easy steps you can save thousands of dollars for you and your family.

1.Determine Your Market Value: Some of leading edge real estate brokers offer a free over-the-net home evaluation. Online; city and county tax records,, bank on line home evaluation tools. Local legal business newspapers.

2.Preparing Your Home To Sell: The idea is to have the best home on the market in your price range. Hire a home inspector; get all repairs complete, spruce up landscape add fresh mulch, flowers. Clean windows, touch up painting. Move to storage all extra furniture clothes garage/basement stored items.

3.Make The Most Of Low Cost Real Estate Brokers: Discount or minimum service real estate brokers (some are internet based) offer a low cost option to place your home in the MLS at $200 to $500 it’s a steal. Pay the extra charges for additional photos and virtual tours these will place your home higher on the web page searches.

4.FSBO Marketing & Advertising: Get an 800# call capture system a pre recorded message to capture buyer information, use it on all signs and ads. Advertise in newspapers only on the major real estate ad day. Open houses piggyback on area realtor open houses.

5.FSBO Paperwork: Hire a real estate attorney. Mortgage brokers will qualify your buyers. The State Real Estate Commission has all the required forms. Title companies/closing attorneys handle all the closing paperwork.

6.Working With Real Estate Agents: Buyers Agent, the fastest way to sell is to co-operate with real estate buyers agents. Offer to co-broke, co-operate or broker protect for a quicker sale. Cost is normally 2 ½% to 3% of sale price sometimes you can get as low as 1 ½ % to 2% if the agent sees a quick easy deal. You can save this money by selling yourself, weigh the cost benefits of a quicker sale versus 2 to 3 months more on the market.

7.Close And Move On: Buyer selects closing attorney, Title Company, Mortgage Company, Survey engineer and pest control inspector. Your job is to have a marketable title be legally able to transfer the property, complete all agreed on repairs, move out (leave a clean home), sign all necessary paperwork, grab your check and move on.

There are costs to sell your home properly and quickly. In the end a savings of 3% on a $275,000.00 home is $8,250.00 in your pocket a nice prize for not a lot of effort. It’s a good start toward your daughter or sons college tuition next year.

Bill Carey with over 30 years in real estate sales, investments, and home building offers a unique perspective to the buying and selling process of residential real estate for F*R*E*E consumer information and reports log on to and see "Insider Real Estate Secrets Revealed" ...a must-read for Home-Owners and Renters! It's a F*R*E*E 12-lesson e-course covering more than 20 topics exposing the realities behind buying and selling a home. It Could Make(or Save) You Thousands of Dollars

See and sign up for our monthly e-newsletter with tips for buyers, sellers, home owners and soon to be home owners.

(Your Comments are Welcome)
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Should you use a Realtor

This is the first article on choosing a Realtor. The first question you should ask yourself is whether you should choose a Realtor or sell yourself as a for sale by owner. Although I was once a Realtor I want to make sure I give balanced information. This article is why you should choose a Realtor. The next article will be why you should sell yourself.

When it comes time to sell your home, should you try to sell it on your own, or should you list it with a licensed Realtor? Consider the following factors to help you decide:

Realtors, or real estate agents, are part of an office of agents, and each of them knows of buyers that are currently in the market for a home. Their buyers are pre-qualified, that is, they have already seen a lender and have qualified for a loan so the buyer knows exactly how much they can afford, and the Realtor does too. In many areas, a realtor won’t even show homes to a buyer until they pre-qualify. The process saves a lot of wasted time on everybody’s part.

Contrast this with the prospect of you putting up a “For Sale” sign in your front yard, and having to deal with people that will be calling you to talk about your house and want to walk through it, even though they don’t have the resources to actually buy it. In the end, they are just wasting your time.

Realtors also have contact with many people from out of town who are relocating to your area. Each realtor in town gets contacted frequently through their website, by people that are looking for a home by long-distance. They may be coming to town soon to look at available homes for a few days. The Realtor lines up a number of homes for them to tour that fit their criteria. One of them could be yours. But, if you FSBO, that potential buyer won’t know your house is on the market until they get to town, if then.

A real estate agent will be able to assist in setting the right price to list your home, according to the current market conditions.

A real estate agent is a trained professional who will spend the necessary amount of time it may take to get your home SOLD.

The agent understands and will take care of all the necessary paperwork to complete the buying process. The agent will also act as a liaison between you and the inspectors, the buyer’s agent, and between attorneys, if they are involved.

Most buyers prefer to deal with a real estate agent because the agent will give them the unbiased professional opinion on a house, and how it stacks up against other houses on the market.

Agents understand all the different types of loans and financing options. They can provide information to buyers about local lending institutions to fit their needs.

Realtors have many ways to advertise your home, not just a newspaper ad and a “For Sale” sign in the yard. They also utilize the following ways to advertise a home:
The Multiple Listing Service Open Houses Web sites like and Yahoo Real Estate Direct mail Newspaper inserts Regional Real Estate Magazines Cable TV Word of mouth through Realtor “Caravans” where 30 or more Realtors will tour your home and then match it to their prospective buyers.

How much of this marketing muscle will you be able to flex if you FSBO?

Agents have expertise to help you get your home in top shape before your prospective buyers arrive. They can help you “stage” your home to look more like a model home that would appeal to a larger group of buyers. They know how to emphasize and focus on your homes good points.
If you FSBO you will be learning the process as you go, a costly education when you are trying to sell your own home.

With all the time, knowledge, effort, and paperwork it takes to sell a home, you should partner with a Realtor and save yourself the headaches and frustration. Hire a Professional!

Vicki Walker is a Realtor serving clients in the Northern California towns of Davis and Woodland. You can find more great information by visiting her two websites Selling a Home in Davis or Woodland California Real Estate.
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