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.